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What Comes First for Your Book? An Agent, Editor, or Publisher?

Updated on June 22, 2016

A View From Someone who Worked In This Industry

Publishing a book and editing it are two things that go hand in hand for a successful book launch. You need to edit your book professionally before you can even consider publishing your book. Often there is a chicken or the egg in the question of should i get a professional editor before I send my manuscript off to publishers? What about self-publishing and having it edited by someone other than myself? this is a business and everyone is here to make some money. So even if you go any route to publish your work, there is one other person you should involve in your writing business, an editor.

Okay here are the answers:

Should I have an editor? Yes, this may seem like a simple answer it's rather complex, so I'll start with the basics and go from there: yes get an editor. Not you, not you "writing" buddy, not anyone that will be "nice" because it's you. Sorry I don't get that idea, and I don't understand why people wouldn't want to have an editor rip the manuscript apart before sending it to a publisher. Go online and you will find many editing places who will edit. USE THEM.

Some of the reasons for not having an editor range from: I can see my mistakes, or I can fix them up later, but really you can't and first impressions are vital. A book publisher often doesn't have time to do major fixes, and often won't do them for you.

Should I get a Publisher before an editor? Okay, There are stories of people going to the or a publisher and then getting the work edited, but raise your hands people how many of you think this will happen to you? The reason I ask this is because upon a bit of searching you most often find that these people have edited themselves, or were editors or have gone somewhere for a second look. Or they are established authors. The last point is vital.

Established authors have more connections and more voice in the publishing industry. Yes, to publish on hub pages is a type of publishing, this is why they would love original content. Okay? So remember best work at all times, you never know what might happen, for example, many people know me through my hubs, and by this they know about the literary agent, which by the way means you send your work to me!

What about self-publishing? With this method you give your best and finest work. Better than best, and you'd better get the best editor if you're planning to self-publish period. Don't begin to argue, because you'll get destroyed on amazon.Yes I do review self-published books, HOWEVER I tend to be a bit more careful and I can see that sometimes, the passion is lost because of spelling mistakes.

Either way, get an editor, in fact this is the most important thing, beyond a query letter. If it's novel writing content editing is a must, same goes fro short stories, but flash fiction I would argue content edits on 1,000 words or less isn't needed. Edit before you get a publisher, and edit after you have one.

You'll be doing a lot of editing no matter what!

write, then edit.
write, then edit.

Edit or No?

See results

Editing Your Work and Build Your Reputation

But does my book need editing?: When you write anything be it a manuscript or an email, you will make mistakes and these mistakes will be not so clear to you, but to someone else it will be very clear. Some people even have a "misspelled" word they use so frequently that the "spell check" does not even see it. This is why you need an editor-- or some type of editing from something or someone other than yourself. Publishing a book does not mean that you will sit on the sidelines and not have a say after you have written it. Professionally editing your manuscript before self-publishing it, means that you are building a positive reputation for your readers. You also need to choose your potential editor wisely.

This person needs to be professional and offer services ranging from spell checking to sentence structure to content revision to as many things as this manuscript needs to be published. Before you go sending your manuscript to a book publisher. They also need to be honest with you-- even to the point of hurting your ego.

Publishers are looking for perfection, or as close to perfection in a manuscript that it can be. There will always be mistakes, but a professional editor will see them. A book is a professional publication, and that should be a goal for any writer. Professional is a must, as this is a business where you and your future publisher want to make money.

Breaking into the publishing business is not easy but with an editor it becomes a lot easier to do. It shows people that you, the writer care about your work, and you want to be in the writing business.

Hubpages, although many use it as a way to make money, there is a certain level of great content that you need have in your writing. Writing and improving yourself are also vital. So, write, and edit, and give yourself a couple of days before publishing anything including a hub.

So and editor is needed before sending out a manuscript to publishers, but the manuscript always needs more edits.

To your writing success.


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    • profile image

      Alisha Trost 

      4 years ago

      Good advice, Rebecca! :)

      If I ever publish a book (not that I expect to ever!) I think I would get an editor first. Firstly, I was never all that great at grammar, in school I struggled with it and even now my grammar is far from perfect! An editor would cost a lot of money, I suppose, but I think it would be better than having my publisher see tons of mistakes in the manuscript and potentially canceling my manuscript.

      I think an Editor should come before the publisher, as I wouldn't want my publisher seeing a lot of careless mistakes. :P If I were a really established/famous writer, such as JK Rowling I probably wouldn't worry too much though. lol

      I think I would worry about an agent last - I definitely wouldn't want to count my chickens before they hatch.

      So, yes, I would get a good editor first to edit my writing errors, then get a publisher, then finally an agent if my book if fairly successful!

    • Rebecca E. profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca E. 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Jeff-- my editor often finds things I have missed.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great article. Having a good editor is absolutely essential to success as a writer.

    • Rebecca E. profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca E. 

      9 years ago from Canada

      If you are already an editor get one anyway, that is what my editor does with her writing.

    • Singular Investor profile image

      Singular Investor 

      9 years ago from Oxford

      What if you're already an editor ? Should you get another editor ?

    • Rebecca E. profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca E. 

      9 years ago from Canada

      any more advice on the editing front?

    • Rebecca E. profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca E. 

      9 years ago from Canada

      With editors they are a must, awesome to know an editor out there, thanks autiej

    • autiej profile image


      9 years ago from Tremont City, Ohio

      GREAT ADVICE in this column, and I know it will help many of the writers out there, myself included.

      I would like to say that many book editors - freelancers in particular - charge a very large fee for editing, sometimes up to $10 a page or $75 an hour. For writers who are new to the business or who are writing "to fulfill a lifelong dream" or "as a hobby," these fees are completely impossible. Finding an experienced, affordable, thorough editor who will give you personal attention is not always easy, but they (WE) are out there. I know in my own editing, I only charge $1 a page, and that includes proofreading, substantive, and critique editing. (And I'm always for hire, by the way... hint hint...

      In any case, this is a tremendously helpful article. Thanks for writing it!

    • SwiftlyClean profile image


      9 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for that platform to stand on, your advice is needed.

    • SwiftlyClean profile image


      9 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for that platform to stand on, your advice is needed.

    • Rebecca E. profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca E. 

      9 years ago from Canada

      thanks for the approval lissa lynn!

    • Lissa Lynn profile image

      Melissa Simmons 

      9 years ago from upstate NY

      This is really very helpful for me, I'm writing a book right now and I'll take all advice I can get! Thanks Rebecca! :)

    • Rebecca E. profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca E. 

      10 years ago from Canada

      Fixed. =)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Umm, with all due respect, I think YOU need an editor as I stopped counting at the third typo. -CR

    • Rebecca E. profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca E. 

      10 years ago from Canada

      this is so true authorsbook, so very true.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Terrific input. Regardless of which comes first, authors still need to sell their own books and why we need an author's platform.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very good advice. I love the not your buddy etc. It can make all the difference in the world to have a professional look at it.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      10 years ago

      yes, a great editor can make or break any writer.

      One that learns how you operate, and can follow the way you think is worth her weight in gold

    • itakins profile image


      10 years ago from Irl

      Excellent advice.

    • lmmartin profile image


      10 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      I know I already said my piece on editing on your previous hub, but experience has taught me there is nothing as important after your creativity than a good, PROFESSIONAL editor. An edit goes way beyond spelling and grammar, punctuation or language. A good editor will spot weaknesses in your story line, flaws in your character development, all those things the writer won't see, being too close to the subject, or sometimes too inexperienced.

      So I agree whole heartedly with this writer -- find a good editor, learn to work with this editor and try to develop an ongoing relationship with him/her. Your editor will learn how you express your individual voice and work within it.

      Great hub!

    • Gemsong profile image

      Madalain Ackley 

      10 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

      Okay, step one for me is to find an editor.

    • VioletSun profile image


      10 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      I have a friend who self published a book a few years ago. Its well written but the company that published it for her didn't edit her work, and there were a few spelling errors that were distracting. Your advice is a good reminder for us all!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Some nice, sound advice. Editing, rewriting, and editing are ever so essenmtial.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      10 years ago from Chicago

      This is very helpful. I am working on a book, so I appreciate help in this area. Thank you.

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 

      10 years ago from NJ, USA

      It's interesting to read something from someone who is a 'gatekeeper'; we all think we are hugely talented and it hurts our pride to think that we need an editor - but when you actually look at the average manuscript you realize that an editor is essential - even if it's the dreaded 'this is crap, it'll never be published'! Thanks for the insight and the hub!


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