Which Comes First, the Agent or the Editor?


Dear L.…

Include both agents and publishers in your submission strategy, going heavy on the agents. Most agents accept submissions from everybody; it’d be unwise to turn your back on that fact. Submit to as many as are appropriate for your manuscript. Also attend conferences or events where editors are present. They often extend open submission invites to attendees, getting you past their “no unsolicited mss” policies. (Yes, most publishers have those.) If you land a publisher first, agents will be more likely to represent you because clearly your work is marketable. If an agent bites first, then you’ve got access to her speed dial—and you’ve got someone who can handle your contract and help you shape your career.

Happy writing!
The Editor


  1. Great advice! I’d definitely concentrate more on finding an agent, because he/she knows which editors like what (thus saving you time and energy), and your submissions can be sent email rather than (spendy) snail mail. An editor will also pay more attention to a submission sent via an agent rather than a submission wallowing in the slush pile. I still have a REQUESTED manuscript that an editor has had for over a year. They are busy people. ;o)

  2. Fascinating question. I find it interesting that you suggest querying agents and editors at the same time. I’ve heard several agents at conferences who don’t like it when you query editors while you are querying them. Would love to hear your take on that position.
    As always, thanks so much for all the useful informtion you provide 🙂

    • Some worry that if you get a “no” from an editor during your own efforts, you’ve limited your future agent’s submission pool. I see the logic there, but I don’t think you’re limiting that pool much because of the “no unsolicited submissions” walls that keep you out of many publishers. As well, there are plenty of other editors in a single house to still try, you may not have submitted to the “right” editor for you at a particular house anyway, and editors will often look at authors who are now represented even after they’ve passed on an author-submitted ms because they know many agents will work with their authors to polish a manuscript. Plus, you’re more than just ONE manuscript; you’ll be writing and submitting plenty of other projects so a “no” on one thing does not mean the door is locked to you forever. As you can see, there are MANY factors that go into submission strategy. But nowadays, most people have accepted the reality of the wait time during submissions and understand that authors are going to search actively in every way possible. Just a few years ago editors and agents HATED multiple submissions; today, multiple submissions is pretty much how it’s done.

  3. Really like your additional comments on this topic.

    I didn’t realize you’d be at the LA Conference. That’s great! Will definitely say hi if I see you. I love what you did there last year.

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