I’ve read in several articles and forums that mentioning at the query stage that you’ve worked with a writing coach or freelance editor can mean that agents won’t look further, as they won’t want to work with someone long term who can’t “do things on their own.” Is this valid? Crap advice? In many other industries, working with someone with a solid reputation would be a good thing. Truly, the part about “don’t let on that you’ve hired an editor before the process” has me stumped—it seems counter-intuitive to me. I’d really appreciate your take on this as someone with extensive experience as an in-house editor and then a freelance editor.
Let’s start with what may be news to many: Agents often suggest their authors work on their manuscript with a freelance editor before the agent submits it to publishers. I’m commonly greeted with “My agent suggested I reach out to you” when I click open an email. Agents know authors workshop their manuscript at conferences, in private writing classes, and with critique groups, so why would they balk at one-on-one work with a professional editor? I won’t say none will balk, but given what I just shared, I expect such folks to be in the minority. I’ve always viewed the involvement of a freelance editor as a sign that you’re invested in making the book as strong as possible and willing to take input, which is a useful trait to include in a query. You could use wording like this: “I worked with a freelance editor to make the book as strong as possible.” That indicates an extra step, a commitment to professional best, rather than full dependence. But if you have any hesitancy about mentioning it, simply save it for when you’re talking with the agent later, finalizing your representation. It needn’t be some dirty little secret any more than your critique grouping, workshopping, and writing classes – you know, those standard things authors put in the credentials part of their query letter to show they’re committed to crafting great (and salable) books.
The Editor, Deborah Halverson, has been editing books for over 25 years and specializes in Middle Grade/Young Adult fiction and nonfiction, New Adult fiction, and picture books. For her editorial guidance in making your manuscript ready for submission to agents and publishers or for self-publishing, click Editorial services.