Publishing Traditionally? Why You Still Need Editing

Posted by Kristen Hamilton on September 4, 2019 at 11:00 AM

Between self-publishing, independent publishing, and traditional publishing, there are a number of ways to get your book published. The majority of clients I cater to are self-publishing authors, but I still work with a fair number of authors whose dream it is to be traditionally published. 

Many of the authors I work with who seek traditional publishing ask me if it's necessary to have their book edited when it will presumably be edited by the publisher's in-house team of editors.

So, do you still need to get your book edited even if you plan to publish traditionally? Yes. Here's why.

Simply because the market is so saturated and agents and publishing houses are often inundated with manuscripts, it's a real benefit if the manuscript is completely edited before querying. This is because of two reasons:

    1. This shows the agent and the publishing house that you're a serious author.
    2. Book manuscripts that require less work to get to publication (i.e., those that have already been edited) might be more likely win out over those that are less edited or not edited at all.

There are many gatekeepers in the way to getting your book in front of the acquisitions editor at a Big Five publishing company in New York City (Hachette, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster)—your goal here is to get past as many of them as possible. And that means putting forth a professional, polished book with a great story concept. Hiring a book editor before you start querying gets you there.

Agents come across a lot of manuscripts that authors submit to them—many of which have already been edited (by independent or freelance editors like me).

Most publishing houses do not do major comprehensive editing anymore; these days, that’s up to the author to take care of. Best case scenario, an agent might indicate their interest in your manuscript but request that you have it edited. Worst case scenario, an agent might choose to pass up your manuscript to work with one that is similar but is already farther along in the process (i.e., has been edited).

Getting Your "In"

Before we talk about traditional publishing statistics, let's take a look at the process of getting your book into the hands of a publisher.

Most publishers won’t accept an unsolicited manuscript (a manuscript that is not represented by an agent), so first you’ll have to find an agent by writing a query letter then submitting it to agents.

Finding an agent takes a while—as agents are notorious for not responding for usually 6-8 weeks—and then securing a publishing deal is usually even longer. If you pursue the traditional publishing route (which is well worth it!) be prepared to wait a while. (Realistically, it usually takes months, if not over a year, before authors find a publishing home for their manuscript.) It’s a waiting game, always is.

You can find a database of book agents at

In this process, prepare yourself for a lot of rejections. It’s nothing personal—in fact, a ton of very well-known books today were rejected dozens of times before they were eventually accepted somewhere and published. Don’t get discouraged. It takes a long time for everyone.

Understand the querying process? Let's move on to traditional publishing statistics.

Just how tough IS the market?

You guys, breaking into the traditional publishing market is tough. Really tough. On any day of the year, 500,000 proposals and manuscripts are circulating the United States. From this number, 40 percent of queries are rejected for being poorly written or unprofessional.

The odds against you are high, unfortunately. As literary agent Michelle Brower said in a Huffington Post interview:

"I receive about 15 query letters daily and request between 10 and 15 full or partial manuscripts in a year. The maximum number of authors I sign out of my slush pile per year is four. That would be maximum; I usually only sign between two and four."

That means she receives about 3,900 query letters each year, and of that, she signs four books. Four.

Get Your Book Edited

All this is to say that the market is tough—very tough—to break into (especially if you're a new, unpublished author). You need to do everything possible to make your manuscript attractive to an agent: create an intriguing and professional query letter, have your author website and social media platform already set up, and yes, get your manuscript edited. 

The good news is that even if you invest all this money in editing and you ultimately decide that you don’t want to wait for traditional publication, you can still self-publish your book. And since your book has already been edited, it just comes down to a matter of getting a good book cover design, writing a blurb (borrowing material from the query letter usually makes for a good blurb), uploading your book, and hitting publish. 

Want to learn more about how to build your author brand

and become a self-publishing pro?

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Book editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of

Kristen Corrects, Inc., where she provides manuscript editing

services for traditionally and self-publishing authors. Several

authors whose books she has edited have won awards and have

topped Amazon's best sellers lists.

Reading is Kristen's passion, so when the workday is over, she

can usually be found curled up with a good book alongside her

four cats. She loves watching cat videos and scary movies,

eating pizza, teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is

likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, ID.

Categories: author business, traditional publishing

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