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Should You Mention Using Freelance Editors?

The Florida conference this weekend was actually very…relaxing! Not what I usually say about a conference. But in between pitches and meals with the attendees, I got the chance to sneak away to the pool and bask in the 86 degree sunshine. So I don’t have any pictures, nor do I have any shenanigans to report. In fact, I’m thrilled that this was a very easygoing and low-key conference. (Thanks to all the attendees, the FWA board, and Mary Lois Sanders for having me!)

Today’s question is a quick one, and comes from a recent post soliciting questions, from Zoe:

If a writer decides to have an MS professionally edited by a reputable editor known in the biz (I dunno, an Alan Rinzler or a Lisa Rector perhaps), should the writer ever mention it in the query?

It’s totally up to you whether you choose to mention your connections to a freelance editor in your query letter. There are a few thoughts that spring to mind for me when I read in a query that a manuscript has been freelance edited.

On the good end of the spectrum, I think: Oh, great! This writer is used to working with someone else in an editorial capacity and has probably had to revise this manuscript quite a bit. They may be more savvy that some others in my slush about the whole process. I’m about to read a polished piece of fiction.

On the not so good, these are the thoughts that can also come up: A freelance editor always improves a manuscript, but how much did this one improve and, more importantly, at what level did it start? Did the writer solicit a freelance editor to put some professional polish on the project, or because it had gotten rejected all over the place and they needed serious help? Does this writer belong to a critique group or do they rely solely on freelance editors?

I know that lots of writers work with freelance editors. There are pros and cons to this, as well as to mentioning it in your query. (You can read some more freelance editor thoughts from me here.)

If you’ve managed to work with a big name freelance editor, my ears might perk up, of course. The bigger the name of your editor, the more selective they can afford to be. They tend to vet their projects and pick the most promising writers to work with. But this is not always the case. So while a freelance editor’s name may trigger good associations for me, or lift my hopes, it’s not going to be the deciding factor in whether I want to represent you or not.

It always comes down to the work. And, in the back of my mind, I always want to know that you have arrived at your work in large part because of your own writing craft. So if you have used or continue to use a freelance editor, I will want to know about it at some point, whether it’s in the query or later, as we’re discussing representation. I’ll want to make sure that you actually have the chops to create a great, skillful manuscript on your own, as well.



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