Do You Need a Professional Edit Before You Submit?

Do authors going the traditional publishing route need to have their manuscripts professionally edited before submitting them to a publisher? The answer is a qualified “maybe.”

I see a lot of unedited material come across my desk. You’d be surprised at the number of manuscripts I receive with misspelled words and basic grammar mistakes. (Basic = incomplete sentences, mixed verb tense, punctuation mistakes, etc.) Now, I understand that there’s no such thing as a perfect manuscript. I don’t even blink at a few errors here and there. I’m talking about multiple mistakes PER PAGE!

Then there are the content errors. I get manuscripts where the main character’s name is spelled several different ways. Or their hair color changes part way through. Or a secondary plot line is started, then dropped, never to be picked up again or resolved.

These are basics. These mistakes will get you rejected. A publisher won’t do that much editing on a book, even if it is a wonderful story. Also, these types of mistakes are interpreted as a sign of unprofessionalism, ignorance or laziness. If an author isn’t serious enough to do the bare minimum required to put their best work forward (ie: run the spell checker), then I’m not going to spend serious money publishing it.

To avoid these mistakes, you need readers. Remember, no one can edit their own work. At a minimum, I’d say have several (6 to 10) readers go through it looking for errors before you submit. These readers need to be competant spellers and grammarians, and have a sense of what makes a good story. Fellow writers, particularly published writers, are usually good at this. IF, after you’ve revised and corrected based on your readers’ comments, you feel you’ve got a pretty clean manuscript, then go ahead and submit.

If your manuscript keeps coming back, particularly if an editor/publisher in any way indicates that your book needs editing, then you should consider hiring a professional.

2 thoughts on “Do You Need a Professional Edit Before You Submit?”


    I have a book where the hero’s eye color subtly changes three times but not until much later in the story does the reader understand it is not a mistake but a surprising part of the plot.

    Should I inform the publisher that the eye color is NOT a mistake before they start to read it? I had one editor claim to have carefully read my manuscript then proceed to made a harsh/nasty comment about my unprofessionalism with the eye color. I didn’t respond and explain myself because I thought if they had carefully read it, like they claimed, they would have realized it was part of the plot.

    And if your manuscript is rejected with a personal letter from the editor, CAN you contact them and explain yourself? What do editors think about calls like that?

  2. Alright, that was three questions, not two, but it was an INTENTIONAL part of my post! 🙂

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