Thayer Literary Services ~ Book Editing

Why You Need an Editor

Today, writers need a good book editor more than ever. The consolidation of the publishing industry has spawned many changes. Editors now spend a lot of time with administrative duties. As a result, they have little time to whip a book into shape. That's why they often turn to independent editors for help.


Life has changed for literary agents, too. In today’s fickle and fiercely competitive market, only about 10 percent of the hundreds of agents make over 90 percent of book sales to about 100 New York publishers dominated by the Big Five. Agents know they have to offer grade-A work. So writers have to submit material that reads like the work of a pro.


The literary marketplace is a perfect storm of unpublishable manuscripts, rejection slips, and blasted hopes. Literary agents say they reject at least ninety-eight percent of submissions. Even so, thousands of unpublished writers choose to go it alone. That’s usually a recipe for disappointment, because the bar has been raised so high. To succeed, your work has to be first-rate. So unless you’re a literary genius, you will need the help of a good editor. Then you’ll have a fighting chance.


That’s where I come in. I will help you learn what you need to know, from basic grammar to marketable plots, so you can produce a top-notch manuscript that will show agents that you’ve acquired your chops and have what it takes to succeed.



"People are willing to spend thousands of dollars to improve their house before trying to sell it, but they don't want to spend money on an editor to polish their writing before they submit it to an agent or self-publish it." — A New York literary agent




Filling your toolbox


Now that you’ve finished your book, what’s next? Show it to your spouse, your mother, or your old high school English teacher? Send a shotgun mailout to a bunch of literary agents? No. First you need to submit your work to someone who is knowledgeable, impartial, and honest—someone who will tell you the right things.


Great writing may not have any rules, but bad writing is littered with broken ones. My job is to show you what’s broken and how to fix it, to help you avoid bad writing, and to keep your work out of the Reject pile.


Agents and editors don’t enjoy wading through unsolicited mail. They want to make the "slush pile" disappear as soon as possible. They look for reasons to reject a manuscript, and they’re good at finding one. Truth is, most rejections are no-brainer decisions, because the writer's lack of writing skills is obvious. But even the most jaded agent hopes to find a keeper, so they will take a quick look.


You don’t want your submission to be shot down easily. You want it to stand out from the crowd. Then your work has a good chance of being taken seriously.


As callous as the system may seem, getting noticed is possible for those who are willing to learn the craft of writing. Like any other craft, writing must be learned by instruction and lots of reading and practice. Good writing is done by those who have mastered the fundamentals and acquired the proper tools. Bad writing is done by those who have not done so. Simple as that.


Most people’s writing toolbox is incomplete. Get more tools, and you’ll be miles ahead of the weekend warriors and wannabes.







































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Great writing may not have any rules, but bad writing is littered with broken ones.

Getting timely help


I agree with Stephen King. I can’t turn a bad writer into a competent one or a good writer into a great one, but I can help transform a competent writer into a good one—the result of “lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help,” as King puts it. I am that timely help. Together, we can make sure that your work “is technically accomplished enough to merit a serious artistic evaluation,” as literary agent Noah Lukeman says in his helpful book The First Five Pages.


Like all agents, Lukeman believes in using a book editor: “Even the most proficient writers cannot catch their own mistakes, and even if they could, they would still be lacking the impartial reaction. Outside readers can see things you cannot.”


By reading tons of copy I have seen that writers make the same mistakes over and over. I call them “the usual suspects.” You probably make many of the same ones. They are red flags for agents, who always look first for technical competence.


And that’s why you need an editor. I can help you to eliminate those red flags. I can help you to up your game. I can help you achieve your goals.


Maxwell Perkins, the famous Scribners editor who worked with Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and others.

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