Are Editors Easier to Nab?

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 14 2007

I was asked recently whether it’s easier for unpublished authors to nab an editor than an agent. I would say since it’s not necessarily easier for even published authors to nab an editor, the answer is decidedly no. Think about how many agented authors have difficulty finding a home. Also think about how many agents there are in your genre as opposed to publishing houses—not necessarily editors. The odds are against getting an editor faster.

If the reason you’re asking is because you think it would be easier to go directly to publishers, first I would warn against it. Unless your work has been requested by an editor through pitch appointments or contest wins (or you are targeting Harlequin/Silhouette) I would strongly, strongly recommend against blindly sending out to editors. One of the many reasons to have an agent is because she knows editors intimately and knows not only what specifically within a genre editors are looking for, but also who’s too busy to receive submissions, who is hungry for more work, and who happens to love interplanetary battles.

If you’re asking because you want to find the secret door, it doesn’t exist. There’s no easy or easier way about this business. To get in that door it takes hard work, good writing, a fabulous story, and lots and lots of perseverance. If you’re continually striking out with agents and feel that editors might be your next best bet, don’t. Please don’t. Stop submitting and start writing and honing your skills. If you’ve hit every agent out there and received nothing but rejections it’s very, very unlikely an editor is going to feel much differently.


16 responses to “Are Editors Easier to Nab?”

  1. Avatar Mark Terry says:

    You won’t have any luck getting through the doors of the big houses anyway.

    Anyway, this made me wonder: why do you think so many people want to be writers?

    Is it because becoming an actor, musician, baseball player, etc. seems obviously out of reach, but they learned how to write in first grade, therefore they MUST have what it takes to be a professional writer? (Or the dreams of bestsellerdom and Oprah seem attainable?)

  2. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Good “tough love”-reality check post.

  3. Avatar jodi says:

    You know, Mark. I ‘ve often wondered the same thing. You can say, “oh, I write.” to anyone, and next thing you know, they’re telling you how good THEY are, and how they’d write (in whatever genre, usually literary fiction) a book, which would be a best seller, if only they had the time.

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I respectfully disagree. I had a much easier time selling to editors than to agents. Now, this could be because I started with smaller publishers. However, good reviews got me noticed by New York, and I sold there, too. It was only after all this that I was finally able to get an agent’s attention.

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Yes, the previous poster’s comment brings up a corollary question. What about well-established small presses that don’t require an agent–and that an agent might not be interested in because it wouldn’t be financially worthwhile? I know several people who couldn’t land an agent but did get published via a “good” small press.

  6. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    I was multi-published with four successful “small press/epubs” but it took a good agent to get me a contract with a NY publisher. I believe I honed my skills writing for the epubs, but there really is no comparison between the stories I’ve sold to NY and the ones I wrote in the beginning for small press–nor is there a comparison to the monetary compensation. My first NY release was a compilation of five of my epubbed stories, but I believe I’ve really stretched and grown as a writer with the ensuing books. Another difference between selling directly to a publisher and going through an agent lies in the contract. That’s where an agent definitely makes a difference, not only monetarily, but with the details that matter to an author’s career.

  7. Avatar 2readornot says:

    Recently an online acquaintance of mine sold her book (and another) to an editor without an agent. In fact, three different agents turned down that same book (after reading the entire ms).

    I query editors and agents at the same time (both targeted) — and I’ve received enough requests from editors to think it’s a good thing. If nothing else, I’ve begun to build up my own relationship with a couple of editors who’ve requested multiple mss from me and made good revision suggestions. In fact, I’m working on one of those revisions right now — you just never know 🙂

    The agent responses I’ve received are usually positive (in the sense that they’ll say, “You’ll definitely be published one day”), but when you hear that over and over without any offers of rep, I can understand why so many authors turn to editors instead!

  8. Avatar 2readornot says:

    Oh, and the above-mentioned sale was not to a small pub, but to one an imprint of the big six in NY!

  9. Avatar SusanA says:

    Okay, this is my final attempt at posting. If the other comments show up, I apologize for the multiples. Otherwise, forget I mentioned it.

    Could someone please explain to me the role of agents with regard to Harlequin/Silhouette? I’ve heard conflicting advise.


  10. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I totally understand why you shouldn’t submit to agents and editors simultaneously.

    However, after a writer has gathered a pile of rejections from agents, but feels their book has potential (agents have sent lots of positive notes about the writing but think the book is a tough sell, for example)–then why not approach editors?

    As writers, we’re told to persevere, which means to keep writing. But it also means to keep submitting. I guess I’m a little surprised by the statement to “stop submitting.” I’m sure most mss are rejected by agents because they’re not ready for prime time. But maybe the ms just hasn’t found the right person.

    (I say all this as an agented writer.)

    Oh, and I know a writer who was rejected by over 100 agents, and her ms eventually found its way to a top editor at one of the top houses. The editor offered her a contract and then one of the top literary agents called her to offer representation. Her book is coming out next year. This is like winning the lottery, no doubt. But what if this writer had given up?

  11. Avatar Tammie says:

    Sorry deleted my comment – let me try this again:

    Hmm this is a hard one, I see both sides. In my own experience it was positive comments from agents that had me look into editors.

    So I researched and targeted a particular house and editor and received a request for a full (fingers still crossed on that one).

    I guess its each writers decision on who and when to query – editor or agent or both at the same time.

    For me, it was after an editor had already requested the full that an agent (not knowing I had later sent it to an editor) I had targeted a few months earlier responded with some interest. Of course in my cover letter I passed this information on to the agent.

    Will something come of either request? God I hope so but if not, I’ll take their advice if they give any and then regroup with it.

    Like I said, I see both sides and completely understand why agents would not prefer that writers do this.

  12. Mark Terry:
    Anyway, this made me wonder: why do you think so many people want to be writers?

    I think (contrary to your next paragraph) that people dream about success in all kinds of fields, especially the ones where success involves public admiration.

    Every field of endeavour looks easier from the outside. People delude themselves not only about becoming a bestselling author but also about becoming a rock star or movie star.

    There are even people who delude themselves about becoming a star scientist. Research physicists occasionally get papers from crackpots who believe they’ve come up with the Grand Unified Theory of Everything.

    Interestingly, these people often believe peer-reviewed journals reject their work because it’s too progressive (rather than demonstrably a pile of nonsense.)

    And doesn’t that mindset sound familiar? 😀

  13. Avatar amy m says:

    I am in a similiar situation as Tammy – I queried several agents and a few editors at the same time. I now have several agents with fulls (including Jessica) and two editors with fulls, one of which is at Dorchester, which is like Harlequin in that they don’t require agents.

  14. Avatar jodi says:

    hey Susanna, the great thing about H/sil is that they will look at your without an agent. It’s a big open door. Can you get more money with an agent at H/sil? That’s where I’ve heard conflicting advice too. What I think is the truth is that it’s yes…if you’re already one of their authors, have something spiffy for one of their bigger lines, or have built up a following. No…if you’re a newbie.

    Unless you’re a fabulously talented super-dooper newbie.

    So I’d just go for it. Just remember each editor isn’t the same, they all have different tastes. They best thing you can do is join eharlequin and follow their boards for awhile.

  15. Avatar Chumplet says:

    After submitting to what seemed like a zillion agents, my rejections morphed from form letters to encouraging, personal notes. By then I had exhausted my list, so I submitted to a small press which accepted the novel.

    The same thing happened with my second novel, with a different publisher.

  16. Avatar jfaust says:

    Let me clarify that typically when I talk about publishers I’m going to talk about one of the big houses. Of course if you’re targeting smaller houses you should feel free to go forward without an agent.

    There are always going to be success stories from authors who got an offer directly from an editor and there are always exceptions to rules, but as a rule I am always going to recommend that authors work toward finding an agent first. Too often I have seen authors exhaust the list of both agents and publishers and once they find an agent interested the agent is dismayed to learn that there’s no where left to go with the book–even if she feels the author submitted to all the wrong editors. Remember, finding a publisher and submitting from my point of view isn’t about knowing which houses to submit to, but about knowing which editors to submit to.

    Yes, if you’ve exhausted your list of agents and want to go directly to editors feel free, I will warn you though that often your material will be immediately handed off to a freelance reader and not even read by the editor herself.

    Mark: I think you have a very valid question and one I’d like to address in a post at some point so it isn’t buried in the comments.