Handling Editor Interest

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 19 2011

Two years ago, an editor was interested in my previous novel. The novel was taken to acquisitions and not acquired. Subsequently, I withdrew that novel from sale and began to work on another novel. Over a year and a half later, the same editor contacted my agent to see if I had anything new he could look at. (I know, pretty flattering, huh?) In the intervening time my agent had retired and I hadn’t found a new agent because the book was unfinished (and there was no point looking for an agent for an already-shopped book), so I emailed the editor directly and told him about my new project.

Well, he was really interested. Took a look at the partial and made some brilliant editorial suggestions. Which I have implemented. (They meant an entire rewrite, so I’m not quite done, but nearly there.) But when I sent him a partial with the changes, he sent them to another Senior editor, and they both got a little excited, and now they’re waiting on the full. No promises, but lots of interest.

So what’s the protocol here, in regards to queries? I really want to work with this editor should an offer be forthcoming, but I also want an agent. Preferably first, so they can negotiate the contract and make sure I’m getting a fair deal and for other novels – to help me turn this into a career. Should I mention anything in the query title or open with, ‘I have an interested editor’? Or do I wait until I have an offer in hand?

Life never works the way it’s supposed to, does it? All the time people do things out of order or “not the way they’re supposed to” and it works brilliantly for them. The difference between these people and those who “do everything right” with little success is that the people who use the back door first also grab every opportunity the moment it arises.

Grab this opportunity. The moment you feel the manuscript is in fighting shape you get it off to that editor. You have someone waiting for your work, don’t let too much time slip by (of course, don’t rush it too quickly either). Then get your queries out to agents and yes, definitely mention that Editor Name at House Name is reviewing the manuscript by request. You can explain the details later if necessary.

If you get an offer from the editor before you hear from agents you can use the offer to push an agent offer. Simply follow my guidelines, ask the editor to wait, and get the agent on board before you agree to anything. You don’t need an agent first to negotiate the contract. You’re just going in through the back door.

Hope that helps. Best of luck!


11 responses to “Handling Editor Interest”

  1. sound advice! Wishing the querier luck!

  2. Yes, good luck! And thanks for clarifying that point, Jessica. I probably would have waited for a full offer before contacting an agent otherwise.

  3. Avatar ryan field says:

    I always enjoy reading these stories where things work out differently than the way we'd like to plan them. Good post.

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I have been through the business of querying agents when you already have an interested editor. My advice: don't query in stages. Query every agent who interests you in the first round. You'll get fairly quick responses. (And roughly half of them will be rejections.)

    Have some idea which of the agents you're querying are your first choices.

  5. Avatar Kelly Shire says:

    Good luck, author!

  6. Avatar girlseeksplace says:

    Good luck!

  7. What a timely question (and answer!). I'm going through something very similar right now. Good luck to this querier!

  8. good luck!
    And I am looking forward for the new article)!

  9. Avatar Julie Nilson says:

    Congrats to the letter writer! That's an excellent problem to have–a little stressful, I'm sure, but still a great place to be. Best of luck to you!

  10. Avatar abc says:

    Very interesting article, it definitely got me thinking by Revathi

  11. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Thank you everyone for the well wishes! I am elated to have an answer, thanks Jessica. I was hoping this would be the answer, because it is pretty much my plan.

    Currently the novel is going well and the changes are turning out even better than I hoped. I am fortunate I had editorial suggestions to listen to, because I honestly wouldn't have considered a change so left field, yet I can see the benefits for the story unfolding in endless ways ahead of me.

    And I suppose the moral of this for me is, even though I see many writer-friends falling into the self-publishing market, I truly wonder if their work will be all it can be without the growth afforded by access to other's expertise. There is so much to learn from the publishing experts.