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The Difference Between A Literary Agent And An Editor

Literary agents and editors play different but important roles in the book publishing industry. Many writers wonder: Can you get an editor without a literary agent? Do you need a literary agent to get a book published? Why have both a literary agent and an editor—isn’t one or the other enough?

The Primary Purposes

What is the point of having a literary agent? A literary agent gives writers access to editors at publishing houses. Without a literary agent’s help, most writers would not be able to approach editors at major publishers with their ideas, proposals, and manuscripts. Agents have a number of other roles as well. Read more: Top Reasons To Query Agents First

What is the point of having an editor?  At most major publishing houses, an editor’s work is to acquire strong book projects and make those book projects even stronger through critique.

Professional Relationships

Who pays a literary agent? Literary agents are generally paid a 15 percent commission on the sale of a book; in a sense, a literary agent works for his/her clients. However, it is best to approach a relationship with a literary agent as a partnership. 

Who pays the editor? An editor is generally an employee of a publishing house. A writer and editor are both paid by the publisher for their work; however, editors often are charged with determining how much a writer is paid. 

Read more: How Much Money Can I Make Writing Poems, Stories, and Books

Critiquing And Editing Your Book

Will a literary agent critique your book? Yes and no. A literary agent’s primary job is NOT to offer editorial advice on a book: An agent’s task is to sell a book to an editor. Sometimes, a literary agent will offer editorial guidance for a novel, but it’s not mandatory. A literary agent may also be willing to critique a proposal for a nonfiction book. 

Will an editor critique your book? Yes, an editor will critique a book or novel. Editors work closely with authors to make sure a book is ready for a large audience and public scrutiny.  

How to connect

How does a writer get a literary agent? A writer can get a literary agent by composing query letters and sending submissions via email and mail. Writers can also meet literary agents at writing conferences and can network at writing groups. Find out how Writer’s Relief can help you get a literary agent

How does a writer get an editor at a publishing house? A writer can get an editor by having his/her literary agent pitch a manuscript to editors. Some editors at independent publishing houses do accept queries from unagented (unrepresented) submissions.

Where Does Writer’s Relief Fit In?

Writer’s Relief is neither a literary agency nor a publishing house that employs editors. Writer’s Relief manages the submission process for writers who wish to submit their work for publication with a major publisher. We have been helping writers submit their nonfiction books, memoirs, and novels to literary agents since 1994. Learn how you can become a client of Writer’s Relief

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