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Proofreading, Editing, Critique

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How Do You Distinguish A Literary Agent From An Editor?

In the book publishing industry, editors and agents play different but very important roles. Many authors wonder if they can get an editor without a literary agent and vice versa. Some authors don’t know if they must have an agent in order to publish their books. Others believe that the roles of agents and editors are interchangeable, hence only one is enough to successfully publish books. Editors and agents have different jobs, as we shall see below.

Their duties

A literary agent is a middleman between authors and editors. In essence, an agent provides authors with an avenue to take their work to editors who work at publishing houses. In most cases, an author’s chances of approaching editors at reputable publishing houses without the help of an agent are slim at best. On the other hand, the work of an editor is to get book projects that show a lot of sales potential for publishing houses. They also help to improve books through critiques.

Professional relationship

Where does the income of a literary agent come from? Agents are paid on commission basis – they receive a percentage of the book sales which is usually about 15%. Essentially, an agent works for authors. However, authors should deal with agents as their partners instead of their subordinates. On the other hand, an editor is employed by a publishing house. Both editors and writers are paid by the publishing house. Interestingly, an editor recommends how much he thinks the author should be paid by the publisher.

Editing and critiquing a book

Is it the job of a literary agent to critique a book or is that an editor’s job? The responsibility of critiquing a book does not lie squarely on an agent’s shoulders. An agent is not obligated to critique a book and neither should he be expected to. His work is to pitch a book to an editor. However, an agent can critique a book at his own discretion or at the request of an author. Editors on the other hand are supposed to critique any submission made by an author or agent. It is the job of an editor to work with an author to make sure that the book is ready for sale to a discerning audience.

How agents and editors are hired

After an author has a book that he wants to get published, he composes query letters and sends them to literary agents. Authors can also get agents from writing conferences. They can also network with fellow writers who can connect them with agents. The process of getting an editor is markedly different. The only way for an author to get an editor at big publishing houses is through his agent. The agent pitches an author’s manuscript to editors who get in touch with the authors if they are interested in the book. Sometimes authors can connect with editors directly, but this is mostly so for editors working at independent publishing houses.