An Australian literary agent just knocked me back after reading my debut novel manuscript. He advised me to find an editor and said he'll entertain reading my work again but would like to first see the editor's summary. Is he referring to something the editor will write, or that I should write after it's edited? I assume that a summary is a rundown of the novel plot and characters arcs squished into something like two or three pages. Am I right? Is a summary a specific term in the industry? Or is it synonymous with synopsis? (wow, bit of a tongue twister there! :))) Thanks to anyone who can help me!

1 Answer 1


Probably NOT a synopsis or plot summary.

I think he is looking for a report the editor would write about the work after editing it. This is not a book report like a summary or synopsis, but the editor's take on whether your writing is professional. The editor will correct all punctuation and formatting errors, but beyond that, pays attention to see if your story makes sense and holds together and is fun to read (for fiction).

A book editor can criticize your plot's logic, whether your characters seem plausibly developed and act consistently, whether your dialogue seems forced or unnatural, whether your characters seem to have different personalities and "voices" or are all boringly uniform.

They can point out problems with pacing, your setting, or the structure of your story (more on that in a minute). They can say if the exposition is too wordy or awkward (both at the paragraph level for editing, and their impression of the book as a whole for a summary).

Finally, most editors may comment on your target audience (or lack thereof), and this relates to how easy or difficult it would be to market.

I will note that the BIG things of editing are tasks you can and should handle yourself. This is 100% part of being a good professional author. First, you should have plenty of novels lying around that give you published examples of punctuation for nearly anything you write.

There are free spell-checkers and free grammar checkers. Grammarly is one.

I don't use Grammarly or endorse it, but it appears they also have a premium version (pay for it, but relatively cheap, $30/month or $60/quarter or $140/year) that purports to do much of the technical work of an editor, dealing with punctuation, sentence structure, contextual issues, word-choice issues, etc. That would be hundreds of times cheaper than paying a person to do the same thing.

As far as structure, you can study up on the three act structure. A day spent reading about that tells you when and where things should happen in your story. That should identify any major problems you have with structure, and in turn may identify problems you have with pacing: If you stick like glue to the three act structure, most pacing problems will disappear. Many famous authors do exactly that, by the way, JK Rowling's first book sticks to the three act structure turning points nearly down to the exact page, give or take a thousand words.

After reading up on that, or while you are reading up on that, I suggest you have a best selling novel you admire by your side and put post-it like tabs on pages to show where the turning points of that novel are from that three act structure, so you have a good published example of how it is done.

I would be very cautious about buying editing services, these can cost you thousands of dollars and deliver nothing but what you can get for nearly free, and it is also all things you should know as a professional author.

If you produce a book with no glaring errors, and at least try to pay attention to the big issues, your agent probably would not have knocked you back so far.

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    I have never used Grammarly, but $30/month seems pretty steep! Dec 20, 2017 at 13:00
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    @Bob I have never used it either, my public school education, the Internet, and the imitation of other novels has worked well enough for me. But if I were uncertain or dinged for it (like the OP) I should think one month ($30), or three ($60), would be enough to address all the problems Grammarly identifies. $30 or $60 for a strong first pass on a whole book would be pretty small potatoes over hiring a person that would charge thousands. I'm not a cheapskate, but I am a cynic and hate to see aspiring people defrauded out of $1000s by predators exploiting their naiveté.
    – Amadeus
    Dec 20, 2017 at 13:16

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