An author asked me to help him write his query letter in hopes of having a publisher pick up the cost of publishing. He also expected the publisher to pay him an advance. When I looked at the unedited, poorly formatted manuscript that I was supposed to "sell" to the publisher, I recommended the author have the manuscript edited first.
He thought I was trying to get more money from him by suggesting that I first edit his book! Can you believe it? I was trying to keep the author from wasting his money and time writing a query letter for a manuscript that doesn't have a chance in hell of being accepted by a conventional publisher.
While we do offer editing services, it's not just an up-sell attempt when we recommend that an author have a book edited before starting the query letter. How can I in good consciousness brag about an unedited book and write a query to a publisher who is not only supposed to accept the manuscript and pay the author an advance, but also do the marketing? Someone's not doing their research, and it's the naïve, unproven author who thinks he or she will get rich by having a publisher assume these responsibilities.Publishers are businesses and the bottom line is can this product make a profit?
What about publish-on-demand (POD) companies? Don't they publish unedited books? Yes, like their name says, they publish on demand or "as is" and that is exactly the reason why many of these companies have a bad reputation among booksellers and in the literary community. That's also why Writers in the Sky doesn't accept every book submitted to us for review. If we can't write a four-star review for the book, we turn it away rather than present a lie to the readers who have come to trust us for factual information.
Publish-on-demand companies get a percentage of the royalties from the books their clients (authors) sell. What publisher would not prefer to have authors bring them a well-written and edited book to publish? Better books make for better sales. Besides that, both the author’s and the publisher’s reputation is on the line.
For more reading on this topic, see these sites:
http://www.dancinglemurpress.com/id10.html (this publisher only accepts professionally edited manuscripts)
http://publishingcentral.coml (see #16)
I want to hear from authors, PODs, and conventional publishers. Please leave a comment.
Should a manuscript be edited before querying a publisher?