DMLA Policy on Independent Editors


In recent years independent editors, who work directly with authors, have become an established part of the publishing industry.  Many are former in-house editors.  Their services range from line editing to story development to rewriting to ghost writing.

Most independent editors are reputable and good.  Unfortunately, some sell services that are unnecessary or ineffective.  A few have been prosecuted for fraud.  Since independent editors are unlicensed and unregulated, authors need to be careful consumers.

It is normal and customary for independent editors to refer writers to literary agents and vice versa.  However, there are ethical considerations.  The Canon of Ethics which governs member agents of the Association of Author’s Representatives, Inc. has this to say:

Members may not solicit or accept any payment, preferment or item of value in connection with the referral of any client to a third party for any purpose except in connection with the disposition of rights in the work of that client.

While that principle is foundational, we believe it is not specific enough.  At DMLA, therefore, we adhere to the following additional principles when making referrals to, or accepting referrals from, independent editors:

  • There shall be no exclusive relationship between agent and independent editor.  In practice this means that when making referrals to independent editors DMLA agents always recommend several, encouraging authors to comparison shop and choose for themselves the independent editor who is best for them.
  • There shall be no payment of any sort between agent and independent editor.  DMLA does not pay any finders fee, commission share or any other consideration on account of referrals from independent editors, nor does DMLA accept payment or any other consideration for reading the work of clients of independent editors.
  • Any personal relationship between agent and independent editor shall be disclosed at referral.  For instance, Donald Maass is married to independent editor Lisa Rector and this is always stated should she be recommended to an author by any DMLA agent.
  • Offers of representation by DMLA agents shall always be independent decisions free of any quid pro quo or obligation of any sort with respect to independent editors. 

In general, referrals to independent editors by DMLA agents, when made, always are matters of professional courtesy only, based upon the agent’s knowledge of the editor’s experience, expertise and reputation.  Authors should always feel they are shopping for editors’ services on a comparative and competitive basis.  No particular outcome of engaging the services of an independent editor is ever promised or implied by DMLA.