Up until this point, the responses I've received from agents have fallen into the following four categories:
1. Form Rejection: "Dear Author, I'm sure your book is good, but I am too busy to care..."
2. Polite, Personal Rejection: "Dear Bethany, thank you for your submission. It is not what I'm looking for..."
3. Encouraging, Personal Rejection: "Dear Bethany, what a great concept. Unfortunately I'm not currently in the market for chick-lit..."
4. Encouraging, Give Me More: "Dear Bethany, You've nailed Peggy's voice--it's fresh, charming, and lively--and the title is superb..."
AND THEN LAST WEEK I RECEIVED THIS:
"Dear Bethany, Thanks for your submission. While your subject and writing interest me, as I began to read I found your manuscript filled with punctuation errors, which were distracting and detract from its professionalism. I'd suggest having your manuscript professionally edited before resubmitting it."
OUCH, STOP! THAT HURTS!!!
After my ego stopped bleeding, I took a look at the email with a little more diplomacy. First, she said "your subject and writing interest me". That's much better than, "this sounds stupid and you write like a left-handed preschooler." Secondly she said, "before resubmitting". Now it may be a stretch, but it sounds to me like she's offering me an opportunity to make it better and let her take a look at it again. That too, is a good thing.
So now I'm left with the question...DO I GET AN EDITOR?
I was well in the thick of mulling over the question of the day, when low and behold I received this email from another agent: "Dear Bethany:We are interested in reading your manuscript. Could you please send it as an MS Word attachment? Thank you."
It took me all of about nine seconds, and multiple confirming emails from my friends/family, to say, "YES. I NEED AN EDITOR." And that's exactly what I've done. I've gone and hired myself an editor. While part of me is anxious that it's officially been one week since the agent above requested the full manuscript and I've not sent it to her, I am confident that holding it for 2 weeks, so it can be in its most polished condition, is a much better decision then sending her something not entirely complete.
Of course, I wish I could go back and send Robyn, the first agent who requested my material, the revised manuscript (and I may do that if I don't hear from her before the revision is complete), but I think this is a wise decision on my part. After Jenni the editor works her magic, I will feel absolutely confident that what I am sending out is in its most perfect condition.
Here's to letting the professionals do their thing.
(And the agent who's tough words actually motivated me to make my book better)
Side note: I thanked that editor and asked if I could resubmit after revision. Her response: "Of course. I'd be happy to see it."