If a manuscript is mostly well-written (with a believable premise and good spelling/grammar), but might still need work, would that usually be considered close enough for an agent to want to send a contract, then have the author fix it up after?
In other words, how perfect must a manuscript be before an agent will consider signing an author?My goal is to get a manuscript I can send to an editor that very minute. I also root for the Cubs, so I have a long standing ability to deal with failed hopes and dreams.
I STRONGLY encourage you to not send a manuscript out before you think it's absolutely ready to be published, because I can assure you that what you think is publishable and what I think is publishable are probably different.
That said, I've worked with authors to edit their work before it's gone out. Everything from developmental editing to copy editing.
Now though, I don't have a lot of time to do that for potential new clients. I have old clients who keep me very busy with that sort of stuff. Younger agents who don't have a big list are more likely to have the time to do that kind of developmental work.
Don't count on it though. "Good enough" is not the standard you want to aspire to. Almost every single one of my clients has to have the manuscript pried out of their twitching fingers as they mutter "wait, should it be like or that for that clause on page 303!?" In other words, writers who have sweated every single word, sentence, paragraph and page.