Q4U: Should Agents Edit?
Most of you know that I came from an editorial background before I was an agent. I love working with authors on their books, and over the years I’ve developed the skills to help writers improve their writing, or present a more saleable book or proposal to editors. As a result, I sometimes have significant editorial input on my clients’ projects. (I blogged in more detail about my approach to editing clients’ work here.)
I don’t always do this. I try to take on books that are nearly ready for submission. But it doesn’t always work out that way, and sometimes I offer representation based on the potential I see in them, even if the manuscript still needs work.
Occasionally even when I think the original manuscript or proposal is good enough to submit without much revision, we don’t end up selling it. Then my editorial experience comes in handy as we work to craft a better book and/or proposal for the second round of submissions.
All agents are different. Some prefer not to do any editing at all. They take what you send, turn it around and get it out to editors. That’s perfectly legitimate. (Janet Reid blogged that she’s not one of the “editing agents.” While Jessica Faust blogged about how she often goes through many rounds of revisions with clients before submitting.)
This is one of the things you should consider when searching for an agent. Are you comfortable with an agent who offers revision suggestions?
A couple of clarifications:
1. Agents usually offer editorial suggestions before the project is submitted to publishers. Once the project is sold, in most cases the agent steps back (unless asked for an opinion) because the manuscript is now the editor’s responsibility.
2. Some authors believe an agent’s only job is to “sell.” But let’s be clear: the only reason an agent edits is to increase the chances of selling. So when editing is called for, I believe I’m actually doing the job of “selling” by offering advice that I think will help the book sell.
So I have two questions for you:
1. Which kind of agent do you think you’d prefer, one who edits or one who doesn’t?
2. Philosophically: Should agents edit?
Looking forward to your answers. Have a good weekend!