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View Full Version : Agents as editors---what does your agent do for you?



JanetO
09-15-2011, 05:58 PM
I'm curious about how many of you with agents are getting some kind of editing help with your book from the agent, and at what level. Broad suggestions? Line-editing? Previous agents for two previous books of mine gave me no editing guidance whatsoever, but this time, I'm getting a lot of attention, which I appreciate. Curious what others appreciate...(and yes, I know there's at least one person here who believes agents shouldn't even be thinking about editing...;))

ChaosTitan
09-15-2011, 06:03 PM
My agent tends to give more generalized feedback. He'll comment if a scene doesn't work, or if a plot point isn't explained, or where I need to expand on something more. It's all general story stuff, but it's often stuff I didn't notice myself because I'm too close to the manuscript. It's always valuable feedback.

What he doesn't do is line edit or micro-manage the revisions.

Calla Lily
09-15-2011, 06:13 PM
Mine does the same as Chaos's.

Kasey Mackenzie
09-15-2011, 06:23 PM
Mine does the same as Chaos's.

Me, three! =)

taylormillgirl
09-15-2011, 06:37 PM
Mine gives tremendous editorial feedback--it's one of my favorite things about her--everything from broad story issues to line edits. Once, she spent two hours on the phone with me (on a Saturday night, no less!) brainstorming ways to reinvent a broken manuscript...and not the one she signed me for. Anyway, when I send her pages, she turns on track changes and goes to town. I love it.

Jamesaritchie
09-15-2011, 06:51 PM
If an agent tried to give me editorial feedback other than "have you considered doing this", I'd fire her instantly, unless she happened to have a previous, and successful, job as an acquisition editor with a major publisher.

Most agents are not writers, and most agents are not editors. They shouldn't try to be.

And even the best agents get far too many rejections, take on far too many books they can't sell, for me to believe they know as much about writing as the writer, or as much about what editors want as the editors themselves.

And even when an agent does get it "right", they're still usually wrong.

I'll handle the writing, and the editor who actually takes on the book can handle the editing. The agent needs to handle finding that editor, and getting me the best possible contract.

seun
09-15-2011, 07:01 PM
My agent tends to give more generalized feedback. He'll comment if a scene doesn't work, or if a plot point isn't explained, or where I need to expand on something more. It's all general story stuff, but it's often stuff I didn't notice myself because I'm too close to the manuscript. It's always valuable feedback.

What he doesn't do is line edit or micro-manage the revisions.

If I had an agent, I'd be more than happy with this sort of help.

ChaosTitan
09-15-2011, 07:04 PM
If I had an agent, I'd be more than happy with this sort of help.

It works well for us. And it's why we try to caution authors who are considering an agent's offer of representation to discuss revisions. Some authors want more detailed revisions and hands-on edits from their agents; some authors don't want any. It's important to know before you sign. :)

Kasey Mackenzie
09-15-2011, 07:08 PM
Hundred and second verse, same as the first!

Cyia
09-15-2011, 07:25 PM
Mine does general suggestions, then line edits.

Toothpaste
09-15-2011, 07:35 PM
Proof that James just trolls these boards for topics that he finds familiar and just posts his same old dogma not actually reading the content of the threads. She referenced you, sir, in her first post. But as ever:

To any and all lurkers: James has a very set opinion on what an agent should do for him, and it suits him and his career perfectly. If you share his opinion, then that is delightful. I am of the mind that whatever works for you works for you. BUT his absolutist manner in saying that agents usually get it wrong, know nothing about editing etc is not quite accurate (especially considering how many editors are now agents and might have a wee bit of experience). Some of the top agents out there edit with their clients. And they are good at it, and not frauds.

Choose whatever kind of relationship you want with your agent based on your personal needs, not untruths about the abilities of agents.


Now to answer the OP:

My agent offers broad editorial suggestions, not line edits.

Jen Klein
09-15-2011, 07:43 PM
My book agent gives general notes and they have been very, very helpful. If she offered something that didn't feel right to me, I would be able to tell her and I believe she would accept it. It's a really excellent working partnership in that regard. Line edits -- to me -- feel a little nit-picky from an agent. It's something that takes a ton of time, time that (from where I'm sitting) could be better put to use selling your work!

It's a little different in the screenwriting world, and also different because sometimes you have a manager AND an agent. My manager, for example, is big into reading every draft of a project and giving notes all along. It's, again, very much a partnership -- but a partnership with a different flavor to it.

I echo what a few people said above: it's your relationship. It has to work for you, and different authors have different needs from their agent. It is definitely something you should be able to discuss before signing with someone.

Good luck!

Corinne Duyvis
09-15-2011, 08:22 PM
I've only been through one revision with my agent, which was right after he signed me. He only had a few small comments -- line edits and some things I needed to foreshadow a little better, which resulted in a few added lines here and there. That book had been through tons of revisions and beta readers already, though, so it was pretty tight to begin with. Based on the feedback he gives his other clients, the feedback he gave the first few chapters of my current WIP, and what he indicated before I signed, he normally gives much bigger-picture comments as well. So I have that to look forward to when I hand in my current WIP :D

For me, editorial input is invaluable, so I appreciate both bigger-picture comments and line edits.

amyashley
09-15-2011, 08:23 PM
My agent was an editor for years before he was an agent, so he's very hands on. I knew this when I signed with him, and it's partly why I chose him. I feel each author seeks something different, and you should consider your agent's history, sales, and how their other clients work with them (talk to a few!) to see how well you might work together. Ask plenty of questions.

He gives bulleted suggestions that can apply to broad aspects of my manuscripts or specific areas. He will also usually ask me to do some homework whether it is reworking a fresh outline to show how a new pacing arrangement might work or researching a fresh plot point and getting back with him later. We work closely together on revisions, and he's taught me a great deal.

He doesn't do line edits, or has not done so yet. I think what he has done is taught me to write and refine better. I'll take that!

However, it took longer to prepare my first MS for submission due to the work he wanted me to put into it (5months). Not all authors would be happy with this, and not all agents are willing to work this long before subbing a debut piece. I'm quite sure this is why I didn't have as many offers initially. I do know that he'll be as willing to spend as much time on every book, and that means a better product to take to editors. Since I am very new to the business and very eager to learn, that's exactly what I wanted.

He respects my opinion on what I do not wish changed.

Decide what you want your working relationship to look like. Most of the failed agent relationships I know of seem to happen because the situation the author finds themselves in isn't what they expected. If you can sort it out beforehand and figure out all the questions you need to ask to know what you're getting into (how often will we talk, will it be e-mail or phone, how will revisions go, how long do they usually take, how will submissions go, what informations will you give me how much contact will we have during that time...) you'll be a step ahead.

Good luck. HTH.

Lucy
09-15-2011, 09:12 PM
My agent does line edits and gives me feed back on general things like "look and feel". He will suggest a scene or a line to flesh out something, or suggest I strike something that takes away from my main point.

He is the best agent -- I just adore him.

rugcat
09-15-2011, 09:23 PM
My agent provides significant editorial advice as to such things as structural issues, pacing, whether a certain character might be more developed or utilized, why certain scenes might not work or are unnecessary and should probably be cut, etc.

She does not do line edits. (except lightly on my first book, where I overused qualifiers such as actually, very, somewhat, etc. Someone had to bring it to my attention.)

I have found her input invaluable.

Of course, she had "a previous, and successful, job as an acquisition editor with a major publisher. "

Old Hack
09-15-2011, 10:53 PM
I know, and know of, several agents who used to be editors, and who work with their author-clients to make their books the best that they can be before they go out on submission.

I know of several authors whose publishers no longer have the time to edit as closely as they'd like, and who are very grateful that their agents now fulfill that role.

And I know of several agents who don't edit at all, and who simply send manuscripts back to their clients if they don't feel they're up to scratch, and tell them they can't represent those particular books.

How you work with your agent is entirely up to you. But me? I'm just grateful for every bit of help that I'm offered to make my work better.

Memnon624
09-16-2011, 04:37 AM
My agent used to be an editor, and an editorial director. He generally let's me bounce ideas off him if I'm in the mood to brainstorm (and often illuminates paths I never thought of); with manuscripts, he offers broad advice and lets me know what works and what doesn't. He's never line-edited me.

Miss Plum
09-16-2011, 06:23 AM
My agent gave a few line edits for phrases that plain weren't working, and noted parts that needed clarification or expansion. So, a mix of high- and low-level edits.

ETA: And she greatly improved my manuscript.

LIBGirl
09-16-2011, 06:30 AM
My friends agent is very hands on. Line edits to the max. But she was an senior editor at S&S before she went into agenting and he told me her heavy editorial hand is the reason he queried her in the first place.

Procrastinista
09-17-2011, 09:00 AM
For my first book, my agent had a couple of macro comments that required a full month to fix. Then she followed up with micro comments that mostly involved one or two sentence fixes.

I found almost all of her feedback to be quite useful. Matter of fact, I've found almost all feedback by members of my crit groups to be helpful as well.

I'll have to wait and see what my agent thinks of novel two. First I have to finish the damn thing.

BradCarsten
09-17-2011, 12:48 PM
I don't know, these days editors have so little time to spend on your manuscript, that for me an agent edit is crucial.

heyjude
09-17-2011, 03:56 PM
My agent tends to give more generalized feedback. He'll comment if a scene doesn't work, or if a plot point isn't explained, or where I need to expand on something more. It's all general story stuff, but it's often stuff I didn't notice myself because I'm too close to the manuscript. It's always valuable feedback.

What he doesn't do is line edit or micro-manage the revisions.

Same. Mine gives fantastic broad-brush advice, and asks questions that strengthen the ms.

ChaosTitan
09-18-2011, 12:41 AM
I don't know, these days editors have so little time to spend on your manuscript, that for me an agent edit is crucial.

I'm so curious where folks keep getting the idea that editors have no time to work on manuscripts. I know a pubbed author who just got back a 20 page edit letter. Mine tend to run between four and eight pages, depending on the manuscript. Editors are still editing.

Calla Lily
09-18-2011, 12:47 AM
+1. My edit letters are between 2-4 pages.

Toothpaste
09-18-2011, 01:07 AM
+ 1 also

Mine sent me 5 pages and of course a MS full of tracked changes. And who knows, there might be further rounds after this. The number of rounds I went with ALEX and TIMOTHY? Oy. But SO worth it.

I should also say, that at this point my agent gracefully steps to the side. It's only prior to selling the work that she offers any suggestions.

BradCarsten
09-18-2011, 01:37 AM
I'm so curious where folks keep getting the idea that editors have no time to work on manuscripts. I know a pubbed author who just got back a 20 page edit letter. Mine tend to run between four and eight pages, depending on the manuscript. Editors are still editing.



Even for reasonably major projects an editor wont have all that much time allocated to editorial work. For each book they might have about a day and a half at their disposal. Since it probably takes a careful day to read something thoroughly, that leaves about a morning to compile a set of notes sufficient to steer a book from where it is to where it needs to be. If the book that emerges from this round of editing is not yet right, there will not be a further day and a half available to do the same again.

... the emphasis at the second round stage will be on a swift practical tidy-up - the way teenagers clean up after a party, shoving the most visible rubbish into binliners and not worrying too much about the dark stain on the Persian carpet, or those weird marks on the sitting room ceiling... If for any reason the editorial problems are profound, a more intensive editorial approach may kick in, but that's an exception

Harry Bingham MD of the Writers workshop- (Editorial consultancy) quoted from writers and artists yearbook guide to getting published pg 238

kaitie
09-18-2011, 05:27 AM
Same. Mine gives fantastic broad-brush advice, and asks questions that strengthen the ms.

We have the same agent so I'm just quoting, but I agree that I loved the comments I received. It was amazing what a difference they made and the work is definitely stronger for it.

SRHowen
09-18-2011, 06:45 AM
My agent and i have had some differences of opinion on what direction a project should take. Resolved, thankfully, he usually has an intern do an editorial letter, though we have had long phone discussions, on Christmas day once, on what to do with some scenes I was working on.

He's also done copy edit type proofs for me.

rugcat
09-18-2011, 07:41 AM
I'm so curious where folks keep getting the idea that editors have no time to work on manuscripts. I know a pubbed author who just got back a 20 page edit letter. Mine tend to run between four and eight pages, depending on the manuscript. Editors are still editing.Some are, some aren't.

My last book received no editorial letter, and basically no editing except for the copy edit. I asked about it, and was told there wasn't anything that really needed editing.

Which was flattering, but just not true. The ms was reasonably coherent, in part because of excellent editorial advice from my agent, but it would have benefited from some help, without doubt.

But my feeling is that the editor had a bunch of other projects that needed significant work, and since mine was reasonably solid and she was slammed she figured it was "good enough."

I'm also guessing the fact that my sales had started to slip might have been a factor.

Sunnyside
09-20-2011, 08:54 AM
My agent -- and Chaos and I have the same agent, though we write VERY different kinds of books -- doesn't "edit" per se, but rather can give me an overall feel for places your average reader might run into issues. He might say "this part is too long" or "this seems like it might work better in the chapter before it" but he leaves it to me to decide whether I wanna do it. I can't think of any time he hasn't been right.

And with all respect to James, my wife isn't an editor either, and I wouldn't dream of sending ANYTHING off without her reading it first. And I'll bet lots of other folks here have beta readers and others who aren't professional editors who have opinions they value enormously when it comes to their work.

heyjude
09-20-2011, 02:40 PM
my wife isn't an editor either, and I wouldn't dream of sending ANYTHING off without her reading it first. And I'll bet lots of other folks here have beta readers and others who aren't professional editors who have opinions they value enormously when it comes to their work.

My hubby reads my stuff too. He can spot a plot hole from a mile away. I'm grateful he does it! Oh, and my dad picks on the little stuff. It's all incredibly worthwhile advice, plus I get some cheerleading out of it as well. :)

Wisteria Vine
10-02-2011, 04:06 PM
I'm glad I found this thread because I'm going through something similar with my agent. She line edits to the point where I am ready to quit writing altogether. Every time I read her edits, I think, "Wow, she's writing a really interesting book here." But it's not MY book anymore.

I understand the constraints agents and editors work under with time deadlines, a shrinking market, and a flood of authors, but I am curious about an agent who has THAT kind of time to get nit-picky over one word, or an agent who arbitrarily cuts sections that play into the plot later...that just tells me she hasn't read the whole thing before picking up the red pen (or mouse).

I'm in a quandary now with whether or not to cut her loose and move on to someone with less need for control over my MS.

Old Hack
10-02-2011, 06:25 PM
Wisteria, an editor (whether it's your agent or an editor doing the work) doesn't make changes to your work: he or she suggests ways in which your work could improve, and then it's up to you to implement those changes or argue against them.

If you feel that this isn't your book any more then you should tell your agent that: talk to her in a non-confrontational way and tell her of your concerns. She's on your side, you know.

eqb
10-02-2011, 09:54 PM
Harry Bingham MD of the Writers workshop- (Editorial consultancy) quoted from writers and artists yearbook guide to getting published pg 238

It might be his experience, but as others have said, and I can confirm, editors do edit.

My editor told me that she read my first novel five times through--once before acquisition, once for editorial notes (10 pages worth, by the way), a third time after I revised the ms., and twice more as we went through a couple more rounds of revision.

Sure, it depends on the editor and the publisher, and the project, but to make a sweeping statement of "they only have a day and a half per book" is inaccurate, to put it mildly.

Getting back to the original topic. My agent doesn't give me feedback, but she might if I asked her to. She reads all my manuscripts before she submits them, but once I'm under contract, she prefers to step out of the way. (And I'm happy with this arrangement.)