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Agents recommending editing

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

popmuze

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Since Andy the agent is on vacation I figured I'd post this here to get some responses.

Not having published a novel in twenty years, I'm wondering if the rules have changed after getting a note from a well-known NY agent in which he was declining to represent my novel "right now." The note included the comments of his reader who said my writing was "eloquent," my characters "fun to read about and real" and the plot "engaging." The main complaint was that the pace of the plot could be "accelerated."

Then the reader opined that I could benefit from the services of a freelance editor and the agent just happened to have the name of someone with impeccable credentials who I could hire for a mere couple of thousand bucks.

Here are my questions:
Is this now considered a legitimate practice?
Assuming this editor not only had impeccable credentials, but also lots of friends still employed by the major houses, is there any way this might be a good investment?
Does the suggestion to hire an editor negate the positive things the reader had to say?

When I let the agent know I preferred to take my chances with other agents, he said he had another editor who charged less.

On the other hand, I would gladly pay an experienced editor $50 to critique my first chapter.
 

MadScientistMatt

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This "well known agent in New York" sounds suspiciously like Robert Fletcher, the well known "agent" with a mail drop in New York. That still isn't how legitimate agents work. This guy sounds like he's getting a kickback - if he doesn't actually own the editing service outright. The service isn't called "My Editor Is a Saint," is it?
 

popmuze

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No, but this is a guy who responded within minutes to my email query with a request to see the whole manuscript.

I thought it might be too good to be legitimate, although I'm still hoping some of the readers comments were accurate.
 

waylander

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Sounds far too good to be true.

I would send a few more queries to agents listed here www.agentquery.com

When you've had a few more responses you'll get a better idea of where your work stands.
 

JennaGlatzer

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Pop, if you don't want to mention who the agent is here, send a PM to Victoria Strauss (the moderator of this board)-- she maintains a database of agents/editors who engage in kickback schemes and other unsavory practices. And your hunch is right-- this is not acceptable. It most likely means that the agent has worked out a kickback scheme with a couple of editors. See here for details of one such scheme that ended... badly for the con artists:

http://www.sfwa.org/beware/cases.html#Edit
 

Sassenach

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popmuze said:
No, but this is a guy who responded within minutes to my email query with a request to see the whole manuscript.

I thought it might be too good to be legitimate, although I'm still hoping some of the readers comments were accurate.

Ya think? A reply within 'minutes' is the giveaway. When was the last time a reputable agent did that? [Answer: never.]
 

James D. Macdonald

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popmuze said:
Here are my questions:
Is this now considered a legitimate practice?

No.

Assuming this editor not only had impeccable credentials, but also lots of friends still employed by the major houses, is there any way this might be a good investment?

That's a lot of assumptions.

Does the suggestion to hire an editor negate the positive things the reader had to say?

Probably. It could have been the form letter they send to everyone in an attempt to sell editing.
 

popmuze

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Not wanting to cling too ferociously to the adjectives of praise (I've gotten the greatest reviews of my career in rejection letters), but the response was much too particular to be a form. Only the last lines recommending the professional editor seemed tacked on.

Normally, I might have called the agent to ask why they would immediately pass on a book that was so highly praised by the first reader. But I get the sense I'm better off without this agent, even if he is legit.
 

popmuze

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Oddly enough, I used much the same syntax when advising a divorced friend of mine about dating.
 

HapiSofi

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popmuze said:
...Then the reader opined that I could benefit from the services of a freelance editor and the agent just happened to have the name of someone with impeccable credentials who I could hire for a mere couple of thousand bucks.

Here are my questions:
Is this now considered a legitimate practice?
Assuming this editor not only had impeccable credentials, but also lots of friends still employed by the major houses, is there any way this might be a good investment?
Does the suggestion to hire an editor negate the positive things the reader had to say?

When I let the agent know I preferred to take my chances with other agents, he said he had another editor who charged less.

On the other hand, I would gladly pay an experienced editor $50 to critique my first chapter.
I don't know whether it's impossible for a legit agent to say that, but I've never heard of one doing it. I've heard of lots and lots of scam agents doing exactly what you describe. You tell me what the odds are.

Would this be a good investment? Only if you can afford the money now, the editing turns it into book that's so hot that the agent sells it to a well-known publishing house for pots of money, and you become wealthy and famous. This is an unlikely sequence of events. Think: if the agent believed it was possible for an outside edit to turn your book into a hot property, would he have declined to represent you before he saw the finished edit? Once he says "no", you're free to go elsewhere.

The agent might have good contacts in publishing, or he might just be saying he has good contacts. I've seen scam agents make some amazing claims in that direction. In any event, the question of whether or not the agent has good contacts doesn't determine the value of an outside edit. It's valuable if it makes the book so much better that it can be sold for an amount that more than repays the cost of the edit.

That almost never happens.

I hate to say it, but suggesting that you hire a specific editor probably does negate the nice things the reader said.

An experienced editor might critique your first chapter for $50, but they couldn't talk about much besides your prose and your initial narrative strategies.

Sorry.
 

pepperlandgirl

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He praised you so you'd think of him as a friend, an ally, somebody who would never, ever hurt an author he respects as much as he respects you.

You don't lure flies with vinegar, after all.
 

Andrew Zack

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I think there's the possibility that this is legitimate, but without knowing the players it's hard to say.

As an agent, I know three or four freelance editors personally. Each has sent projects my way. In some cases, I didn't bite but sent along notes and the author went back to the freelance editor and paid for more assistance. In two cases I did bite, but still thought work was needed and the authors worked with the freelance editors to accomplish what I asked. Other than lunch with one editor about every 18 months, I've never gotten anything out of these relationships in the form of kick-backs or whatever.

Truth is, I sometimes worry when I see that cover letter that says "I've been working with a book doctor/freelance editor...." That says to me that I'm not getting a "true" look at the work of the author and I worry, If I sell this, what happens with the next book? Will he hire the editor again? Or will I get stuck trying to sell something that, fundamentally, just won't be as good, because the editor wasn't involved?

I know one freelance editor who trumpets his special relationship with a "major" agent. The message clearly being sent is that you have a better shot of finding representation with this major agent if you use his services. True or not? I don't know. I haven't seen the numbers. The editor is certainly well experienced and has a long work history in the business. I think any author might benefit from working with him; I just can't say it will make the book salable.

Every freelance editor (and I write this as someone who has certainly been paid for editorial consultations) has to deal with the reality that some books, no matter how much work is involved, aren't going to turn out publishable. Should they be automatically turned down? My feeling is that if I think I can help the author become a better writer, why not do it? He could spend as much on a writing class or he could work one-on-one with me. Six of one, half a dozen of another, I think, though I generally give authors an immense number of "Are you sure you want to go this route?" opportunities. I point out that writers' groups are free and might be a way to go. I point out that a writing class might cost less and offer the opportunity to meet other writers, get multiple critiques, etc. But some authors want that one-to-one experience and those are the ones who are going to seek out freelance editors and book doctors. But no one can promise the finished product will be publishable or, if it is, that it will get published.

All this said, I don't know anyone who might not benefit from working with an editor. Whether or not it's worth the money is up to the author, I feel. In the case described, I think the author should get a few more reads from other agents and see if there's a trend. Then decide whether or not working with an editor might be worth it.

Best,
Andy
 

popmuze

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As usual, a discerning and thoughtful reply. You have my permission to take the rest of the holidays off.
 

deborahbusby

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Book Doctor

Hi everyone,

I have received interest on my ms from an agent who seems very enthusiastic about my novel - which is fantastic! She responded within 24 hours and read my ms in a day...in my experience, this is unheard of.

My question is...why is being referred to a book doctor a bad thing? I read the 20 agents who are thumbs down and one of the reasons is that they referred their clients to a book doctor. It's my understanding that having your manuscript checked by a strong editor before you start pitching to publishers is a plus. So why would that be a reason to get on the thumbs down list?

I just need some clarification because this agent is suggesting a book doctor before we start pitching...and no, it's not her or her agency...in fact, she said she would give me some recommendations but I can choose my own.

Just curious...
Debbie

Update and clarification: She said she would still sign me even if I didn't use a book doctor. It was just a recommendation, not a condition of representation. Does that change anything?
 
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JetFueledCar

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Many of those "agents" are receiving kickbacks or "finder's fees" for sending unwary authors to those book doctors. Even if they suggest several of them, they could be getting kickbacks from all of them, so they win no matter who you pick.

I know you're going to hate hearing it, but the agent probably didn't read your book in a day. That is unheard of. Bad agents don't need to read their clients' books because they make their money from those kickback fees or the fees they apply themselves, not from selling their books.

Helping clients edit their books to get ready for publication is part of an agent's job. It's not something they should be farming out like that.
 

Osulagh

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It's a common scam for an agent to tell you, "Oh, you should get this edited by [blank] and I'll rep" and after you pay for the services both the agent and editor go silent. Either the agent gets kickbacks or they are the editor and just getting free money while you don't get anything in return.

And no, you don't need to get your book edited whatsoever before it gets to a publisher. In fact, we always suggest the opposite. Edit your book yourself--no, it's not hard. You're just editing to be readable to be picked up by an agent, who then will send it to a publisher and the editors at the publisher (who are paid by the publisher) edit it pretty much for free. That's why they are bad outside of the scam: Your publisher should be working with you to produce a more publishable novel. Any editor outside of the publisher is only doing a wild guess to what you and your readers want--the editors and publishers know better. Add to that, many agents are former editors and have the training or the knowledge to edit novels themselves. Sometimes they do, but don't count on it.
 
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Thedrellum

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To be fair, my agent did request and read my book in a day, and she would've called me to sign, too, if I hadn't left my phone number off of the manuscript.

But as she told me, this was a first for her. AND we did a hell of a lot of editing of that manuscript over the months that followed. She saw something in the book that excited her to no end and wanted to carve it from the stone with me, together.

However, she is an editorial agent (if that's not clear by now) and if any agent I'd submitted to had shown excitement but wanted me to see a book doctor, I would have taken them out of consideration.
 

Deb Kinnard

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I'm with the others. If you still have an interest in this agent repping you, you might tell her you'll find your own editorial consultant, and pay him/her yourself. Then if she says that's a deal-breaker, you'll know it's not on the up and up.
 

waylander

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I'm not clear, did this agent refer you to one particular book doctor, or just suggest you use a book doctor?
Most agents do undertake the manuscript improvement themselves, but I guess there are some out there who are more sales orientated and don't do editorial.
Using a book doctor under certain circumstances can be a sensible move and if this agent has sales to good publishers in your genre then I would not dismiss her.
 
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deborahbusby

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I'm not clear, did this agent refer you to one particular book doctor, or just suggest you use a book doctor?
Most agents do undertake the manuscript improvement themselves, but I guess there are some out there who are more sales orientated and don't do editorial.
Using a book doctor under certain circumstances can be a sensible move and if this agent has sales to good publishers in your genre then I would not dismiss her.

She did not suggest a particular one. She said she would reach out to her contacts and get back with me if she found someone who had time in their schedule. She also said I could choose my own if I found one I wanted to work with.

- - - Updated - - -

Many of those "agents" are receiving kickbacks or "finder's fees" for sending unwary authors to those book doctors. Even if they suggest several of them, they could be getting kickbacks from all of them, so they win no matter who you pick.

I know you're going to hate hearing it, but the agent probably didn't read your book in a day. That is unheard of. Bad agents don't need to read their clients' books because they make their money from those kickback fees or the fees they apply themselves, not from selling their books.

Helping clients edit their books to get ready for publication is part of an agent's job. It's not something they should be farming out like that.

Hi.

Thanks for this information. I really think she did read it in a day because her email with extensive feedback on my book pulled bits and pieces and quotes from all through the book to give example of what she was trying to explain.

I do understand why being referred to a book doctor is a negative thing now, though, so thank you for that.

Debbie

- - - Updated - - -

Deborah, would you mind sharing the name of the agent? There might already be a thread for them, and it would help other writers submitting to know what to expect.

I will be happy to share the name of the agent after I decide not to sign with her. I don't want to associate her with a negative post on here if I decide to sign. Thanks!
 

deborahbusby

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I'm with the others. If you still have an interest in this agent repping you, you might tell her you'll find your own editorial consultant, and pay him/her yourself. Then if she says that's a deal-breaker, you'll know it's not on the up and up.

She did say that she would still sign me even if I didn't use a book doctor. She just recommended it, it wasn't a condition of the signing.
 

Dennis E. Taylor

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To be clear, reputable agents do sign up writers with WIPs that need work. And such agents do work with the authors on developmental editing. I've just gone through it with my agent, and there's at least one more thread somewhere here where someone else said they'd gone through 4 revisions and a year's worth of rework with their agent. But this is a lot different from line-editing, which will be taken care of by the publisher (unless it's really horrible, I guess). I didn't see any real indication in this thread of what kind of editing you're talking about. That could have a bearing.
 

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