Hope everyone had a nice weekend. It was a typical weekend in San Francisco — one day the wind blew so hard my toupee went flying into the bay and the next day I kept telling everyone it was really hot, but actually it was only 75 degrees and just felt hot because someone had moved San Francisco into the Arctic Circle the past few weeks and I’d kind of gotten used to it. (No, I don’t actually have a toupee — I told you, it blew into the bay.)
Oh, dear. Can you tell it’s Monday?
Anyway, I had a great question from faithful reader OBF over the weekend (and I’m paraphrasing here) — how much do agents edit? If the agent suggests changes, are they suggestions or holy commandments? What if the author disagrees? And what happens when the author actually has an editor? Does the agent still edit?
This one is difficult to answer because every agent is different. Some agents are very hands-off, some agents are very involved — and it even varies from client to client, depending on the needs of the client and whatever arrangement the author and agent are comfortable with. But usually an agent will mostly work with a client on work they are preparing to sell, and once the agent has an editor the agent will usually take a back seat on the editing front. But of course I have to add the caveat “usually” because there are always exceptions, and every arrangement is different.
Now, as for me, on the editing spectrum I’m somewhere in the middle. I feel that it adds value to a work to make sure it is in the absolute best shape possible before it goes out to editors, and I do my best to help the author make this happen. However, at the end of the day the author is the author, they are the ones who have to be comfortable with their own work and whose instincts have resulted in success. I feel that it’s my job to help an author achieve their own vision rather than impose my vision, and my edits are meant to help refine and shape the author’s intention rather than trying to remake the book into something the author isn’t comfortable with.
I also will very occasionally offer suggestions to prospective clients in the hopes that they will be able to revise the work to the point that I would feel comfortable offering representation and submitting the work to editors. However, if my vision ever differs too much from a prospective client’s and they decline to make changes I suggested, it might just mean that I’m not the right agent for them, and I will suggest that they go their own way to find someone whose vision matches theirs. I am always disappointed in these instances because I think that when you have an enthusiastic agent who knows the marketplace it’s worth giving the changes a shot to see if they work. But ultimately I’m sympathetic to the fact that the author is the author and they have to shape the work themselves and be comfortable with the end result.
So, uh, there you have it.