Saturday, July 22, 2006

Just What Can I Expect from My Agent for 15%?

First of all, thanks everyone for the congratulatory wishes! So sweet of you. Sadly, we were rained out at the zoo, but we still had a fun day. (Though mommy is no contest compared to elephants.)

I also wanted to point out this fabulous blog post by my friend, Lauren Baratz-Logsted. She talks about managing expectations as an aspiring writer. (And yes, she mentions my blog, but that's not why it's so good!) Here's the blog.

Now, back to the questions:

Should one expect an agent to do edits of a book? And if so, how much editing do they really do?

This is a tricky question. Why? Because you should never expect your agent to help you fine-tune your ms. If you do, you probably already realize that the book needs work, in which case, you shouldn't yet be sending it out.

That said, yes, most agents will walk you through some changes. How in-depth these changes will be depends on a) how much work your ms really needs (through the eyes of an objective resource - not your mother, who has already doled out lavish praise), and b) how much time the agent has to devote to you.

When my agent offered representation for TDLF, she said that we could send it out "as is," or that we could really make sure that every last detail was perfect... a light edit of tweaks here and there, and then it would go out. Obviously, I chose the perfection route. And as a result, my actual editor (once the book was sold) had very few changes for me. (Something that truly freaked me out. I mean, it finally hit me that people would be reading what I wrote...I'd figured that my editor would take an ax to it, then put it back together, thus reassuring me that it was truly ready to roll.) There's also the sad reality that editors at publishing houses have so many other demands on them these days that they have less and less time to, you know, actually edit. So many agents truly put the ms through the ringer before it goes out.

5 comments:

larramie said...

I've heard the term "clean ms;" however yours, Allison, must have been pristine. And, as for your "objective resource," how treasured is s/he?

Allison Winn Scotch said...

L-Don't forget that TDLF had been through a few overhauls with agent #1. I'd also asked a professional editor friend to take a look at it while agent #1 was reviewing it. So I had already made some pretty extensive changes. So by the time my current agent got it, there wasn't that much to change. (Though I'm sure that some of the editors who rejected it will disagree! Ha!) And I guess the same is true for my current editor.

I don't mean to imply that my editor didn't ask for changes: she did. But they were much smaller than I expected and were pretty easy to take care of.

larramie said...

Nevertheless, it's impressive and -- for many reasons -- I can't wait to read TDLF.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Larr-Thanks! A quick ps that I should also add: we got an offer from one editor who DID want to make fairly heavy changes. As did an agent or two who asked me to revise and resubmit. So it's not like changes weren't POSSIBLE, it's that I happened to find an agent and editor who didn't think that the book needed that many, and who shared the same vision as I did for the book. So that's another reason why this process was so seamless...not because the book was/is perfect, but because for the people who rep it/bought it thought that it was close to it. (Well, you know what I mean. I'm sure they don't think it's PERFECT, but I'm speaking more in the general editing sense, not in the ego-inflating sense!) Book-buying, book-selling, and hell, book-reading are all so subjective that it's really just a crap shoot. I supposed that I could have landed with the above agent and had to go through a major round of revisions...

larramie said...

A: A few days ago, I came upon the following quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"'Tis the good reader that makes the good book."

Hmmm, how applicable is that in terms of agents, editors and -- finally -- the general public?