Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Do Agents Make Clients Revise?

STATUS: Snowing again in Denver. I think I’m tired of snow (and I thought I would never say that). By the way folks, I said SOME agents keep blacklists. I didn’t say I keep one. And if you’d rather I not be honest with you… then I certainly don’t have to share what is the truth in this biz. But personally, I’d rather let you know the inside scoop—even if it’s not shiny.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ALL STAR by Smashmouth

Do agents ask their new clients to revise?

In short, yes.

Here’s how it works for me (and I certainly don’t speak for all agents). I don’t sign a client on unless I feel comfortable with sending out the manuscript as is. Why? Because if the client decides not to revise, and that’s his/her choice, I have to be game to submit it regardless.

Now lucky for me, every single one of my clients has been delighted to get feedback. And when I send my critique electronically in track changes, I say, “take what works and ignore what doesn’t.”

Ultimately it’s their story so a revision has to feel right.

This is why I often pass, with regret, on manuscripts that I like a lot but just need too much work before I could be comfortable sending it out. Now often I’ll write a detailed letter to those writers if I’ve read the full in an attempt to give helpful feedback. Often I’ll give them the option to resubmit if they do choose to revise. The manuscript has to be pretty close or in my mind, easily fixed via a large revision.

When I send my revision suggestions to my authors, my comments aren’t always 100% right but what they discover is that I usually put my thumb on what is problematic—even if my proposed solution isn’t quite right. It just gets the author thinking and analyzing and often he/she will come up with a new solution that makes sense to them and the manuscript.

They revise based on that. Now they always feel obligated to explain their reasoning for not making my suggested change, which mostly amuses me because they don’t have to. It’s their novel; their word goes.