by Laney Katz Becker
Yesterday a manuscript landed on my desk and it was perfect. I signed the client, created a cover page for the novel that included all the Folio contact info, started calling editors to talk about the amazing project and began emailing it their way.
Then I woke up! (1)
Yes, it’s a dream of mine that a perfect manuscript gets handed to me. I’ve heard such a thing is possible, that it’s even happened, but never to me.(2) So until my fantasy comes true, I choose the projects that I find interesting/appealing, the writers I see the most potential in, and those are the clients I sign (3). Then, I push up my sleeves and get to work. And, you, dear author, must do so, too.
Here’s the deal: By the time a project lands on my desk, it’s likely that the author has been eating/sleeping/breathing that project for quite some time and feels it’s perfect, which is exactly the way the author must feel. (Never, ever send out what you know is less than your very best!) But, because of this complete immersion in their project, the author has lost much, if not all, of his/her perspective. Agents – good agents – bring fresh eyes and new ideas to the party, so we’re often able to see things that our authors miss. (4) My requests for revisions are typically to enhance characters, improve pacing or to get to the story faster. Sometimes I’ll find something confusing and ask for clarification, and other times I’ll suggest whole passages be deleted. Sometimes the plotting is too simple and other times, new threads need to be developed. But whatever my request, I make sure the author knows that my thoughts are only suggestions (5). Ultimately, it’s the author’s project and they must be happy with it. (6)
HOWEVER (yup, it’s a BIG however), good agents are much more than gatekeepers to the editors; we’re professionals who see thousands of projects from authors and wanna-be authors each year. We pay attention to what editors are buying, what they’re turning down – and why. And guess what? We want to share all our wonderful knowledge and experiences with you because our know-how can help make your projects stronger, more likely to sell, and to sell for larger advances. So when I talk to my authors about revisions, I don’t do it to create more work for them, (honest!) but to help elevate their already good work to an even higher level. But don’t think just because you and your agent are thrilled with your work it means the revision process is over. (7) Editors, too, will have their own ideas about how to further enhance the project. So, (you guessed it) you’ll be asked to revise still again. That’s just the process, ladies and gents. And it results in better books.
(1) Funny. I like this!
(2) "to me" repetitive
(3) delete "sign" insert "take on"
(4) Smooth this transition:
(5) Italicize "suggestions"
(6) Can this be tightened a bit more?
(7) explain this a bit better, please
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