10.12.2005

Get Smart...Get Control!


How much input do you have on your authors' process? Once you've agreed to take on a new client how much editorial control do you like to have over her work? I know of at least one big name agency which contractually insists on editorial control (whether they enforce this, I have no idea).

Suggestions to make the book stronger are one thing, editorial control by agents seems to me to be another animal entirely. Isn't that the domain of the editor and publisher? In this triangle of agent-editor-author where does editorial control fit?

I'm not precious about my work but I rather suspect that 'editorial control' strictly applied might make me end up in one of those places with white coats and white walls mentioned in an earlier comment!


Editorial control rests with the author no matter what anyone says. I can't imagine an agent changing parts of a book and then sending it out without the author's ok. Except of course, I've done that.

Let's distinguish between novels and non fiction first. I've redrafted sample chapters of non fiction proposals to make the writing stronger. Many of my non fiction authors are not writers, they're business people, or historians, or something, but not writers. They have a great idea. They get most of it right but then I come in and take out passive voice, extra "that's" , clean it up. Of course, they KNOW I’m doing this!!! I don’t just start ripping into things without the go-ahead.

The down side is I'm going to be doing that for the full book as well unless I can get the writer to see what I've done and do it himself/herself.

I've made suggestions for content and organization in NF books...a LOT.

In the end however, it's the author's call. If they think I'm deranged, they pull the project. I'm in a wrangle with a client right now cause our vision of the book doesn't match. She may go elsewhere. If she does, I think her book won't be as strong, but that's just my OPINION, and God knows those don't carry the full weight and majesty of the law (despite Miss Snark's lobbying in Albany of course).

As for fiction- I don't change anything. Not a word, not a comma, not a semi colon. If I think changes need to be made, I mark it up and send it back. I've wrangled with clients about endings but we've always worked it out. They know I'm their reader but also their advocate. They trust me to tell them when something doesn't work.

Once a book is sold, I'm out of the editorial stuff. I handle the biz, that's my strong suit. Editors and my clients communicate directly about stuff, UNLESS there's a problem. Then I come stomping in and send everyone to neutral corners and put on my Henry Kissinger hat and negotiate peace.

I'd like to hear more about agent's who require editorial control. I've never heard of such a thing!

5 comments:

pinch said...

My agent has made some great suggestions to strengthen my work and I have done some rewrites on part of the work. I sent them back for review (my God, its been a week and I'm biting my nails!!!)
Many agents are ex-editors, so if you are lucky enough to be represented by an agent with solid editorial experience, count yourself lucky. I think they are trying to make your work stronger and of course they do know the editors that will eventually read your work. I'm talking editorial assitance/advice, not control.

someone paranoid said...

I have an agent who is very interested in the editorial process (I think she was obsessed with Gordon Lish in grad school), but they’re always useful comments considering that she’s probably the only person patient enough to read all the crap I send her. That said, I think she once threatened to hold my novel until I added more “narrative thread.” Of course, she agreed to represent it on the condition that she be allowed to make suggestions. You know what, I need send Ms. S an email about this someday…

Jimmy said...

Yanno, without changing your Kissinger hat, you could also bomb them into the Stone Age...

Miss Snark said...

I believe that stone age comment is credited to General Curtis LeMay, not Kissinger.

someone paranoid said...

From the Mississippi Review -

"Is there now a “now” distinct from a clearly recognizable “then,” or are we just the new Edwardians, drinking, picnicking and being clever until the next explosion shifts our paradigm?"

Retroactive bombing = Devo..or did i miss the point?