Hands on/ Hands off/

Dear Miss Snark,

On one agency's website, a FAQ was available that explained how hands-on the agency is with authors. It said something along the lines of:

"When you're new to the agency, we read everything before submitting it to editors; however, once you're published, you'll deal directly with the editor and we probably will just read the book when it's released (if then) because we're not editors and therefore don't edit. We'll carry you out of the hole you dig yourself in if you are flailing about with the plot, of course."

I don't doubt the agency itself; the response they gave just made me curious. Does that mean that the writers would be working directly with the editors in regards to rewrites and such? Is this the norm for how relationships between agents and clients work, or do relationships pretty much come in all kinds of flavors? I believe Miss Snark's flavor would be Double Gin on the Snarks, but how does it taste? Are you always the liaison between the clients and editors, no matter how many books they've published, or do your clients work directly (more or less) with the editors?

Generally speaking, once a book is sold, the editor and author talk directly to each other about edits/rewrites/"matters of art". I hang out, file my nails, watch George Clooney DVDS and eat bon bons.

I'm not an editor. My job is to handle the biz side of things: pitching that finished version to film agents, foreign rights agents and making sure the publisher pays you on time etc.

However, I'm also a total freak about reading manuscripts before I send them out with my name on them, so even if you've been published more times than I can count on Killer Yapp's toes, nose and tail, I'm still reading the manuscript before you send it to the editor the first time.

And yes, this is all "varies by agent" stuff. But an FAQ that says "we might not ever read your book even if it's published" sounds a tad too much hands off even for the famously distant Miss Snark.


Annie said...

My reaction to the "we may or may not read your book" is ... WTF?

So this is an agent who goes about selling a product they know nothing about? Who the hell does that? Hands off? More like, brain off. Or Jack-off.

I don't need my hand held, but my agent has read my manuscript before he starts pitching it ... or if he hasn't, he's smart enough not to tell me and the rest of the world. It's only Monday and you already have a contender for
"Nitwit of the Week" ... not the snarkling, the idiot agent.


Mallika said...

Thank you, Miss Snark, for the answer. I also had the same thought you had -- that the whole "we'll probably read the book when it's out" was a bit too hands-off for my comfort, but wasn't sure whether the reaction was justified.

Much love to you, Miss Snark.

Debby G. said...

Wow. Sounds like this agent is related to Kate Braverman.

Anonymous said...

Read this sentence:

"We'll carry you out of the hole you dig yourself in if you are flailing about with the plot, of course."

Now ask yourself if you'd really want the person who wrote it to edit your manuscript. I sure wouldn't.


Eileen said...

I would have more confidence in my agent's ability to sell foreign rights, negotiate deals and sell film rights if she had read the book. Hey- at least they're honest.

Kate Epstein said...

Here's what I've heard about this, with respect to *nonfiction,* where the ms. isn't written until after it's sold: what if the agent gives the stamp of approval and the editor asks for major rewrites? The agent doesn't want to be stuck in the middle.
My policy: a serious conversation about this and about possibly being edited twice and what the implications of that are. But I can see why someone would say, it's sold, go with God, and I'll be editing your next *proposal* to sell.

December Quinn said...

Which is true, Kate, but I think the problem isn't so much that the agent isn't reading what they've sold (at least not for me, though that does raise my eyebrows): it's the implication that they aren't that interested in your work.

If they can't be bothered to read it, what does that say about your working relationship with them? They'll take the money, but don't ask them to do something boring like actually read the book. That's a waste of their time.

JMO, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I recognize that FAQ and she's a fantastic agent! =) Personally, I took it to mean "when you've reached a certain level of writing competence" she won't necessarily read the *final* ms.

Of course she reads the proposals! She has to, to know where to pitch it.