Dear Ms. Snark,
I’ve recently received a very nice full page rejection letter from a highly respected agent.
I’ve done all the checking and I know this agent is a good one.
The agent was kind enough to spend the time telling me what works—but declined to represent me because she feels more work needs to be done to bring the novel up to its full potential.
She said if I chose to work with an editor to address these concerns (she had named a couple issues), she would be delighted to look at it again.
I wrote back and thanked her and asked if there was an editor she’d refer me to. She wrote back with a name. Technically, I have asked for this info so it is not like she has suggested I use this person—still, it can be viewed as a red flag. I’ve followed up with the editor and I get a good feeling and, without me asking, the editor addressed these issues, advising her independence from the agent, advising that it is very rare for said agent to make this kind of referral, unless asked, unless the project is full of potential. My gut tells me I have been given a gift, even though I’ll have to pay for it.
For the time being, I will probably see what happens with the other fulls and partials I have out there before doing anything. Still, I wanted to know what you thought about it, because I trust your opinion.
I think this is one of those things that is a technical but not spiritual violation of the rules. The rule of course is "It's a scam alert if an agent responds to a query with the suggestion you need an editor, and oh by the way, here's one for you". That rule is a very very good one cause agents do not normally send you to an editor after reading your query letter.
Here are the things in your email that make me think you are ok: the agent read the full novel and provided a letter about problems. She did not say if you hire this editor she'll take it on, she said she'd look at it again.
Scam proof yourself by talking with the editor herself about the projects she's worked on and how she came by the work. Was it an agent? Does she get work from a variety of agents? Does she get work from publishing house editors? Most important, have the books that she's worked on actually sold? She may not be able to tell you every book she's worked on but she should have a list of references. Look those books up on Amazon. Research the publishers. The best way to not fall for a scam is to verify everything.
I think you're smart to see what the results are on the other fulls/partials. One mark of a scam is being hurried into a decision. If the agent calls you to ask if you're hiring the editor, then I'd be VERY concerned. Most agents make recommendations and then forget about you till you show up in the mail bag again.
I've only sent one person to an editor and I gave them a list of several to interview. It's a very very dicey thing to do and I'm not likely to do it again.