Agent recc. an editor...when it's NOT a red flag

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.


Simon Haynes said...

I don't understand the original poster's intentions. If they knew it was a red flag for an agent to suggest an editor's name, why did they write back and ask for one?
Setting that aside - the internet is a wonderful tool. If an agent DOES suggest an editor (on request or not) you can search places like Absolute Write for the names of both agent AND editor to see whether they've generated comment in the past. If it's not listed there or on preditors.com, ask on the forums. Or Google.
I've seen a hell of a lot of complaints from writers wondering why their proposal was rejected - "Why didn't they say why?" In this case, an agent has given you a good pointer and has even followed it up by putting themselves on the line and giving you (on request, mind you) the name of someone you might be able to work with. Assuming the editor is legit that shows confidence in your work on the part of the agent, but perhaps I'm too optimistic and naive when it comes to human nature.

Dave Kuzminski said...

I'll chime in on this one. At P&E, we consider it a problem if an agent comes out and says it needs editing and recommends an editor in almost the same breath without the writer asking.

P&E does not consider it a problem if the writer specifically asks for a recommendation. After all, legitimate agents with track records of sales would know other people in the business. That could include folks at some editing services, particularly those used by some reputable publishers.

But the caveat is as Miss Snark stated. It's dicey because many writers, particularly those who are new and unpublished tend to view such recommendations as a promise to offer representation. Consequently, P&E strongly urges any agents who do give recommendations when asked to remind the writers that it does not mean they will automatically receive representation for their manuscript upon completion of editing.

It's also an area that P&E may revisit because of the behavior of one particular group which has changed its mode of operation to require that writers obtain a critique for a fee. P&E is of the opinion that such critiques almost always will show a need for improvement thus giving that agency group an opportunity to make a recommendation when the writer then asks who they recommend.