Dear Miss Snark:
I'm a relative newcomer to your blog, and I'm learning a great deal -- thank you.
You may have covered this, but I didn't see it in the archives. I recently ran across a literary agency that offers consulting services as a sideline: contact negotiation, general editorial commentary and line editing (three separate services). They are upfront about stating explicitly that if you submit to them and are rejected, using their paid services will not necessarily get you a second look (though they do say that it might), and they charge an upfront retainer for those services.
Is this a red flag? They're not referring people to outside editors, and they're not making any promises, so it didn't seem wildly unreasonable, but it didn't sit quite right, either.
Am I being overly suspicious?
Thanks again. (And thanks especially for the "Links to Cool People" -- I'm now a huge Maud Newton fan!)
You'd be better off to hire a real editor if you want editorial advice. Agents are not editors. Ex-editors may be better editors than those of us who weren't ever editors, but still, why hire a salesperson for the assembly line?
The elephant in the foyer here is that people believe, no matter what we say, that if we just read their work we'll want to represent it. They'll pay for editorial consultation to get it read. There is no amount of "warning" that will dissuade them.
I know we can't save people from themselves, but this is exactly why AAR has a rule about this kind of thing.
I look at agents who have little sidelines going and I remember the best advice I ever read about being good at something was in "Waiting for Dizzy". The advice was from a musician who said you can only play one instrument really really well. You can be ok on several instruments, but superb on only one. You have to focus. I think about that every single time I'm tempted to make a quick buck doing "consulting".