Should agents edit? Or just sell books and get out of the way?

The best books start here.

Tag: Submissions

Editing_Red_PenI have heard talk before of writers who not only prefer that their agents not weigh in on a manuscript, but actively discourage it. The agent’s job, these people feel, is to sell the book, to exploit the various rights associated with that book as thoroughly as possible. And weighing in on the story? Monkeying around with the structure? Fine-tuning the language? That is the job of the editor and the editor alone. Or so these writers feel. (I also heard that this was discussed briefly at the recent SCBWI national conference in Los Angeles, where Lin Oliver asked something to the effect of, “What if the writer doesn’t want to wait the months required to revise for you?”)

I can understand their position. And not just because I came up through the editorial side … [more]

Many of you know that I’m still relatively new to this whole agenting thing. In fact, last month I hit my one-year anniversary of being in the business (although I’d received an MA in Writing and been involved in the SCBWI before that), and next month I’ll hit one year since my first sale. After that, the milestones get a lot more boring: one year since my first conference, one year since that time I fell asleep and missed my stop on the subway, one year since writing this post about one-year anniversaries…

But I digress. A question that used to come up a lot when I would offer representation was, “Why should I go with a young and unproven agent?” Even though I’m not as green as I once was, the unproven vs. established … [more]

Ah, the question that plagues many of the authors poring over our submission guidelines page!

While I can’t speak for the other crows here at Upstart, I prefer to begin—very simply– at the beginning.

Reading the first twenty pages of your manuscript allows me to get acquainted with your story and your characters, and to get a sense of the vibe of your narrative. It’s tougher for me to do that if I’m jumping into your story at chapter twenty-seven.

So if you’re sitting out there in cyberspace, wringing your hands over which chapters to send, take heart! The bones of a truly great story will shine through, even if you think your opening chapter is a bit on the clunky side.

I’ll make a deal with you: I promise to approach your manuscript with … [more]

goldI see a lot of queries for manuscripts, but one sort of query drives me absolutely nuts. This kind of query is written with a barely contained e!x!c!i!t!e!m!e!n!t! about … not the story or the manuscript itself, but about the author’s fully envisioned marketing and merchandizing plan.

Yes, the writer informs me, there is this children’s book manuscript, but that is only the first step. Following quickly on the heels of publication—or maybe at the same time—will be the licensed video game, the bed sheets, the mugs, the T-shirts, the cocoa flavor, the branded colonic, the weekly sitcom, the Nike shoe endorsement, the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and so much money and glory showering down upon the writer and—if I am wise enough to seize this opportunity—me, that we will … [more]

sammichThere used to be site called where people would post their rejection letters. Sadly, it’s been taken down or the operators failed to pay their bills or some printer’s demon got loose and did its evil work. Regardless, it was sort of morbidly fascinating, and not just because I recognized so many of my rejections among the many posted there. (Usually I would read what I’d written and feel that pleasant burr of recognition of something you’ve put out into the world. Sad, but true.)

What I found most interesting about the site was how very wrong-headed it was. After each reproduced letter, the rejected author would answer a series of questions: How did receiving this rejection make you feel? and What bothered you most about this letter? As though a rejection letter is … [more]