Editing: an agent’s perspective


After I blogged about editing, my agent, Hannah Sheppard, kindly offered to write about the editing process from an agent’s point of view.  I thought I would LOVE to read that, so figured other writers would too.

So here’s Hannah, D H H Literary Agency Director, pug enthusiast and all-round lovely person:

I read Kate’s recent Editing with an Agent blog with interest.

I’m always very aware of the responsibility I have when sending editorial notes to an author and I know how nerve-wracking it can be for a writer, especially when these might be the first set of industry notes they’ve received…there’s a whole extra sense of importance placed on them.

But, I think it might be really helpful for writers to know that, more often than not, I’m filled with just as much trepidation hitting send on those notes as the author is waiting for them. I totally feel the fear…

What if I’ve completely missed the point?
What if this author, whose work I love, thinks I’m an IDIOT?
I’m pretty sure I’m an idiot.
I’ve obviously missed the line where my major query is explained *reads entire manuscript again* (this might help explain why it sometimes takes us soooo long to get notes to you).

Then, finally, I hit send and there’s an anxious wait while the author digests before they email to tell me what they think. In that time I’m pretty convinced they hate me. They regret signing with me. They’re going to sack me and go find an agent who actually understands their book.

On very rare occasions when an author’s reply has popped into my email after a particularly gruelling edit I’ve been a total wimp and not read it for a while, as if not reading the bad news will make it go away.

But you know what…touch wood…I’ve never had an author react badly. There might be things they don’t agree with and those are always up for discussion (it’s not my book, I’m never going to dictate). But generally if there has been something I haven’t understood it’s because it needs work (and I try to remind myself that if I’ve missed the answer, then the intended child reader is likely to miss it too) and the author, often, will have known that anyway. In fact, the most common response I get is that I’ve highlighted exactly the areas the author suspected needed work but was hoping they could get away with.

Ultimately, we’re all in this together to make the book the best it can be so that, eventually, children can read and love it and that’s the most helpful thing to remember on both sides. It’s teamwork.

One thought on “Editing: an agent’s perspective

  1. Pingback: Finding the balance | Kate Mallinder - a writer's blog...

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