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The Agent’s Job is to Be Your Reader

In the past month two interesting things happened that made me know there was a blog post I had to write.

The first was this reply to a rejection from a reader in which she said, “(and it seems you approached from more of a reader’s perspective, rather than that of an agent)”

The second was an article I read by Gail Hochman, President of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, in which she discussed how an agent, to do her job, has to be a reader first.

When I consider a book for representation I read the book first as a reader. I turn my editorial eye off and just sit down to enjoy. As long as the editorial eye (and agent brain) stays off I know I have a winner. Usually, once I reach the point where I know I’m likely to offer representation, I’ll start trying to find things that might need work so I have something to talk about in that initial conversation with the author. If however I find I’m having no trouble seeing problems and things that need to be fixed, or editing the book, it’s usually not ready for me to offer on.

Agents and editors are readers first and when we edit your book we’re not looking to change what you’re writing or your voice, we’re finding things that the reader might struggle with. Are you talking about something that I’m not fully understanding? There will be a reader who feels the same way. Is your plot lagging or is a character coming off as too crass? A reader will feel the same way. My job is to make your book sing, yes, but it’s also to make the reader’s experience with your book as pleasurable as possible. The happier the reader is, the more books you sell.

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3 comments

  1. I would have to imagine that an agent would be a voracious reader who enjoys the pleasure of settling in with a book and immersing themselves in the story and finding a character(s) to really connect to and fall in love with, otherwise, their chosen profession would be akin to drudgery and an exercise in masochism.

    But, then, that’s just me. I might be totally off base!

  2. It makes sense and isn’t something I had really thought about before. Maybe it would be a good idea to have the final reader of your ms be just that – a reader (not someone who also writes) and just see what they think before you sub? *making note on very long list of things to do before you sub*

  3. As a writer who manages to read a lot, I’ve found that when I read a book and it makes me stop caring about plot and grammar and characterization and all that stuff (that agents have to think about?), it’s a special book. Sounds like that’s what you’re seeing.

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