Most agents at BookEnds are editorial agents, meaning we can’t keep our hands off your book and you will receive edits. At least five of us came from an editorial background and no matter how far we move from those jobs, our editorial skills stay with us.
It’s important to note, especially for those of you looking to sign with an agent, that each agent will view her role in the editorial process differently. In fact, if this question isn’t on your list to ask an agent before signing it should be. You should know how much of an editorial agent you want (or don’t) and what that means to each agent you talk with.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most editorial agents view their editorial job as for the purposes of selling the book. At least that’s how we at BookEnds view it. My job as an agent is to make your book the best it can be, and as rejection-proof as possible, before it goes out on submission. Once a book is sold, I will (usually) step away from the editorial process and hand you and your book over to your editor.
Editing, like so much in publishing, is subjective and, as they say, too many cooks can ruin the soup. Too many editors will only frustrate you, especially when they have different visions.
I said I usually step away from editing once a book sells. And I do. The rare instances when I continue to edit or have stepped in to edit is at the request of a client who might be struggling with her revisions and needs a second eye. It doesn’t mean I’m actually editing her book, it’s more that I’m interpreting what her editor asked her to do.
Your agent’s purpose is to help build the next steps in your career. Working with you and your publisher, she provides feedback on covers and cover copy (sometimes helping to edit). She negotiates contracts and marketing plans and a myriad of other things to manage your career.
What your agent is not is an editor, a beta reader, or a copyeditor. Asking your agent to spend time on those items won’t benefit you in the long run. You already have an editor and if you feel you need someone to give you feedback before sending it to your publisher you should have a critique group or beta readers of your own.