Reader Question: An Agent/Author Disagreement
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 16 2007
What happens when you and your client disagree on a plot point in her manuscript? Say shifting POVs, the ending or beginning? Say she agrees with 90% of your suggestions, but disagrees with some. How much of your advice do you expect her to use?
Keep in mind that what I do and what other agents do are completely different so how I answer this might not help you at all, unless, Anonymous, you happen to be a client of mine.
I expect my clients to use the advice that works for them. I’m not a writer, but I am an agent and a former editor. I know what sells books and I know what things in a manuscript can bring in rejections, but I can be wrong too. I truly think I give good suggestions and advice on what is working, what’s not working, and even my own thoughts on how it can be fixed. But it’s not my story. I would hope that if a client disagrees with my comments or suggestions she would feel comfortable enough to call and discuss, brainstorm, or share her own thoughts. This is a collaborative process. Together we are working as a team to sell this book, and while I might be the team leader (or at least think I am), I am not a despot.
I suspect that you can get better advice on how to handle a situation like this from other authors who’ve been there. So, readers, how do you handle your agent when you disagree with her suggestions, or how do you deal with your agent during the editing process?
I want to begin by saying that my books would not be on the shelves today without Jessica’s editorial suggestions. I was having plot problems and didn’t even realize it before she pointed them out. Once they were fixed, the book was ready to be placed in front of editors and within three months, we had an offer. As I write cozies, Jessica suggested I remove some of the “darker” sections of writing as those bits might conflict with the genre I was trying to fit into, but I really liked those parts. Still, I was guided by her wisdom and AFTER the books were sold, I mentioned those segments to my editor. The editor liked them and kept them in, so I was really happy. Jessica had made a three-book deal for me and I was able to sign with an editor that was willing to take some risks. What a win-win. I think it’s best to be guided by your agent until the ink on the contract is dry. After that, you can fight for the parts of your book you feel strongly about. Good luck, friends!
I think it all comes down to trust. You have to trust your agent enough to follow their advice. Most authors I know are total control freaks, at least with their writing, so it’s a huge leap of faith to give an agent that much control over their career. Having said that, however, I also believe if you CAN’T trust your agent for that kind of advice, you might want to be looking for a new agent.