Question: I attended a conference in Southern California a little over a year ago where each participant on each of the author/agent/publisher-type panels urged the budding authors to pay an editor or professional reader to read and edit the book before an agent is even queried. (1)
At the conference, I ended up at dinner with a New York agent who had been on those panels. She told me that her office has a separate business of doing just this, under a separate name, email, etc.; editors who are paid to read and comment and/or line edit manuscripts. She certainly was legit-had an author featured at the conference, great website, several agents in her firm, etc. (2)
Sooooo, later in the year, I contacted her about having her or another editor read and provide comments to me. My problem is that my book is always requested by the agents I query, and after the first 50 pp. they request the entire mss. But, in the end they reject it. I wanted to pay someone in her editing group to advise me on how to fix the problems with the last half of the book. We negotiated a price for just reading and comments (no line edit) and I sent it off. She was enthusiastic about the book, and for three months we emailed back and forth. I finally asked for the comments by the end of October. She agreed, asked for a one-week extension. After that, I never heard from her again. FYI: I paid her $800. We kept her reading fees and contacts separate from her agent email.
As an addendum: At the same time, a well-known agent had my mss. In the end, she, too, rejected it but actually told me exactly why. Her three short sentences provided me with more guidance than I received from the person I paid.
My questions: Shall I just let it go? When I email her trying to close the issue, I never hear back. I don't feel like litigating anything, but I would like to know that the issue is closed. She would be known among New York agents, so I don't want to create any trouble. (3)
Second question: If this is a given among agents, how do we find legit book doctors, ones willing to work with us? (4)
This is my reaction when I read your email:
But I wasn't sure who I wanted to punch first, you or that idiot agent. You, for not asking the questions you needed (see below) and not standing up for yourself, or that idiot agent for lying through her teeth and cheating you out of your money.
Now that I've had some milk and cookies and regained my otherwise sunny disposition
let's go through your letter to see how you got in the pickle you're in.
(1)"I attended a conference in Southern California a little over a year ago where each participant on each of the author/agent/publisher-type panels urged the budding authors to pay an editor or professional reader to read and edit the book before an agent is even queried."
This is utter and complete bunk. Horseshit of the finest kind. When I see agents doing this, I actually interrupt them on the panel and howl "horseshit."
There's nothing wrong with hiring an editor. I've recommended it several times myself. I have an ongoing relationship with a very good editor who reads manuscripts I'm thinking of taking on. The problem is not editors at all.
The problem is WHEN you consult them. IF you're getting rejections, and you've been to writing conferences and taken classes, then maybe you invest some dough.
You don't hire an editor as step one of the query process.
(2) "She certainly was legit-had an author featured at the conference, great website, several agents in her firm, etc.
THIS IS NOT HOW YOU DETERMINE IF AN AGENT IS ANY GOOD!!! The question is "what has she sold!?"
And more important: Have you read the books she's sold? Did you like them? There are a lot of VERY good agents out there who rep books I hate. There are agents who sell books I've turned down on submission. In other words, even if she's a very good agent (and I do not know that from what you've said in that sentence) she might not have a clue about your book or be a good fit for it.
(3) "so I don't want to create any trouble." WHY THE FUCK NOT? This agent took $800 of your hard-earned money and did not deliver what she said she would do. That is breach of contract and it's not OK. NOT OK.
I swear to Godiva, this one sentence almost made me get on
I read Terri Lynn Coop's hilarious Facebook page posts about some of her ebay dealings and my god people give one-star feedback if the post office is late delivering.
And have you seen those one-star Amazon reviews cause the buyer thinks the ebook price is too high?
And you are ok with giving up $800 and the critique cause you don't want to MAKE TROUBLE?? Honest to godiva if this isn't prima facie evidence of why writers need agents, well, I'll boil my hat and eat it for brunch.
Look. You've been badly used here and it's time to take some steps.
First: certified letter to Agent Pond Scum at her Editor Purloin address and you ask for your money back.
Second: if you don't get your money back in the time frame specified (30 days) you report the agent to AAR if they are a member. And by GOD you get over to Absolute Write and see if anyone else is having this problem. AND you alert Victoria Strauss, who keeps files on this kind of chicanery and a blog about how to spot these guys.
Third: You quit worrying about making trouble and start standing up for yourself. You are not a goddamn beggar at the banquet of publishing. You contracted for a service that was not provided in any time frame let alone a timely one and that's the worst kind of betrayal of trust for an agent to be involved in.
(4) "Second question: If this is a given among agents, how do we find legit book doctors, ones willing to work with us?"
Well, if you haven't intuited by now, no this is NOT a given. And anyone who tells you it is has an agenda for saying so.
Once more with feeling: a legitimate agent does NOT refer you to an editor or an editorial service in which s/he has a financial or any other kind of interest. It's NOT ethical to do so. Don't just take my rant for it. Think about this: if running an editorial service on the side is ok, why are they going to such pain to conceal they do it? And truly, the problem here isn't even they're running this scheme, it's that they're not actually delivering the work they promise.
Any fucking questions??