agenting · Editing · querying

Why Agents Don’t Give You Edits Until Signing

Something I’ve noticed as an agent is when I make an offer, authors are always interested in knowing what kind of edits are needed in detail, which is good. I’m very editorial, so it’s important to me that my clients are prepared to do revisions and if their current project doesn’t need them, future ones might. However many want to know all the details during the offer stage and there is a very important reason why we don’t give them at that stage. You won’t get more in-depth edits until you sign the contract. Sure during the offer I will let you know if it needs deep edits or light edits, but you won’t be getting an edit letter yet.

So why do I wait? Simply because making an edit letters takes time. I don’t make that letter until I read your manuscript a second time, this time with an eye on edits instead of deciding if I want to make an offer. You are basically getting the editing service I used to charge for as an editor for free as my client. But agents don’t get every project we offer on, especially when we are new agents. Many projects I offer on cause a chain of offers from other agents. Maybe I should take it as a compliment that I have good tastes, but it can be frustrating at times. I’m often competing with other agents for the projects I offer on, so no offer is ever a sure thing.

I’ve heard horror stories of new agents taking the time to write edit letters and send them to potential clients, only to have that client sign with a different agent and use that letter during revisions, or worse, use that letter to revise and then query bigger agents. Either way making edit letters takes time. I also like to leave track change comments on manuscripts alongside a letter. With the time I invest in those edits, I’m not handing them out until I know you are my client.

Agents are busy people and our current clients always come first. Once you sign with me you will get edits, but before that you aren’t getting detailed notes. I can’t afford to work on edits for free for someone who hasn’t signed with me yet simply due to my schedule. So if you ever wonder why an agent might not give you detailed notes at the offer stage, now you know. We don’t want you to take those revision notes we spent a lot of time on and run.

R&Rs are different. I know by sending one I’m risking never seeing that project again, but I usually send them when I really like something but the project currently needs too much work. I need to be confident in the author’s abilities to revise before I offer. If I send an R&R, it means I’m hoping to see that project again. I don’t send track change comments with R&Rs, just a quick overview of the changes needed, so those edits don’t take long. Plus I want an author to use my notes to revise so I potentially have the chance to offer in the future.

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