Noteworthy Correspondence

12 Mar

It is Monday afternoon, and I know what I should be doing. I should be working. I depart for London at the end of the month, and I have an absurd amount of work to finish between now and then. I should be working on edits. I should be working on the updated TRF catalogue. I should be responding to queries, and work emails. I should be…

Instead, I have been glued to this website:

Thanks to my daily update from S&Co., I have spent the last hour perusing the most popular correspondence between musicians and fans, writers and editors, writers and the ASPCA…

Most notable, is a letter written by John Steinbeck to his editor and pal, Pascal Covici. In this letter, Mr. Steinbeck shares his insightful and witty thoughts on the publishing process, where in his opinion the book is “kicked and slashed and gouged” before it ever makes its way into the hands of the readership.

I believe most writers feel this way, and when I think about the heavy bouts of edits I put my clients through, it’s a wonder any of them still speak to me! But like I tell all of my clients, my sole purpose as an editor is to strengthen the manuscript so that it is in top form for submission. So, although it may seem as though I am slashing and gouging a manuscript, in truth, I am making the necessary changes so that the manuscript will be well received by its desired readership. When I edit, I edit as a reader. Being an agent nowadays requires a diverse skill set. To be an agent in this industry, one has to be an avid reader, an editor, a writer, a sales person…and the list goes on. As the industry continues to change (as it is sure to do so), we will see agents adopting even more skills. It makes our jobs extremely challenging, but also very rewarding. With the wrap-up of each work day, no matter how stressful or challenging the days events were, I can at least say that my job is never boring. I am extremely grateful for that.


4 Responses to “Noteworthy Correspondence”

  1. Jeff Emmerson March 12, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    I absolutely LOVE how you’re actually human in this post, when so damn many lit agents (in my experience) sound like lifeless, stuck-up assholes. You’re right, of course, and I’m hiring established experts (editing, proposals, etc.) to make sure I don’t a) get in my own way, and b) waste time via pitfalls that hiring reputable leaders in their respective fields prevents.

    Why would I send you shit when I can send you a heart-wrenching memoir MS that’s destined to get me a book deal? I wouldn’t waste OUR time.

    Be strong, and you ROCK!

    (Sent via iPhone)

    • literaryagent007 March 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

      Hi Jeff,

      Well, I am happy to hear you think of me as being human! Like any industry, there are always going to be a few bad apples. In your case it sounds as though it has been more like a bushel? I certainly cannot speak for other agencies, but the agents I work with are a fantastic group of people. They are very devoted to their clients, and are passionate about promoting literature. In an ideal world, this would be the case for all literary agents. What is good to hear, is that you are still keen and willing to work with an agent. It’s like any other relationship in life…it’s important to find the right fit.

      It sounds to me like you are going about things in the right way. It is always a good idea to have a fresh pair of eyes assess/edit your work prior to submitting it to an agent. Most agents do edit, but their edits are meant to be the finishing touches so that the ms is polished enough by the time it reaches the editors. And agents are busy people, and there are only so many edits they are willing to do on a ms to prepare it for submission. So the cleaner the ms is, the better!

  2. spectacularlyfamous April 20, 2012 at 2:52 am #

    Ack! I love this link. I wish I had copies of all the fan mail I used to write to the Hanson brothers when I was a teenager. My favourite is this one from Harper Lee: How to live your life in a nutshell. (I think I was writing to the wrong people).

  3. literaryagent007 April 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Ha, yes. This site is incredibly addictive. I have lost count of all the hours spent perusing those letters. The HL letter is one of my favourites as well!


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