helenhemphill (helenhemphill) wrote in thru_the_booth,

What do the agents think?

Today, we'll get a weigh in from two agents on the use of freelance editors or book doctors.

My guests are Erin Murphy from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency and  Emily van Beek from Pippin Properties.

Erin has been in an business for over ten years and  is one of the top selling agents in children's books and juvenile fiction. She works with a wide variety of authors from Susan Vaught to Elizabeth Bluemle.  Erin is known for her willingness to work with new authors and develop them over time.  She has great marketing savvy, loves both the literary and the edgy, and is a calm and positive influence on clients and editors alike. Plus, I like her a lot.  (And just to give full disclosure, Erin is also my agent.)  

Emily has been with Pippin Properties since 2003.  Working with Holly McGhee, the founder of Pippin, Emily and Holly represent award winning clients such as Kathi Appelt and Kate DiCamillo.  Emily is one of the smartest women working in children's books today...plus she's about as nice a person as you could ever meet.  

While Erin has worked with Deborah Brodie on occasion, she takes a broad approach to how a writer should polish a manuscript.

I work with most of my clients on strengthening manuscripts before I send them out, and often ask potential clients to revise before I take them on--both to get a sense of their revision skills and to feel out how well our creative visions line up.

However, this works best if the writer has other resources for strengthening his or her work--if I can see clearly the bones of story and character, uncluttered by smaller issues and as fully developed as possible. I encourage my clients to develop those resources how they like, whether it be exchanging manuscripts with another savvy writer, joining a good critique group, participating in a class or program of some kind, or engaging a freelance editor. In my mind, the freelance editor is really most useful if the client and I both are having trouble seeing a story clearly--for example, if it's been revised many times. A fresh set of professional eyes can really help.

I do think manuscripts need to be as strong possible before we send them to editors--but this is mostly about strong *development* more than line edits and such, as well as of course having the manuscript not littered with typos, etc.

At Pippin Properties, Emily prefers to work directly with clients.

On a rare, rare occasion we have helped to pair our authors with a freelance editor. This might occur when we know of a freelance editor who would be perfect for the job of polishing pre-submission and we feel that for one reason or another the project would be best served to be in that freelance editor’s hands.

But more often, and because Holly and I both come from editorial backgrounds, we find ourselves working editorially with our clients. This is especially true for new clients, clients we’re launching or introducing to editors for the very first time. In these cases we put a lot of editorial blood, sweat, and tears into a project (if it needs it) so as to present the most polished version of a manuscript that we can as possible. Once we’ve successfully matched our author with a wonderful editor, going forward we frequently take a step away from the editorial side of things to give the author/editor the room to build their editorial relationship together.

Both agents have strong, solid approaches that ultimately produced amazing books for children and young adults.  So, it doesn't have to be a book doctor or freelance editor who helps you make your book the best you can make it.  It might be an engaged writers' group, a knowledgeable first reader, or an interested agent that gives you editorial support and feedback.

One thing we all agree on is that the manuscript needs to be almost perfect to get a publishing house interested in making an offer.  And as the old adage goes,
the harder you work, the luckier you get!  

Tomorrow, we'll list some options that offer alternatives to working with a book doctor or freelance editor. Then we'll close out the week with a roundup of book doctor/freelance editor resources.  Anon.  HH

Tags: book doctor, emily van beek, erin murphy, first reader, freelance editor, helen hemphill, revision, writing
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