Agent Monday: When an Agent is Not a Writing Coach

A literary agent is someone who scouts out talent, and then connects that talent with the right editor. An agent is someone who supports her clients, and helps her clients build their careers.  An agent can give her clients some editorial direction, too. But I want to emphasize something to folks who are querying me and are not my clients: I am not your writing coach.

Look, I’m happy to offer editorial advice to my clients. But for folks who send me queries and folks who I request full manuscripts from, but who I do NOT end up offering representation to, well, please don’t expect me to tell you how to revise your novel.

Here’s the truth, if I read your full manuscript and something jumps out at me as a problem, in my rejection notice I will do you the courtesy of stating what that is. But that is a courtesy, honestly. I don’t need to say anything more than “no thanks.” If I say that there is too much telling, or that the dialogue doesn’t ring true, it is up to you (if you agree with this) to figure out how to fix it. It is not up to me to show you how.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because some writers don’t “get” this.

If you need assistance, you can turn to craft books, beta readers, a critique group, or you can even hire an editor. What you shouldn’t do is email me repeatedly asking for advice. Or Facebook message me. Or, as a rejected author has done, shoot me an email filled with derision and sarcasm and downright nasty sentiments thinking I’ll somehow apologize and offer assistance. (At least I think that was the logic behind it…You can bet I just pressed “delete” instead. Yikes!)

But what if I’ve given you extensive revision notes (beyond a few sentences) and told you that I’d be happy to see this manuscript if you decide to revise it? Well, if you need clarification about what I’ve suggested, then yeah, send me an email and ask. No problem. Yet even in this instance, the actual “how” of it is in your court.

Hey, I know that writers are hungry for guidance, and some folks just don’t understand that they are stepping over a line of sorts. Most don’t mean any harm.

Just keep in mind that if a helpful agent does offer you constructive criticism in a rejection, that’s a bonus, not a given. The rest is up to you. So always remember what an agent is and ISN’T. And play nice out there, okay?

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