Tuesday, September 22, 2009

When to Update Agents

Sometimes when I get letters from readers I instantly know the response and can launch right into my blog post. At other times I have to think a little harder and balance what I would really want as well as what I think other agents would really want as well as what makes sense. Recently I had one of those questions that made me stop and think a little about what really made the most sense.

The reader received a lengthy revision letter from an editor (the material was requested through a contest) and she wanted to know if it made sense to inform the agents currently reviewing the material that she was making the edits or simply go ahead, make the edits, send them to the editor, and wait and see.

I debated because for the most part I don’t think there’s any reason to inform an agent of anything until you have an offer, either from a publisher or another agent. However, after thinking it over I decided that if I were in this situation I would want to know that the author was making extensive revisions for an editor (presumably revisions she believes in). Once the author informed me of the revisions I suspect the way I would handle the situation would be to toss the material I had previously requested and advise the author to simply send me the revised material once she sent it on to the editor. That way I know I’m seeing the most recent and up-to-date material and, if the author calls to say she has an offer from the publisher, I know that I’m seeing the same work the publisher made the offer on. I also gain a bit of appreciation for the author for acting quickly and respecting my time (I’m not wasting it reading a manuscript that is essentially no longer viable).

One concern the author had was whether or not agents would get upset because she had submitted to an editor. Not at all. The author submitted because of a request through a contest and no agent would begrudge her sending it. In fact we would encourage it.

A caveat to this . . . asking agents to pull a submission because you’re doing revisions for an editor makes us happy. Asking us if we can pull a submission because you realized, on your own, it wasn’t ready and have done extensive revisions makes us sad (maybe even a little annoyed).