Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Editor-Agent Relationship

We talk all the time about the author-agent relationship and how it works, but rarely if ever do we discuss the editor-agent relationship, how it works, and how the author fits into it all.

Obviously the relationship between an editor and an agent can be the key to selling books. It’s what we work so hard to build and why we’re always having those martini-free lunches (it’s sad how times have changed). It’s how we learn that one particular editor happens to be looking for a certain type of book or has a love for Civil War history and would look at anything Civil War-related. In other words, these relationships are what gives an agent the inside edge.

But what happens to this relationship once a book has sold? Where do all of the parties involved—the editor, the agent, and the author—fit into the picture?

As a former editor I believe that few relationships are as important as the one between author and editor. Your editor is your one true advocate within a publishing house. She fights for your cover and cover copy, works with Publicity and Sales to get the best bang for their very few bucks; ultimately she’s the one who gets things done. Therefore I think the best thing that can happen once that contract is signed is for the agent to step back and let the relationship grow between editor and author. It’s sort of like a mother sending her child off to college. It doesn’t do any good to call professors directly or interfere in the day-to-day activities of that child’s life. Instead the parent (and agent) take on a new role. The agent sits on the sidelines and coaches when needed, gently guiding the author through the process by answering questions, explaining situations, and nudging along the burgeoning relationship between editor and author. When major challenges come up—when an editor leaves the house, it’s time for new contract negotiations, or it’s time to career plan with the publisher, as well as the author—the agent should step in. This is when you want those big guns on your side again.

As with everything, there are no set rules for how things work in the author-agent-editor relationship, and I’m sure you each have your own experiences. I would love to hear from my published readers about how their own author-agent-editor relationship works. At what point do you depend on your editor and at what point do you call in the agent?



Christine Wells said...

I'm just a newly pubbed author so I'm still learning all the steps in the process and how everything works. I tend to go to Jessica with my stupid questions (sorry, Jessica!) and to talk about career planning and those global sorts of things.

My editor tends to focus on whatever stage my current book is at right now, so we could be discussing the edits she has sent me or the cover or publicity, etc. I've found it's beneficial to have that interaction and not make your agent be the go-between all the time. You get to know your editor and her tastes that way. And I know that if there's something I really want, I can call in the big guns (aka Jessica)to deal with it.

Joe Moore said...

My co-writer (Lynn Sholes) and I stay in fairly close contact with our agent and editor. With the exception of money matters, we keep most of our conversations with our editor to writing issues. We rely on our agent more for long-term topics such as should we finish up our current series and start a new or keep going with the present one. We are on our fourth book in our series but are always planning at least three books down the line, and we need our agent’s feedback and expertise in order to mold our strategy. Our editor stays out of that picture preferring to concentrate on the current WIP, timelines, deadlines, milestones, etc. And as I said, money and contract issues are only discussed with the agent.

Anonymous said...

As someone who hopes one day to be in a position of having an agent and editor, thanks for the information.

A friend who's published talks all the time about her editor and I've often wondered what an agent does after the sale.