Writing Process: The Agent Read

When I’m done with the second draft, it’s time to send the book off to my agent.  I hate hitting that send button, because it feels like a declaration that I’m done, when I know there’s more work to do.  Still, I try not to send it off with problems I know about, unless I’m utterly stumped as to what to do about them.

Then I wait.  Agents are busy people, and my book has to wait in the queue to be read, which takes months.  The waiting is by far my least favorite part of this process.  I would take a rejection over waiting any day.  But it’s a normal part of the business, so I wait.  A lot.

I imagine this part of the process works differently for everyone.  I’ve never had an experience where my agent disliked a book I sent him, but he always has feedback, so what I’m waiting for is an email with a list of the problems he thinks need to be addressed before the book can go out.  Sometimes they’re big (I don’t think your plot events match what the book is about; please excuse me while I rewrite half the novel) and sometimes they’re line edits.

My favorite thing about my agent’s feedback is that I always feel like he gets what I was trying to do and can help steer me toward better ways of doing it.  (The complexity of the feedback usually matches with how far from the mark I was with my own goals.)

I know some people think agents shouldn’t be doing editorial work, but I feel like the more professional feedback I get, the better I can make my books.  I’ve heard some people say that everyone gets upset when they receive feedback, but the number one emotion I usually feel is relief.  Ah, I think.  I see now what’s wrong.  I see now how to fix it.  It’s like looking at a geometric painting and not understanding it, and then having someone point out to you the pattern.  Before I couldn’t see the problem; now I can.

And if I can see it, I can fix it.  So for me, feedback is power.  And I’m not going to feel upset about that.