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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Monday, 2 April 2007

Be Cautious of Literary Agents Who Offer A Paid Editorial Service

by Susan Abraham

Here's a caution to keep in mind for certain literary agents (no matter how legitimate they may appear to be) if in the event, they provide an editorial service as a sideline.

For some reason, as an aspiring author, you may be referred to that particular editorial service, once such an agent sends you a rejection letter, taking kindly to outlining your weaknesses with a supposedly friendly interest.

Then a quiet suggestion somewhere down the paragraphs, no doubt, for you to hop on board for a personalised critique service. These things are not cheap. You may have to part with some hard cash from your wallet.

Lastly, there will be that wry remark of a no-guarantee clause that the agent will want to look at your work again. Otherwise too, it may go to the other extreme where they'll start talking about polishing and sharpening your work for the publishing market.

(Bear in mind that this should be done anyway with a regard for your talent and not a credit card payment slip.) If you're surrounded by such a situation, (because you really shouldn't have to pay any money connected to a literry agent for anything) do observe these rules so as to make the right decision.

a) On the relevant website, check out the literary agency's author/client list. How many are there at the moment?

b) Check out the latest book catalogue for which the agency has sold to publishers. For instance, the total number of books represented and published todate.

c) Next, the number of its newest book releases via publishers- are these a nice chunk or an obscure pick off from the agency's calendar dates?

d) Now compare the ratio. Hundreds of writers would be passing the agency's way every week. A paid editorial service doesn't lose out on helping anyone. The more profitable, the merrier.

Now come back to the agent who recommended their said editorial service.

e) What are the chances of them taking you back on afterwards, if you really have something to offer? And they're currently only representing three to four books a year? Not very good, I would say.

If an agent represents just a few authors and only one or two manuscripts are on a publishing route, then the chances of you standing a chance with the agency are truly slim.

But they wouldn't mind, having made money out of their editorial service all the same.

In such situations, the shaky balance stays uneven and the ratio tips over in their favour, don't you think. The golden rule to remember is once your manuscript is accepted, you shouldn't have to pay for any editing within the agency. It would simply be conducted as a matter of course.

You'd probably feel better paying for such a service as long as you don't expect that same literary agent to sign a contract with you afterwards. Or as long as you're aware that after the editing is done, your manuscript submission starts all over again.

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