Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Listening to Your Editor--Selling Out or Being Smart?

There's been some discussion lately on a couple of the author loops I'm on about whether you should make changes an editor or agent suggests to your book. Some writers have suggested (and may I say, those who have are predominantly unpublished or self-published) that to do so is "selling out". Their argument is that to make any changes would change their Art.

May I say if you want to make any kind of living out of your "art", then you have to be willing to listen--and follow the guidance--of the people in the industry who, by the way, do usually know of what they speak. You must be objective about your book. And remember that it *is* a book--it's not your baby. It's not an extension of your ego. And if the suggested changes will make the book stronger, why wouldn't you do it?

If you're writing genre fiction, you're looking to get published in a field with complex demands. And lots and lots of competition. My agent easily gets 30-40 queries a day. Multiply that by 365 and you end up with over 10,000 queries per year. And many agents, even those still building their author list, will still only sign 2-3 new authors per year.

Are you really going to be so unwilling to listen to advice that you won't change your book to make it more marketable? Now, I'm not talking about something that will radically change the heart of your story--though in my opinion you should be open about that, too. But I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't listened to my agent with regards especially to my first book, that first book would never have been sold. But I figured with 30 years in the business--first as an editor and now as an agent--she knows more than I do about what sells books.

If you'd rather be a Struggling Artist, suffering for your craft, then, by all means, ignore the advice. But if you want to be a Successful Author, well, then, listen. Learn. Change. Grow.


Colleen Love said...

Great advice, Sherrill. People have to realize it may be art to them, but to the rest of the world it's a commodity to be bought and sold. Besides, if you've gotten far enough to attract that kind of attention from an agent interested in your work, omg! Why would you not follow through?? That is baffling!

Sherrill Quinn said...

Colleen, just about the only time you can get by with "being true to your Art" is when you're writing literary fiction, and even then you should still listen to your editor/agent's advice.