Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Question from a Writer

May I change the topic and ask if anyone has had any experience with the agents who are also advertising their services as "Book Doctors" ? If an agent seems enthusiastic about a submission but also says that it needs , uh, doctoring, for a fee, of course, in order to be more commercially acceptable, is it likely this is a good way to go?
I don't doubt all sunmissions could use a practiced hand that does not belong to the author, but it seems to me we are on a slippery slope here.
How much in extra fees raise a red flag? And what about the editors who advertise that service, but also emphasize their understandable "connections" within the business of publishing?
Hopeful authors OF Course want to believe that a legitimate editor might pick up the phone and recommend that an agent friend take on the ms. Pay for the editing service and wind up with an industry insider boost to boot. Why else would the editor mention his " extensive connections in publishing" ? And might professional doctoring make the difference between selling the ms to a publisher or not?
I'm sure some of these people are legitimate. Beyond checking with places like Absolutewrite, can anyone share their experience with me?

This is a common question I see and one that even came up this last weekend at SCWW. I think with Anon's question, we actually have several issues here.

First of all, let's talk $$. Agents should not be charging you money. This is commonly called reading fees. Now some agents may be trying to sneak past this one by calling it "Book doctoring" but that is essentially it. Agents may "doctor" your book after you have signed with them to make the book more marketable, but still there shouldn't be a charge for it.

Secondly, what about the book doctors out there? I do know of reputable people that do this. Yes they charge, yes they have experience in the business and yes they do good work. There are, however, a lot of people that do "book doctoring" that are just serving as another critique partner for you but getting money to do it. Many of these people, in my humble opinion, have no clue what they are doing but wow are they bringing in the cash. They have been able to portray this idea that without their help, you will not be able to get published.

Let me give you an example of that last one. I receive, at least 3-5 times a month, a submission from someone that has gone through a professional editor. It is always the same editor and frankly, the story is far from good. Other than being grammatically fine, the story telling has been awful, the plot is weak and the same horrible mistakes we see beginning writers do are still there. No, I have not signed a person yet that has gone through one of these editors.

Finally, in my humble opinon, I just don't think a book doctor is necessary. If you hae criticla thinking skills, have done your research and understand English grammar, punctuation and spelling, you can do it on your own. Oh, I should also add, having an intelligent critique partner that also understands all of that. If grammar is your weak area, learn it! Take a class. Do something!

Please people. Be careful out there. So many of you are eager to get published and there are far too many people out there (book doctors, publishers, self-publishing sites, etc) that have no business doing what they are doing and are taking all of your money!



  1. Great post. It's so true. People want to get published so badly, they sometimes fall into traps set by those less than honest . . . sad, but true.

    Thanks for this.

  2. Holy cow. Anon says what a great answer. If you are not being asked to present at many conferences ( their major loss) I would guess it is because you are such an incisive and thoughtful person who has clearly made his own observations about the business. You are the one person who seems always willing to tell the truth as you see it, even if it does not improve your own business. Doggone, sign me blown away once again by your honest opinion.
    As for the combination agent and book doctor, she seems to have an excellent reeputation on the internet sites, and I will not cause one moment of trouble for her by mentioning a name here. She seems to be very open to new writers, but again this lands me in the same dilemma. Who else would need a lot of doctoring to be commercially acceptable? The temptation to see the need for more tinkering must be hard to resist. As for the editors with "extensive connections," you pays your money and takes your chances, as they say.
    Scott, you continue to be such an asset to this business. And I seldom say things like that. Thank you.