June 27, 2010

Editors, and phone calls, and lunches, O my!

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 9:35 am

So, a few posts ago, I asked, What do we do next?

After my first submission “went south”, that is, (not a phrase I had ever heard or known to exist before) and there were no offers?

Why, we went on sub again, of course. Luckily, I had another manuscript just waiting, all ready in the wings.

Well, not precisely ALL ready. Even though, if you’ve been reading this series with anywhere near the stun-eyed, gape-mouthed, staring-at-a-road-wreck, struck-by-the-pain puzzlement with which I am writing it, I had already received another offer of representation for this manuscript. From quite a fine agent, I might add, who though new and green at the time, would go on to do big things in the industry.

But the agent I was currently signed with didn’t consider it quite so great as all that.

Some agents are great editors and some are fantastic salespeople. Just like some are sharks and some are hand-holders for their clients. If you get very, very lucky, you find an agent who is all of the above.

I have been lucky in that all three of my agents (wait–there are more?? Yes, but that’s not for this post) have been wonderful editors who have played a significant role in improving my work.

The agent I was working with at the time of my first sub found all sorts of things wrong with my first novel, which we were about to send out second.

I know, confusing. Even when every sordid detail is soldered into your (um, my) brain.

So I sat down to revise it. Most agents, even when they’re great editors, tend to point out problems and issues in the book, but less so suggest fixes. I don’t know if that’s so that the work remains the author’s or just because suggesting fixes is hard. It’s still the thing I’m least good at when editing a manuscript for a writing buddy.

In fact, my husband, and TBEITW, and a brand new writing buddy I’ve recently made are some of the few people I know who can suggest really workable fixes.

I can still remember my agent asking, “Do you live in a small town?” because I had gotten the flavor of the setting a bit off.

But finally, I did whip the novel into such shape that my agent deemed it ready for prime time, and she sent it out.

On a Thursday.

On Monday she called me at home at 9:30 am and said, “[Grande Dame of Publishing X] just called from a city bus.” Pause. “She couldn’t go to sleep till she finished your novel last night.”


  1. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was a happy ending. Alas, even sleep-depriving novels get rejected.

    Comment by Sara — June 27, 2010 @ 9:45 am

  2. Come back for the next post, Sara! Sleep-depriving novels might get rejected, but then the editors don’t call the agents from the crosstown bus before getting to work. So my next steps on the path are much snakier than that…

    Comment by jenny — June 27, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  3. Can’t help wondering who your new writing buddy is!!

    “Most agents, even when they’re great editors, tend to point out problems and issues in the book, but less so suggest fixes. I don’t know if that’s so that the work remains the author’s or just because suggesting fixes is hard.” You said it!! More would-be authors need to realize this. I think a lot of people just hop in, expecting that their problems will be fixed by someone else at some point down the line. Not true.

    Comment by Savvy — June 27, 2010 @ 11:18 am

  4. Mwah ha ha, it could be someone you’re…talking to right now!!!

    Comment by jenny — June 27, 2010 @ 11:27 am

  5. Ahem, I may have an idea who the writing buddy is(she blushes as she reads this). However, I concur with the Grand Dame, I too had a incredibly time putting down either ms. I was resentful of every intrusion, no matter how significant. Like, my son needing to eat, or my hubby wanting good-bye kisses before work. To me, the mark of a great book is simple, one you can’t bear to leave for even a second. If only the publishing world saw an ms through the same 20/20 vision, more fantastic writers, such as Jenny, would have less stress and more success in getting these wonderful pieces into print. But, hope, and writer’s dreams, spring eternal. I will be waiting, with much anticipation, for the first time I can see in bold, beautiful text, “by Jenny Milchman”.

    Comment by Karyne — June 27, 2010 @ 11:35 am

  6. Ah, well, that ms has actually been seen by very few people–long ago editors and my then agent aside. Possibly not even by any of my precious trusty readers/critiquers, those good at the hawk-eyed spotting of problems, suggesting fixes, catching flaws, and a big ET AL!!

    Comment by jenny — June 27, 2010 @ 11:48 am

  7. Totally agreed, Karyne!

    Comment by Savvy — June 27, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

  8. You’re killing me here! Write more of your story!!

    Comment by Judy — June 27, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

  9. Ah, thank you for your enthusiasm, but I know you can wait, Judy. Look at what business we’re (sort of) in :0

    Comment by jenny — June 27, 2010 @ 9:00 pm


    That is a FINE outcome! I hope she can sell it to her shop, too!

    Comment by Hart — June 28, 2010 @ 7:59 am

  11. O no, I need to be more clear. The above took place–gasp–about eight years ago. The back story should speed up now and hopefully I will catch you up to where I am (waiting again…remember that guy Dante? And the whole concept of purgatory? I try so hard to be a nice person, too…) But thank you, Hart, I know your wishes are always with me and maybe one day they will pay off!

    Comment by jenny — June 28, 2010 @ 9:16 am

  12. You can count yourself as one of the helpful-with-suggestions editors. Your work on my ms is fantastic. I’m excited about your novel. I know we’re in waiting mode, but I’m eager to see what happens!

    Comment by Subourbon WIfe — June 30, 2010 @ 1:02 pm

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