About two months ago, one of my clients turned in the manuscript for her new novel after having worked on it for several years. She was a bit nervous but also very excited as this was the first novel she was publishing with her new publisher. About a week after she submitted the material, I had a note from her editor that she was leaving the publishing house and, in fact, leaving publishing altogether. She said that she would be editing the book on a freelance basis, but that the shepherding of it through the publishing process would not be her responsibility.
Needless to say, this was pretty devastating news to my client. As I mentioned, this was a new publisher for her. She had published five novels with her previous publisher and during those years had been edited by at least five different editors—each leaving the house or the business. Now she was experiencing being “orphaned” again.
I made a couple of phone calls and as it happens the publisher of this particular house has promised me that he will be looking after my client himself. Though he will not be doing the actual editing, he will be guiding the novel’s publication and so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that, with his help, this book will be a huge success.
It’s true, though, that the saga of the orphaned book is a real one and, in this age of downsizing and publishing mergers, it could well become a more frequent phenomenon. This makes the agent’s job all the more important as we have to ensure more than ever that our clients and their work are well looked after and that their books are published well.
Last summer, another one of my clients had his book published after it had been transferred during the writing process to five different editors. That story did have a happy ending. The book’s final editor was totally devoted to the work and, in my opinion, his editorial suggestions made it even better. The reviews have been phenomenal and the sales have been solid. Equally as important, I have an author who was well satisfied with his publishing experience in the end.
But this is a tricky road to follow and it is important for the agent to be vigilant and take special care. I found this piece in GalleyCat, which covers the topic and which, interestingly, quoted yours truly
So, I wonder, if your book were orphaned, what would you do?