author writing

Who is More Responsible for a Book’s Text, Agent or Editor?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

Is the cliché that “editors no longer edit” overstated?

By Edward Nawotka

author writing

In today’s feature story Rebecca Carter outlines the reasons she is transitioning from being an editor to a literary agent. She says, in part, that her primary motivation is to enable her to continue working to shape the text of a book, rather than, presumably, focusing on ancillary matters, such as sales, marketing and production.

It has become a cliché in the book business that “editors no longer edit” and have become a kind of hybrid literary middleman/guru/sales executive — a role which is, mind you, essential to the publication of the book. André Schiffrin has gone so far to derisively suggest they’ve been reduced to little more than bankers.

So who really does have more influence over the final text of the book — the agent, who initially shapes it for sale to the publishing house, or the editor, who ultimately shapes it for sale to the public?

Is the belief that “editors no longer edit” overstated? Or is the expectation that now that editors have other obligations that take priority, the traditional editorial function (advising on line edits, plot progression, characterization) falls to the agent.

Authors, editors, agents — please share your experiences and observations in the comments below.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A former foreign correspondent, he has covered the book business exclusively since 2000, serving as daily news editor for Publishers Weekly and columnist for Bloomberg News.