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Help! My Editor Took Out the Humor! (and why you need a literary agent)

Your Book Writing Coach

A client of mine just e-mailed to say that the editor at her publishing house took the humor out of many of her anecdotes–a big part of her voice and what will make her book successful.

The editor also deleted passages that revealed the author’s imperfections and demonstrated personal growth–I assume to be politically correct and not write anything controversial.

These are two unfortunate decisions, in my opinion. First time authors often have little influence with publishers about what gets cut. This holds true for title, cover and other editorial decisions as well. While most publishers will include the author in decision-making, the publisher has final say.

This is one reason I recommend getting a literary agent to represent you. Your agent will have far more influence than you, because:

1) Your literary agent likely has a relationship with the publisher already and the publisher wants to preserve that.

2) Your literary agent has more experience in the industry and the publisher will take them more seriously.

3) A good literary agent is an expert negotiator.

If my client did not have a literary agent, I would have suggested making a strong case for her perspective. In her case, she did have an agent, so I suggested having her literary agent negotiate the issues.

What are you publishing questions or experiences? Share them as a comment and I will respond!

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Julie Tallard Johnson says

    Dear Lisa, I have just had my ninth book published (three different publishers, six different editors) and I did not find what you say below to be at all true (for me). The contract the author has with a given publisher can make it clear that the author has final the final or equal word. Besides, if the writer/author is strong in their opinion and skills the editor relies on their expertise. The art on the book below was done by a local artist, the title was collaborative and not one word was changed or taken out without my approval. The author is well, the author so she does have to approve of what is written in her name.

    Some agents are also just as challenging to work with as an editor.

    Finally, it is a relationship (between writer and editor) and how you do this relationship effects the book’s process.

    Happy writing, Julie

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