I should perhaps say, as an addendum to an earlier post on copy-editing problems, that The Last Samurai might well never have been published at all without the commitment of its editor. An agent had shown it to editors in London a few years earlier and failed to find it a publisher; it might never have found one. The editor who acquired it in New York had had a very senior position in London, where he had a full complement of well-trained staff; when I met him he was starting up a new imprint with a staff consisting of a PA and a very young, very inexperienced production manager. He found himself having to carry a much heavier workload, and in this case failed to give his subordinates the guidance they needed. It was horrible for me to have so much other work destroyed by these unnecessary problems, and it would have been better if he had backed me up when we discussed matters of style -- but he was certainly an eloquent advocate of the book, and it undoubtedly owes its wide publication outside America to his efforts.
It is uncommon these days for an author to find a publisher without an agent; the problems I encountered are normally settled by an agent with a quick phone call. This is not quite like calling in a lawyer: a lawyer, who hasn't read the book, can insist on compliance with a contract but can't offer encouragement. Editors are used to getting flak for sending out carelessly-edited texts; an agent can persuade the editor that the text will not bring shame on its publishing house, something an author, perhaps, is not well placed to do.