An Agent’s Report Card

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

December is always the month for reflection as I begin to work on my goals for the coming year. I set goals in every area of my life– personal, professional and spiritual. I thought it might be fun for us to talk goals. Want to see my 2012 goals and the report card I’m giving myself?

Some of the specifics have been deleted but here are the goals I set a year ago:

 Overall Professional Goals:  Take ample time to dream and plan. This may be the most valuable thing I do. Otherwise I’m just shuffling papers and knocking out product.

 Knowing this will still be a challenging year, I plan to work harder and smarter— concentrating my effort on published clients or projects with outstanding potential. Since I plan to concentrate my work blocks, I need to develop even better systems. I also need to control my day—being proactive instead of reactive.


    • Reach a total 2012 advance level of $———–.


    • Continue to develop a more systematic method for handling workload
    • Continue to refine and maintain database and note systems— no longer relying on memory for anything.
    • Update filing system by end January 2012
    • Continue to improve email management
    • Handle email only once and process information in each email immediately—getting each task, proposal, and request in its proper place so that it can be easily acted upon or retrieved.
    • Figure out a way to chart all client projects with ticklers for when clients will be ready to propose new ones.
    • Maintain address book religiously.


    • Deepen relationships with clients.


    • Deepen editor friendships. Try to come up with some interesting ways to stay connected.
    • Jump on opportunities and tips immediately.
    • Develop at least one innovative selling tool


    • Be proactive about developing projects rather than just waiting for the right projects.
    • Continually brainstorm product extensions or connected projects
    • Keep track of unsold rights and see if any can be exploited
    • Keep track of any reprint possibilities


    • Blog one week out of every month (or, if we change, one day out of every week).
    • Work with our team to raise the Books & Such cachet in the industry
    • Keep in touch with fellow agents, encouraging and nudging.

 Social Network

    • Continue to use Twitter wisely and try to build my following so that I can use it to: build clients, build the agency and enhance my own platform.
      • Make sure to share and retweet.
      • Do a better job of acknowledging those who mention me. Suggest people to follow.
    • Keep engaged on Facebook, trying to balance 1/3 professional, 1/3 personal, and 1/3 informational.

 New Opportunities

    • Be prepared to set things aside if necessary in order to jump on new opportunities in this changing climate. If I don’t stay forward thinking the opportunities will pass me by and I will be an anachronism.
    • Read trade articles to make sure I’m aware of emerging opportunities. Don’t let the minutiae of this job blind me to the big picture.

 Biggest challenge: Keeping track of everything.

    • Use Day Journal religiously

So. . .  How did I do?

 SALES:  A+ When it comes to sales, I knocked it out of the ballpark. I sold 49 projects and I don’t think I’m done for 2012 yet. I made my original financial goal by 160% and am within a few thousand dollars of reaching a sharply revised <gulp> goal. Amazing. All by the grace of God.

 SYSTEMS: B-   I’ve continued to refine my systems and I did develop a new, gorgeous, color-coded file system and I do maintain my address book carefully but I’m still overwhelmed by email sometimes. I’m going to revisit that challenge for 2013.

 CLIENTS: B+  I did meet most of my goals for clients but I keep wanting to find more time to dream and plan with them. I was saddened to lose a couple of clients this year—always hard for an agent.

 EDITORS: A  I did far more than I had hoped in this area, doing more traveling to publishing houses and spending more time with my editor/friends than I had planned.  I stayed on top of opportunities for the most part and I did come up with a spiffy new sales tool I plan to continue to refine.

 PROJECTS: B   I did spend more time on projects than ever before but I could spend every waking hour in this pursuit and still not do all I wish I could do.

 AGENCY: A   We accomplished everything we set out to do this year and more.

 SOCIAL NETWORK: D  I have to admit to Twitter fail. I just can’t find the time to do it all. Aaarrrgggh! And I tried Pinterest and Goodreads—so I’d know how they worked—but I had to cry “uncle.” I can’t do my job and keep up with all these opportunities.

 NEW OPPORTUNITIES: C   I’ve continued to keep my ear to the ground but so far I’ve not see any one thing emerging which changes the landscape drastically. Still lots of interesting possibilities.

 BIGGEST CHALLENGE: C   I’m guessing this will be a perennial goal.

 So there’s definitely room for improvement, especially in allowing myself enough time to dream and innovate, but overall, I’ve made good progress this year.

Your turn. Did you set goals for the year? How did you do? What will you attempt for 2013? Don’t forget what C. S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

59 Responses

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  1. Sarah Thomas says:

    Hey, comments! Now, what was I going to say?? Oh! “No longer relying on memory for anything.” Too funny. I really did forget that was the line that jumped out at me. I’m TERRIBLE to think I’ll remember things–ideas for my blog, tasks at work, book brainstorms. Odds are excellent I’ll forget if I don’t write them down. I have an adorable, little matchbook-style notepad with a big T on it in my purse. Goal for 2013: WRITE IT DOWN.

  2. Lori says:

    I kind of set some goals for 2012.

    I wanted to take three online classes. I took two but I did take the one I definitely need for my book which was an a class on the Koran.

    I wanted to be certified at work to command an experimental rack on the ISS which is not easy for someone who is a non-engineer. First I had to prove to managers that I had the know how to do it. Then I had months of self-study and classroom training. No I am doing the on-the-job training where I am commanding a rack. It’s mind blowing to do and to see the command that you sent taking place on the cameras. I am on my way to being certified. I was talking to a mystery writer in my area who has published numerous books and she said that it would be great if I can capture all that in my thriller (of course it would not be on the experiment I am actually working on but one that I am creating for my book).

    I wanted to have completed my novel by this time or at least early next year but it will probably be late 2013 or early 2014 when I will finish.

    As for my technical writing workload at work, I give myself an A+ since I always deliver in a timely fashion and therefore the engineers I work for are happy.

    As for keeping my house clean regularly, well lets not go there.

  3. I don’t exactly set goals or make New Year’s resolutions. Instead I pick songs to be a theme for the year. Actually, the songs sort of pick me. I couldn’t explain the process if I tried.

    This year’s song was “Giving up the Gun” by Vampire Weekend, which is about a period in history when Japan outlawed guns. I know. Where is she going with this?

    That crazy song came to represent my need to give some things up. I needed to surrender. I determined not to be pushy with God as far as my career went. It has been a hard, hard year of laying things down, refusing to go into situations, gun blazing, demanding what I want.

    It’s still a battle to do that every day, but I’ve found a measure of peace I never expected. I’m waiting on God. I’m laying my arms down.

    Well, most days. So I give myself a solid B.

    Thanks for being transparent with your goals. I loved your desire to dream and plan. Maybe I’ll get a dream song for 2013. Just as long as it isn’t “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables!

    Oh, dear.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Surrender is an excellent goal (even if it came on the wings of a song). Don’t you find you can’t move forward sometimes until you lay your arms down. I’ve observed that surrender often precedes a huge leap forward.

      And yes, I Dreamed a Dream would not be a good moving forward song but oh, it’s beautiful. (Anyone else can’t wait to see Les Miserables on the big screen this month? I’ve only seen it on stage about half a dozen times and could see it another half dozen.)

      • Jeanne T says:

        I saw the movie version of “Les Mis” with Liam Neeson–this totally made the story come alive for me. I’m looking forward to this new version, as well. And the play is always incredible.

      • Amanda Dykes says:

        Les Mis on the big screen… I am totally in. I saw it on stage in London and I’m with you: I could watch it 20 times and not tire of it. Didn’t know you were a fan! I knew you were a treasure! 🙂

      • I am so looking forward to seeing it on the big screen! The trailer gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes. And who knew Anne Hathaway could sing like that?!

        I’ve seen it several times on stage, the first with my husband while we were dating. Just the other day Mom told me she’d watch the boys so Kory and I can go see it as a Christmas gift from her. So sweet.

        I should practice my mantra now for during “I Dreamed a Dream.”

        Evangeline, God is not speaking to you in this song!
        There are no tigers coming!
        Life will not kill your dream!

    • Amanda Dykes says:

      Evangeline– “I’ve found a measure of peace I never expected. I’m waiting on God.” Your words so perfectly describe what He’s been teaching me in surrender, too. Rejoicing with you.

  4. 2012-write a book. Check.
    2012-return to Bolivia. Check.

    2013-drop 50 pounds…by June, so I fit on the plane to Barcelona.

    Which reminds me…
    Dream for the last 40 years??? See the Roman Coliseum, put my feet where the church was tested by sword and death. Set foot in Ephesus where Paul preached.
    Also in June.

    BIGGEST hope? That my daughter would come back in from the cold and renew her faith. All the rest pales.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Oh, Jennifer, I’ll come alongside you on that last hope. (BTW, have you read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson? I’d recommend it.)

      I like that you have travel goals as well.

      • I’ll check it out, thank you.

        The travel goals are my mom’s doing for my 50th in May. She is worthy of her own book! From mother of 2, pregnant and divorced at 22 years old, to now, taking me on an epic Mother/Daughter adventure? God is good. But even if she and I did a 3 day road trip, I’d still be as happy.

  5. Some of my goals that I met were:
    1. Attended my first ACFW conference
    2. Finished one book and started another
    3. Entered more contests
    4. Blogged more often
    Considering all that happened to my family this year (2 with cancer, hubby’s hip replacement, brother’s surgery and so forth), I’m pleased with my progress.

    It looks like you did great meeting your goals!

  6. Rick Barry says:

    I didn’t wait for the new year. A little over a month ago I adopted one agent’s advice to shoot for 1000 new words of manuscript per day, whether I’m tired or not. I’m loving it. Some days I write more, some days a little less, but a daily target of 1000 words has re-energized my writing slump. Really pumped now about my current WIP, which hit 41,200 at lunch time. Onward and upward!

  7. My two youngest are twin boys who are two and a half, so the first major goal for 2013 will be to potty train them! This is the one thing I’ve dreaded from the moment the ultrasound machine detected those two little blessings. 🙂

    As far as my professional goals go, I plan to finish my second book by June, continue to strengthen my relationships within the industry, build a relationship with my new critique partner, attend ACFW and have two of my good writing friends to my home in the end of June for a four day retreat! As of five weeks ago, my first story is in the hands of two publishing houses and an agent. I’m eagerly awaiting to hear from all of them and I know that if things progress as I hope they will, it will drastically affect my goals for the coming year.

  8. Sue Harrison says:

    Wow, and I thought I was busy!! Yes, I set goals and did achieve my social networking goal for FB, but like you, Wendy, am not so good at keeping up with Twitter.

    I met my writing goal of finishing one novel and getting well into the next. I didn’t meet my goal of reading more books in my genre. Although I read more than 50 books this year, most were ms to edit or to blurb or book club reads.

    I met my goal of doing a better job of keeping my Dad’s house clean, but I have a ways to go there. With my Dad-in-law I’m where I want to be with housework, except for windows. Weight goals. Let’s not talk about that…

    You’re an inspiration, Wendy! Thank you for the insight into a very busy agent’s life.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Sounds like you accomplished more than your share of work. Did I understand that you take care of three houses plus edit and write? I’m beginning to feel like a piker.

  9. wow I love this break down! Thank you for sharing. I’m very goal- oriented so I enjoy making goals for the new year. I really like how you broke this down.

    LOVE the quote too! That’s right.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I’m the same way. I love setting goals and then analyzing performance. Another favorite quote is by Socrates: The unexamined life is not worth living.

  10. Congratulations on all you accomplished this year, Wendy. I see many positives there.

    As for me, I have a new book coming out soon and a contract for another picture book. In addition, I finished the first book in the series I am ghostwriting. On a personal note, I haven’t found a job yet, but I am hopeful God will guide me in the right direction.

    I have two main goals for 2013: participate in 12 x 12 in 2013, which is a challenge to write one picture book a month for the year, and to get more serious about finding representation. I’ve met with agents once or twice a year at conferences, but I haven’t submitted via email or mail. I need to change that.

    Thanks for this great post. I need to review my 2012 goals soon and finalize everything for 2013 in writing to keep me motivated.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Sounds like great goals. 12 x 12 would be a tough one. To someone who writes a 100,000 word book, a picture book may sound like an easy task but the shorter the book, the harder to write. It’s like poetry– every word must be slaved over.

      • Amanda Dykes says:

        One of my favorite quotes: “I’m sorry about the length of this letter. If I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter one.”

      • You’re supposed to approach it a bit like NaNoWriMo–quantity instead of quality. I’m just not sure I can manage that. I like quality. In 2011, I wrote six picture books. Doubling that will be a challenge.

  11. My goals were to set goals and I didn’t.
    So this post inspires me even as it depresses me even as it gets me excited to hear of your record-breaking accomplishments.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Goals are a great tool for measurement but the flip side is that they can be the basis for either pride or despair. We need to put the outcome back in God’s hands.

      A very wise man said: “My job is faith. God’s job is outcomes.”

      (Note: That’s from our own Bill Giovannetti. When I first read it, I put it in my quotes file.)

  12. Jenny says:

    I finished my book. I sold 100 of them in the first two weeks, which is a little shy of my 100,000 goal. I have all five star reviews so far. I created a website where I will move my blog. I made a large list of small bookstores to contact and I’ve started making contacts for a speaking engagements, which is interestingly easy right now because our church split some years ago and all my friends are at different churches now which gives me an in I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I knew God would work that out for good somehow. I just couldn’t fathom what it would be at the time. I’ve started writing my second book and have 2 other book ideas for number 3 and 4 that I can’t wait to get to.

    My goal over the past few years was to simply be obedient to God, which was hard because the road has been so rocky. But all of that is coming together and I believe 2013 will be a year of concrete goals and highlights, reaping the seeds I’ve been sowing for the last 10 years. But no matter where I am in my goals, I take comfort knowing God will work all of it together for good according to his purposes.

  13. Jeanne T says:

    Wow! How exciting to come on here this afternoon and read all the progress people have made on their goals! I tried commenting early today, but I couldn’t get on the comments for some reason. I think it was God giving me the chance to gain a better perspective for this day.

    I didn’t write any goals down for 2012, but I had a goal of finishing my first book, going to a conferences, growing in writing craft, entering contests.

    I wrote and re-wrote my first book, but I am still revising it, so I didn’t entirely meet that goal. I attended a writing retreat and ACFW (first time)–and I’m hooked. I have been working on learning and implementing writing craft into my stories. I entered four contests and finaled in two, much to my amazement. All in all, it was a good year.

    Wendy, I loved reading your goals, how you wrote them out and how well you did toward accomplishing them. Thanks for sharing them, and showing us a bit of your heart. 🙂

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      It sounds like you accomplished a lot in 2012. I often need to reassess and finesse my goals along the way. You said you wanted to have your book done but found yourself revising it. I’m guessing that the more you moved forward in knowledge, the more you revised your goals. You could have easily stopped a draft or two ago but you obviously are reaching for excellence. (Hence two contest finals.)

      That’s far better than to slavishly stick to a goal and in the process settle for a box checked off instead of a ready-to-be-submitted manuscript.

    • Sssooooooooooo, maybe a blog in 2013?
      Just an idea….

  14. Amanda Dykes says:

    I had goals, I truly did, but the funny thing is– I think God used them this year to teach me how to surrender them. It is such a sweet, sweet place to be, to know the author of my life dreams big dreams for me right along with me, and to trust that His plan is best, His timing is perfect. Unfurling my too-tight grip on my goals and surrendering them back to the One who gave me those desires in the first place has been a process (sometimes I’m a slow learner, and re-learner, and re-learner again…), but what a difference it makes to be in a place where — like Bill said in the quote you referenced– our job is faith. Obedience. And we can trust that God will do what He desires with the rest, whatever it may be. So while I will set goals again, while I still function best with lists and schedules and charts, I’m resting now in a place of sweet surrender with the results of all of that. He is so good. 🙂

  15. Jill Kemerer says:

    I loved reading this, Wendy! I’m so similar! Every December I create a new business plan for the following year. I estimate the books I’ll be writing, and I set continuing education goals (through craft books, online courses, etc). I haven’t graded myself, so I like that idea!

    Also, and this is just my opinion, Twitter has become “noise” for writers looking for a marketing tool. It worked for a while, but, like everything else publishing related, the promotional links have taken over. I don’t think it’s effective at gaining attention anymore. Great for conversations, though!

    Thanks again for letting us peek into your professional life. I’m impressed!!

    • Amanda Dykes says:

      Jill, I am with you on the continuing education– I’ve found that with my Amazon Prime account, with the 1 free book “rental” I get each month, it’s a great way to get my monthly craft book reading in. Some favorites recently have been Jeff Gerke’s “The First Fifty Pages” and Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s “Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View.”

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Isn’t it funny how some of us just love this kind of tool and others, with eyes glazed over, think “What a waste of time. Just do the work and stop talking about it.”

  16. Start and complete my MS. check.

    Have test readers. check.

    Edit and polish MS. ongoing.

    Join ACFW. check.

    Find a great blog site for advice. check. 😉

    Be a presenter at a writers conference. check.

    Query an agent. check.

    It’s been a great year and I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring! 🙂

  17. Amanda Dykes says:

    For anyone who’s looking for a starting-point for goal-setting, here is a great post I read a while back, focusing on breaking goals down into categories like Wendy has:

    …and the worksheets to go with it:

  18. Wendy, thank you for bringing up the topic of goals now. With all the hustle and bustle of December, I want to wait until January for this, but it will be so nice to have it all in place when the new year arrives. I’ve made great progress on the book I’m writing, however my blog is in a sorry state. I’ve learned so much from all of you at Books and Such about how to improve. I know that I need to grow my platform before I submit a proposal for representation by an agent. As I implement new things, I’ll be requesting God’s favor in a special journal just for writing-related prayers. I really want to get the message God has given to me out there and like you, I want to say, “All by the grace of God.” Thank you for your help.

  19. 1.Started working part time outside the home after seven years as a SAHM.
    2. Went to my first Mount Hermon Writers Conference.
    3. Went to Alaska on a cruise.
    4. Almost finished with the first draft of my WIP.
    5. Returned to school for classes in Historic Preservation.
    6. Published cards with DaySpring.
    7. Joined ACFW and the SF Bay chapter.

    My big goal for next year was to visit the location of my WIP, and I’m going in February. So thankful and excited.

  20. David Todd says:

    Congrats on the great progress you made on your 2012 goals, Wendy. I hope 2013 is equally good for you.

    As I self-publisher, I didn’t exactly set goals last January. I established a publication schedule. That included, more or less in this order:

    1. a second short story in my series
    2. my first novel
    3. a third short story in my series
    4. non-fiction political book
    5. second novel
    6. second history book in series
    7. non-fiction articles throughout the year in three online mags

    Along with these were goals to start or continue various other projects. I’m pleased to say I made my goal of six publications, though not exactly in the order or dates planned. I actually had seven publications, the extra one being a compilation of workplace humor stories I never really intended on publishing but decided what-the-heck and so did. I made my goal for articles for one of the three mags, a little for the second, and not at all for the third (though it semi-imploded and appeared less viable).

    It’s too early to set a publication schedule for 2013, though I’m sure two novels will be included.

  21. Patrice says:

    I need to be more intentional with goals. I have them in my head, but I need to put them out there so my family can see what I’m heading towards. Maybe they’ll let me get my work done then. 🙂

    I’m impressed at the way you have not only set goals, but then taken stock in how you have done with each one. I must reread this and try your method for my goals this year. Thanks!

  22. Congratulations on meeting so many of your goals for the year! It’s enlightening to see what objectives an agent has. Thank you so much for sharing.

    My writing goals for 2013 are:

    1) Double my blog fan base AND email subscriber list (with emphasis on the email subscriber list!).

    2) Build relationships with fellow bloggers. My strategy in the first year of my blog (which was this year) was to build a following specifically of non-bloggers. I feel like the fan base of so many bloggers is *other* bloggers and I wanted to generate an audience outside of that circle for maximum potential. I can’t ignore, however, the value of developing relationships with fellow bloggers and want to do a better job of that in 2013.

    3) Have a proposal for my (non-fiction) book idea ready to send in March. It’s currently in progress.

  23. My dog keeps track of all things important!

    Example: Water dish -Full.
    Dog Food Bowl – Full (Healthy kibble)
    Nap Time – Pillow fluffed
    Tennis Balls – Min. of 12 on hand
    Bedtime – Foot of the bed void of any cats
    Exercise – Trip to park (3X per week min.)
    Snack time – 3 boxes (low fat) doggie treats
    Voice practice – bark at everything that moves
    Loyalty & obedience – avoid chewing on socks and slippers
    Remember my training – be kind and share with others

    Doodle – 8 years old.

  24. Thank you for sharing your goals, Wendy. Very inspirational!

    I set daily goals for 2012 and added dreams to dare to dream:

    1) personal weight loss ~ exercise/walk the doggies in the golf course.
    I’ve lost 59 lbs so far this year.
    I walk my hubby to work or the dogs on the golf course. (right up until I injured my ribs three weeks ago)


    1) Finish my first novel and start on the second in the trilogy.

    2) Continue marketing my four children’s books.

    3) TV and radio spots to promote all my books.

    4) Go to the Mt. Hermon Conference.

    5) Give Wendy Lawton the 35,000 words she asked for at the 2011 conference and hope she will take me on as a client.

    6) Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite…

    7) Surrender everything in prayer to the will of God and praise Him in all things.

    Goals met:

    All surrendered in prayer and praise.

    Finished first novel and am 32,000 words into the second.

    Meeting daily word goals due to reduced Twitter activity, and by increasing personal contacts.
    (1,000 words a day as suggested by James Scott Bell in the mentoring class at Mt. Hermon)

    I now have a wonderful agent!

    God amazes me daily with His plans which are much better than mine.

    2013 Goals

    Walk to live, live to worship God in the beauty of His holiness, be a good steward of the talents he has given me ~ finish book two and start book three!

    Book one published and go to film.

    Blog more, Facebook less.

    Mondays remain my play date with the three Joeys.

    Use my photography in my blogs.

  25. Karey White says:

    Wow, Wendy. You blow my mind. The detail of your goals is fantastic. I want to be friends with you so a little of your incredibleness will rub off on me. (I know incredibleness isn’t really a word, but I think it fits, anyway.)

    You’ve completely inspired me to sit down and lay out my goals and ways to reach them with this much specificity. You’ve completely motivated me. I wish I could do it today but today is the launch party for a goal I’ve reached. YAY! I am totally committed to lay out a plan like this for me.

    I also love how honest you were in your grading. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.