What Drives an Agent Crazy? Part 1
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Every job has its drawbacks. You know, the stuff you’d just as soon not have to deal with but put up with for the inherent rewards in what you do. When I was an editor, proofreading was the do-I-have-to-do-this element of the job for me.
Agenting has plenty of rewards: working with clients for decades and seeing the long-term payoff for lots of dreaming and doing the hard stuff everyday; introducing a writer to the reading world; celebrating with clients when they hit the best-seller list or receive a notable award; reading lots of great books before anyone else sees them; and developing strong relationships with publishing colleagues (editors, other agents, marketing and publicity folks, the publishers themselves).
Okay, that’s the good news. Now for the bad. Agenting has its share of crazy-making scenarios. To give you a glimpse into our world, I’m going to disclose a few of those circumstances this week.
Unagented people who ask for free advice.
Some authors hold out and refuse to sign with an agent, even though the writer has been in the biz for years–or even decades. They believe they’re doing just fine, thank you very much. That is, until they encounter a sticky publishing situation. Without anyone to turn to and to help figure out how to respond to the delicate circumstance that could radically affect the writer’s career, these careerists turn to an agenting buddy to bum off of him or her free advice.
Novice writers also turn to agents for free advice. Agents can encounter these individuals at writers conferences, neighborhood parties, weddings, church…pretty much anywhere people gather. Once individuals find out you’re an agent, they reveal that, wow, they’re writers and need some advice. I’ve been assailed in airport shuttles, restaurants and even elevators.
In this sense agents are like doctors: We aren’t comfortable being asked for free career advice any more than a physician is. Often the writer’s circumstance is complex and requires careful examination, diagnosis and treatment–in other words, some serious time and thought needs to be invested to figure out the next best move for that person.
Bottomline: Don’t assume agents are eager to dispense free advice. Respect that it took decades for them to know how to handle a variety of tricky publishing scenarios.
Now, lest that sound as though you should approach agents with fear and trembling, when have you received some good, free advice from an agent? What made that time appropriate?