What Drives an Agent Crazy? Part 5
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
The week of writing about crazy-driving scenarios wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention that sometimes the good folks at the publishing houses drive us crazy. One of those times is when they become in communicado.
I’ve phoned and emailed about a timely, important issue–well, it’s important to my client and me. And the person at the publishing house–be it an editor, someone in marketing, someone in publicity, or the publisher himself–doesn’t respond. Acknowledgment of receipt of the communications would be appreciated! A time-frame in which a respond will be coming would be deeply appreciated.
When agents get together, one of the items we grumble about is that publishers tend not to deliver bad news to our clients, but ask us to do so. However, they love to deliver good news and rarely think to even include the agent in the conversation. For example, if a client is a finalist for a writing award, the publisher happily phones or emails the client. And then the client informs the agent. While I’m thrilled for the client, I’m not thrilled that my part in the publishing process wasn’t noted.
Then there’s the bad news part of the equation. Just today I had to phone one of my clients, whom we’ll call Carolyn, to tell her that the editor she’s been working with for several years hates Carolyn’s next novel idea. The two of them just returned from a time together in which the editor offered only praise for Carolyn’s writing. So imagine how unprepared my client was to receive a phone call from me in which I have to explain that not only was the idea not liked–the word “hate” was used by the editor. Why did this “go down” this way? Because, as the editor explained to me when she called me with the bad news, she didn’t have the heart to be honest with Carolyn face-to-face.
Agents get to announce: canceled contracts; poor sales figures; a publishing committee turning down a project; a tiny advance/royalty offer; an almost nonexistent marketing budget; a title or cover the author hated that the publisher is moving forward with anyway.
It isn’t that I want to be uninvolved in these “bad news” communications; it’s that some of these items could be more effectively communicated with both the agent and the editor on a conference call with the client. If that were done more often, I think authors would have a better sense of teamwork with the publisher and comprehend more why a decision was made. But I also understand that editors don’t get paid to hand authors Kleenex; it really is the agent’s job to pick up the pieces and come up with a plan of how to move forward. I just think it would be nice to have some balance and let publishers explain certain decisions to both the agent and the author–whether that decision is headline-making great news or heartbreaking hard news.
So there you have it; my week of exposing some of the situations that cause eye-rolling in an agent’s life. I appreciate all the feedback and discussion we’ve had.
For those of you who haven’t commented, what’s surprised you the most in what you’ve read? What insight did you gain?