Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Agents long have known that clients wish an agent had only one client–that writer. But the truth of the matter is that the agent must sustain a healthy list of clients to make a living. Unless your agent happens to represent the likes of Nora Roberts and Nicholas Sparks, the reality is said agent is juggling many authors’ careers simultaneously. Still, clients can be prone to have an image of the agent lounging about, taking naps, or running out for a Starbucks to break the mid-afternoon monotony.
Just in case you had a picture of that sort in your head, let me offer three wrong assumptions about agents.
Your agent is more likely to have a running list of clients’ proposal and manuscripts that need to be worked on or read. Not every agent performs these tasks, but we do at Books & Such. We don’t receive a client’s proposal, pop our contact info on it, and dash it off to a trillion-and-a-half editors. Instead, we meticulously comb through your material, always with an eye to whether it’s ready to showcase. If not, we’ll either reconfigure it to highlight the strong aspects and shade the less compelling ones, or we’ll send it back to you, with feedback and a request you take another look. Either way, we pour time into the document. We understand there’s only one opportunity to get a yes, and we want everything in tip-top shape when we ask a publisher, “Wouldn’t you like to offer a contract for this work?”
That means we will not:
- Send it out the day we receive it
- Read it the minute it arrives
- Assume it’s fabulous and email it out unviewed
2. Your agent isn’t charmed when you decide to do your proposal your way.
Our agency created a template for our proposals so that, when editors receive one from us, they know what the format will be and where to look to find certain information. We want our proposals to be easy to quickly look over for key information, and also to say, “Hey, this is from Books & Such. They send stuff that’s ready to be published.” We want to bank on our reputation, even through subtle aspects of a submission such as a uniform look.
If a client decides a creative idea deserves a creative look, unless the agent has agreed to such a plan ahead of time, please don’t surprise your agent this way.
Also, if said agent looks over your proposal and tells you ways in which it needs to be dressed up, use the revised proposal the agent sends you. He or she probably has spent a number of hours changing passive sentences into active ones; rearranging your bio to put the most relevant items at the beginning; making sure the hook and project description are top-notch, etc.
If your agent asks you to make your changes using track changes, don’t decide to rewrite the manuscript sans track changes. Recently I spent an additional four hours on a proposal because a client did just that.
3. Your agent doesn’t live for the day you send her 15 long emails.
Sometimes communication is intense between an agent and client. This past week I exchanged a raft full of emails with a client as we discussed how the direction for her cover went from strong to having no relation to the novel. We eventually added the editor into our communication, which multiplied the emails.
But other times a client, often in the middle of the night, decides his career is going down the tubes. While everyone else blissfully snoozes through the wee morning hours, the client is tapping out long, panicked emails to his agent.
How much more productive to wait until the agent’s office opens in the morning, email the agent and ask if she is available for a phone call, and set up a time to talk about the crisis. The agent is likely to shed light on the situation and help the author to see publishing and career realities from a different perspective.
We sometimes get stuck in writing emails back and forth when it would make communication clearer and more efficient if a phone call took place. But, when emails are the norm, we don’t always break free from that modus operandi.
Now that I’ve hopefully shed a bit of light on how we at Books & Such work, I’d like to hear from you: What wrong assumptions do you think agents have about clients? about writers?
3 wrong assumptions about literary agents. Click to tweet.
An inside look at a literary agent’s day. Click to tweet.
What literary agents wish writers knew. Click to tweet.
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