Blogger: Rachel Zurakowski
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
My interest is piqued by certain types of writers, even before reading a writing sample. This interest is based on the author’s character traits. I would never acquire a client without first reviewing his or her writing, but I’m looking for a certain type of writer. Many other agents look for the same qualities.
The first trait I’d like to talk about is: A Teachable Spirit
Whether I meet an author at a writers’ conference or through a query letter, I have a pretty good idea if the author is willing to grow in his or her writing by the way the project is presented. If a writer is very aggressive in the way he or she approaches me (face-to-face or via email), it usually means that if I suggest changes for the project, the writer won’t listen. An author with a teachable spirit will approach writing with a degree of humility, understanding that he might not have complete understanding of the current publishing marketplace. An important part of an agent’s job is career guidance for our clients, and that requires trust between the two parties (author/agent) right from the beginning of the relationship.
If I don’t feel an author is willing to accept feedback during the initial presentation of the project, one question is usually enough to help me pinpoint if the writer has a teachable spirit: Has anybody read and critiqued the manuscript? If the response is no, that probably isn’t someone I want to work with.
Often before I sign a client, I need the promising writer to make a few changes on a proposal or manuscript before I feel it’s marketable. This is a good time for an author to show his or her teachable spirit. It’s also a great time to see if the author and agent see eye-to-eye on the direction of a project. An agent can sometimes be a bad fit for an author if the two don’t connect during this revision process.
The teachable spirit continues to be important as the author and agent move forward in their business relationship. The agents at Books & Such are hands-on in helping clients format projects, formulate ideas, etc. The degree of involvement varies from project to project, but if the client isn’t willing to grow as a writer, it’s going to be difficult for the agent to do her job.
Unrelated fun fact(?) I learned at a writers’ conference:
I hear that, if you blog about Chick-fil-A (a fast food restaurant), a company representative responds to your blog post. Who knows if this is true? I guess we’ll find out!