Blogger: Wendy Lawton
I’m away at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference– at the end of a long week. Color me exhausted but happy to have met so many new friends and to have enjoyed the company of many longtime friends and associates. I’m probably not going to be able to join in the blog discussion today but I know our blog community will do just fine solo. (You always do.)
We often blog about the fun parts of our job as agents but without balancing the good parts with the tough parts, we’re not giving a complete picture. Today, let me share what I believe is the hardest part of my job– saying goodbye to a client. We’d like to think that once we’ve signed on the dotted line, it’s a marriage made in heaven and we’ll be together forever but that’s not always the case. There are a number of things that may lead to a break-up. Let me just list a few:
1. Sometimes there is simply a breakdown in communication. The client may experience a crisis or need during a time when the agent is away or unable to drop everything. The agent will get a call or an email saying something like, “I just don’t feel like we are a good match anymore.” Ouch! It always hurts. We agents talk about this– how we wish we could have anticipated the client’s feeling of abandonment.
2. Sometimes the client is approached by another agent who subtly infers that they could do more. We call this poaching and most reputable agents go out of their way to avoid doing this but it happens, almost in the same way an affair happens in a marriage. Again, this stings. Unfortunately, it rarely works out well for the client, especially since publishing houses notice writers who agent hop. It rarely sends a positive message.
3. Occasionally a client may decide to take a break from writing or head off in a different direction. Sometimes we keep them on the roster but consider them inactive. Other times we part company and send them off with our blessing. We’ve been known to touch base from time to time to see if anything has changed.
4. Sometimes the agent realizes he has done everything he can think of and still is unable to get traction for a client. This kind of failure is hard to swallow but it’s reality. It is kindest to let the client go, knowing that perhaps another agent with different contacts may be able to make things happen for the client. We heard one agent brag at a conference that she’s never had a client she couldn’t eventually sell. The group of agents who heard this merely coughed politely and rolled their eyes. Oh that that were true.
5. Sometimes the client and the agent both realize the match was simply not a great fit. When this happens it is a kindness to all concerned to part company.
Thankfully, breaking up doesn’t happen often but nothing is harder than having to say goodbye to all the hopes and dreams we harbored for a talented writer. I’ve found I’ve never been able to completely let go. I continue to pray for former clients, watch their careers and keep pulling for them to find the success I always believed they could achieve.
The antidote for these kind of painful break-ups is for both the agent and the author to choose carefully in the first place, to work on communication and to freely offer grace to one another.
How about you? Any suggestions for avoiding painful break-ups? Which potential scenarios did I miss? Making changes in a team is always hard. Can you think of ways to make it easier?
What causes an agent/writer relationship to end? Click to Tweet
When the agent/writer relationship ends– breaking up is hard to do. Click to Tweet
A little grace and open communication between agents and clients can forestall a painful break-up. Click to Tweet