For the past week, I’ve interviewed some fabulous future authors who participated in the Publishing in Color Conference, a Christian writers’ conference for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People of Color) Christian writers. More than once I was asked, “What are you looking for in a client?”
While I can’t speak for every literary agent, I’ve identified three virtues or qualities that capture the essence of the clients that I want to represent. The following diagram was inspired by leadership expert, Patrick Lencoini’s book, The Ideal Team Player. He identifies the combination of three virtues: humble, hungry and smart to describe the ideal team member in an organization.
While Patrick’s three virtues could apply to what an agent is looking for in a client, I selected three different virtues and created this diagram (in Canva, of course!) These reflect the qualities needed to survive the rigors of traditional publishing and what it takes to sustain and move forward at each level of a writing publishing career. Therefore, this diagram isn’t just for hopeful authors, but established authors as well can use this diagram as an opportunity to reflect.
- PurposeFULL – A hopeful or already-published author who has a reason why he or she writes that is bigger or greater than themselves. This is necessary to motivate the writer on those hard days when rejection letters come, sales numbers disappointment or the writing is hard.
- Perseverance – A writer or author has grit. Best-selling author Angela Duckworth defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals.” This is the writer who keeps a copy of the book, The Little Engine That Could tucked under the pillow and declares I think I can whenever negative voices whisper, Maybe you can’t.
- Professional – This is the writer who takes his or her career seriously, even if the writer has a day job. This is the writer who invests in his or her craft through reading, attending conferences and actually writing (crazy, I know!).
TEMPERATURE CHECK #1: No matter where you’re at in your writing career, how would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 (need to refocus) to 5 (doing great)?
TEMPERATURE CHECK #2: What is within your control to improve so that you can be an ideal client for your current or future literary agent? (Notice the phrase “what is within your control” because after all, that is all that you can control.)
IMPORTANT NOTE: The point of this conversation isn’t to issue a directive of what an agent wants to get from you.
In fact, this conversation is really about what a literary agent wants FOR you.
When you focus on developing the three virtues of an ideal client, then you are helping your literary agent create opportunities for your writing career at every stage.
Now, there are other P words that I could have mentioned like partner, prepared or patient. However, notice that my ideal client virtue list doesn’t include perfect or perky.
You don’t need to pressure yourself to be perfect. Just be you.
A good agent knows that his or her client or potential client is a human being, therefore, not perfect.
One of the very first things that I do when talking with a client is to invite him or her to take a deep breath, just to let some of the tension out. As agents, we know that some of you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself. We don’t want you to explode.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION IN THE COMMENTS BELOW: Okay, I had a lot of fun looking up P words, so before I go overboard on this, join today’s conversation and tell me what you think makes for an ideal client for a literary agent. Did you like my list of three virtues? If you could choose three other qualities for an ideal client, what would they be?