Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
I was talking to Mary Keeley a few days ago about ways agents feel guilty in their relationships with clients. Then a light went on for me: Clients can feel equally guilty in their relationships with agents. The funny thing is, neither party is likely to acknowledge that guilt to the other. So this is a clear-the-air kind of blog.
Why agents feel guilty
We can always be doing more for each client. If I spent 24/7 thinking about and working on one client’s career, I’m unlikely to ever finish my task. There’s always more I could be doing:
- exploring new ways to market via social media;
- considering ways to improve his or her website and blog;
- talking to the publisher’s marketing staff about ways to more effectively team up;
- brainstorming new projects with the client;
- making subrights deals;
- checking into merchandising;
- considering how to more firmly establish a brand, etc.
Trust me, we agents wake up in the middle of the night worrying about our clients. We know we could be doing more. We wonder if we’ve been imaginative enough, smart enough…enough of everything the ultimate agent should be. (Not that we expect much of ourselves.)
And we haven’t even opened the Pandora’s box of whether we chose the right publisher at the right time with the right project. Or did that decision we just made deep-six an author’s career? Did we negotiate the very best deal possible? If we pushed a little harder, could we have gotten a better deal? Did we get such a great deal that the author is doomed to failure?
The scope of our job keeps us locked down in a vault of guilt. We always could be doing more and doing it better. Oh, yes, guilt is built into what we do. If an agent doesn’t feel guilty, I wonder if that agent really is paying attention to the responsibility balled up in his or her hand.
Why clients feel guilty
I don’t think a client has ever confessed feeling guilty to me, but it occurred to me that they’ve hinted at it. They say things like:
- “I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten you the proposal I promised you.”
- “I’m sorry I haven’t come up with a novel idea that has a great hook.”
- “I realize that my sales are really low.”
- “I know you’re busy, but…”
- “I”m thinking about not writing any more because I just can’t do social media well enough.”
Clients are aware that agents signed them because agents expected to make a living via their clients’ work. That’s true, of course, but part of the reason agents have significant-sized client lists is to bring in income from a variety of authors rather than depending on a few. Agents’ financial sources are broad; we might not make much with one client, but another client might balance that out.
Ultimately, I think authors and agents need to have what Robin Jones Gunn calls a “shame off you” session. Rather than sloshing in our guilt, wouldn’t it be grand if we had an honest conversation about what makes us feel guilty? The most likely response we would receive after our confession is “You’re kidding. That’s not an issue for me.” Ta-da! Absolution!
What makes you, as a writer, feel guilty?
How do you deal with it?
What do agents not tell clients? Click to tweet.
What agents wish their clients knew. Click to tweet.
Secret guilt in the author-agent relationship. Click to tweet.