Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Several years ago, I wrote the blog post below because things were kind of, well, crazy. Actually, those circumstances inspired me to create several posts. Last week set new records for craziness, and I found myself re-reading those posts and thinking, Some things never change. Because those posts remain relevant (I know, having relived them ALL last week), I want to re-share them with you. I think you’ll gain insights into how agents, authors, editors, and publishers relate to each other and often cause each other to roll their eyes or pull out the Kleenex.
Now, join me behind the scenes of What Drives an Agent Crazy?
Every job has its drawbacks. You know, the stuff you’d just as soon not have to deal with but manage to plow through because of the inherent rewards in what you do. When I was an editor, proofreading was the do-I-have-to-do-this element of the job for me.
The Good Stuff
Agenting has plenty of rewards: working with clients for decades and seeing the long-term payoff for lots of dreaming and doing the hard stuff everyday; introducing a writer to the reading world; celebrating with clients when they hit the best-seller list or receive a notable award; reading lots of great books before anyone else sees them; and developing strong relationships with publishing colleagues (editors, other agents, marketing and publicity folks, the publishers themselves).
Okay, that’s the good news. Now for the bad. Agenting has its share of crazy-making scenarios.
An agent feels his insights were taken for granted when he offers significant feedback to an unrepresented writer on a manuscript that boosts the writing to the publishable level–and the writer chooses another agent. Hello, who brought you to this dance?
Sometimes an agent turns down your manuscript because it isn’t ready, or because you haven’t found your writing voice. But that agent might see enough promise, or finds the work close to being ready, or just plain likes you and spends time explaining to you elements that need to be addressed to move the work to the next level.
Yes, the agent understands the advice is free and that the writer isn’t obligated to come back to the agent after addressing the issues. The agent is owed nothing.
Writers Miss the Point
But in actuality, that agent might be very interesting in hearing from you again. Yet writers generally don’t go back to agents who have seen past material to ask if they’d like to take a look at something new or at the same work with major changes. The agent, who already is familiar with you and your writing, might well be the most receptive person to your work.
Writers aren’t considering that an agent who provides guidance is motivated not only by wanting to be helpful but also because of seeing promise in you and your work. To take those insights, implement them, and then hand the document to another agent, results in disappointment and even a tinge of sadness for the helpful agent.
I think it’s helpful for the writer to see this circumstance from the agent’s point of view. Giving that advice cost the agent something. Every phone call, every proposal reviewed, every manuscript read takes the agent away from current clients–writers who are making money for themselves and for the agent.
Avoiding Contributing to Craziness
Publishing relationships are like any relationship: Show respect for the other person’s talents, time, and knowledge, just as you would hope they show to you.
In what ways could agents show more respect to writers?
How could writers show more respect to agents?
What does it mean when a lit agent gives you feedback on your work? Click to tweet.
Are you taking advantage of a lit agent’s feedback? Click to tweet.