Friday, April 03, 2009

Agent win, agent fail - a client's perspective

So, I don't Twitter. One day I will, but not yet. :-) Not yet. But, regardless of that fact, I keep tabs on what's going down in the www as much as time allows. I'm sure you've all heard of queryfail, agentfail and the like, so no need to go there -- do a search if you need to 'cus I'm on a mission of another sort . . .

It has recently come to my attention (blame it on Book 1 revisions, Book 2 deadline, and my brain not firing on all cylinders) that my agent and I have been together just over a year now. Time has seriously flown by. Seriously. I have learned so much. More than I thought I would in all honesty. More about the publishing biz, more about relationships and interacting, and more about myself.

From a client's perspective (that's me) on what makes agent-win or agent-fail is quite simple (and this is about client/agent, not non-client querying and the like, though I hope this insight might give those out there looking some additional information to help make a good decision when it comes time to sign).

My experience into my second author/agent relationship, has led me to believe heartily that communication is the key to a win-win partnership. Not just 'communication', but the ability to communicate effectively. Besides having the industry know-how, desire, and contacts to sell your books, this is one of the most important aspects of the relationship, which swings both ways. My agent listens. Considerately. Now, she might correct my assumptions when necessary (which are more often than not), but she listens.

Someone who takes your call or email and doesn't make you feel as though you are cutting into their time, harassing them, or that your questions are trivial is someone who is forging trust and confidence in the writer and the relationship. And why is that so important? Because the minute an agent (or anyone for that matter) is snide with a person, continually puts a person off for long periods of time, or behaves as though your legitimate questions or comments are worthless, ridiculous, or whatever, is the minute that individual starts second guessing and starts feeling there is an unequal balance in the relationship -- the partnership.

You all know what I mean right? This attitude can be so subtle, but we pick up on it immediately. And you know what it does? It makes us hesitate the next time we need to make contact. Are we going to bother them, piss them off? Even a newly signed author and a long-time agent each bring a set of skills that the other does not have to make a whole partnership. You, the writer, brings the ability to craft a sellable piece of work, and the agent brings the ability to sell that piece of work. You are equals in the partnership, in which you both agreed to participate.

But, guess what? The client also bears responsibility in the communication department. It's not solely up to the agent to build your 'communication confidence'. You have to speak up. Also in a considerate manner. An agent can't help fix a situation unless you enlighten her/him. I've heard repped writers express how they are 'afraid' to bother their agent, to ask a simple question (and no, I'm not talking about goofy stuff like: "should I put a white rabbit in my book, 'cus they're really cute and I like them, what do you think?". I'm talking about normal business questions. Though, I have a feeling that if I did ask my agent that question she'd know I was joking, dissolve into laughter and respond something like: "Ooh, is it a white rabbit that can fly and shit rainbows over the city? Then yes, definitely include it in the book.") 'Cus she's funny like that. :D Some clients have this 'afraid' mentality from the onset of the relationship. A great agent can do wonders here by listening and being considerate -- most of them understand that we are nervous and unsure in the beginning. But they can't hold us up indefinitely. In the end, this is our career. To put it in the hands of someone we are afraid to talk to . . . not good. And the agent who fosters this 'afraid mentality', who consistently makes a client feel like a 'bother', and does not treat you on a human to human, equal partnership level? Not so good either.

It takes two people treating each other with respect and with a mutual understanding of goals and what they want out of the relationship. Don't just get excited and sign with the first agent who offers. Talk. Talk about your goals, and not just in selling books, but how you want to communicate and what kind of relationship you hope to have. Just bringing these things up and saying: "this is what I'd like for us, this is the kind of relationship I want to have with you . . ." -- can set the ground work for a great partnership.

So, I have a year + under my belt with my agent. She has sold my work, is my advocate and advisor. And I know I have asked her some ridiculous newbie questions and had understandings about the publishing world that were not totally accurate, but through it all she has been patient and available. And she knows how to laugh, isn't afraid to go to bat for me, and is quite frankly a very nice human being.

And that is all. So there you have it. My preachin' and ramblin' is done for the day. Oh, and happy belated anniversary to my agent of win. ;-)

P.S. Please do not turn my post into an #agentfail bonanza. (See agent Jessica Faust's blog for that). This is just my opinion and I wanted to share my insight into what I have personally learned from my journey. Thanks!

17 comments:

jonas wunderman said...

some useful advice there ... thanks, and good luck ...

Kelly Gay said...

Thanks, Jonas. Glad to hear it -- though I do believe I may have been just a teensy bit long-winded in my post. :D

Jax Cassidy said...

Excellent post! I totally adore my agent. I've stalked her for years knowing that she would be 'the one' and when she signed me on, I was thrilled! She's very maternal when I need it and she's a killer businesswoman. She makes me feel like I can ask her anything, and nothing is stupid. Your post is dead on because a good partnership is what you really need to have a successful long-term relationship in this business.

C.J. Redwine said...

Excellent post. :) Communication is very important. I knew what kind of person I would work well with and after speaking with my agent for over an hour on the phone, we were both totally confident that we were a good match. I'm so glad you've found a happy agent/client relationship too!

Kelly Gay said...

Thanks Jax and (*waving madly*) C.J.! It's a great feeling when you finally find the 'right one'. Good things tend to happen... ;-)

clindsay said...

Awwwww...thanks, pal!

The thing you forgot to mention is: YOU'RE A DAMNED GOOD WRITER! I would have had no reason to have a working relationship with you otherwise.

Food for thought. =)

(And happy anniversary!)

Kelly Gay said...

:D :D :D :D

Amy Atwell said...

You've hit so many things on the head. I'm meeting more and more authors who've parted company with their first agents--not because the agent was *bad*, but because the relationship between client and agent just didn't work. The lesson all these writers learned was how important it was for them to understand what they wanted from a client-agent relationship and to communicate that going in. I feel lucky that my agent and I (we're coming up on our first anniversary!) seem to remain on the same page. But we find that same page through consistent communication. Thanks, Kelly!

Susan Gee Heino said...

Right on, Kelly. I think when we're struggling as writers to snag an agent sometimes we throw business-sense out the window and feel like the starving orphan who should gasp at anything that comes our way. The truth is, not every agent is a good fit for ever writer. We need to put emotions on the side and consider things from a professional, business POV. I'm very happy with my agent and I do feel lucky to have her on my side--but I gave myself plenty of time to think before signing that contract! Good luck as you get through those revisions and that looming deadline!

John Baird said...

Hi Kelly, Great post. I'd love to follow your blog, but unless I'm mistaken, follow/RSS isn't available. Am I wrong? Please advise. Thanks!

Theresa Ragan said...

Your agent sounds like a lot of fun! I agree, everyone should feel free to speak up and ask questions of their agent. I'm sure their agent would agree.

Thanks for the insightful post, Kelly!

Kelly Gay said...

Amy & Susan -- you gals are the best for stopping by! Thanks for adding your comments, too. :)

Hi John! You have pointed out something that totally went over my head. THANK YOU! I added a link to my sidebar. Just let me know if, for some reason, it doesn't work.

John Baird said...

I've subscribed! Thanks for adding and blogging.

Kelly Gay said...

Oh cool! Glad to have you aboard, John. :D

Hi Theresa. Yep, she has a great sense of humor. It's a nice foil to my constant state of worry and stress. 'Cus, ya know, we writers tend to, um, stress. A lot. I'm sure you know all about that. ;-)

Kit Wilkinson said...

Hey Kelly,

I think communication is important in any working relationship!!!

And twitter...I don't do that either and frankly I just don't get it. Maybe it's just me but i don't need to know where everyone is at every minute of the day:-)

Kit

pseudosu said...

Kelly- come hang out on twitter! Don't you need another way to screw off at work-- I mean network with other writer types? :D
Thanks for the post. I suspected the relationship is vastly different once you are signed, but it's good to have the confirmation. (Still in the stalking/ waiting phase myself.)

Kelly Gay said...

Thanks Kit and Sue!