In past posts, I’ve talked about getting an agent and choosing an agent. Today, I’d like to discuss maintaining a healthy author/agent relationship. I chatted with several agent friends of mine recently about what makes a good client and there was many an overlap. (Note to any Weed Lit client reading this. Most of these examples are from colleagues, not my own experiences… hence I am not pointing fingers :))
1. Send in Clean Copy*—I know there are agents out their who don’t edit (or, gasp, READ your work) but in my humble opinion, a good agent edits your work. However, we aren’t copy editors. If punctuation/spelling/grammar isn’t your strong suit, find someone who can read your work before you send it to your agent. A good client will have another reader in their life (a spouse, a friend, someone from their writing group) read behind them. It’s a sign of professionalism and just a general indicator that said client is thoughtful about his or her work and that what is sent in is as polished as you can make it. “I” asked a client recently to please send me her next novel and she said she wasn’t sending it until it was perfect and she could really knock my socks off. That was much appreciated. ***
2. Be Nice—This may be the most powerful thing a client can do for herself. You don’t have to be Pollyanna, or 100% agreeable, but a good client is pleasant to talk to, has manners and respect for other people’s time. This is not something that just affects the agent. “I” once had a client who was so unpleasant, demanding and negative that she not only put me off, but the editor as well. It’s one thing to frustrate your agent, but once you poison the waters with the editor, you are in trouble. Your editor is your in-house advocate–the person that will sing your praises from the rooftops to everyone from marketing and publicity to sales. Without her as your advocate, you are toast.
3. Be a Team Player—This kind of goes in tandem with #2 but a good client is ready and willing to work with her agent and, by extension, her editor and the rest of the team at the publishing house to make the book the best it can be.
4. Be Your Own Publicist—I have so much to say on this topic that I may devote a later post to it, but for the time being, a good client is someone that not only gets the importance of publicity but is also ready to roll up his or her sleeves to be a big part of the process. Sadly, publicity at publishing houses is not what it needs to be. Much of the work falls on the author’s shoulders, from following up with an in-house person to, frankly, securing publicity on their own. Some of “my” most successful clients are the ones who have gotten the lion’s share of their own publicity. Often times publicists are young, overworked, underpaid and inexperienced. And while the level of in-house involvement from publicist to publicist does vary from house to house (and “I” have had authors who have had good experiences with publicists securing press) the majority have been understandably frustrated. So, a good client not only gets this, but rather than sitting around and complaining about it (well, a good client has a relationship with his or her agent such that she is always free to bitch to her agent about this sort of thing) she figures out ways around a rather disappointing situation. [Read more…]