Wednesday, October 26, 2005

An Agent's View: Wicked Witch of the West vs Glenda the Good Witch

Agent Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary talks about being nice in this tough industry.

Yesterday I received a fun email from a friend – the task was to describe her in one word and to send it back so she could see what others thought about her. One word! That’s a toughie…

Because she taxed me with such a difficult, mind-numbing task (how do you describe an amazing person with just one word??), I’m going to pass the buck to you. Only, for kicks and giggles I want you to describe yourself the way that you think others perceive you to be.

I’ll go first –

How do others see me? SWEET.

Sweet? Personally, I love that. But, professionally, is that how I want others to view me? Aren’t agents supposed to be sharks? Intolerable? Relentless and ruthless? Does being sweet actually mean that I’m a lesser negotiator? That I don’t fight for my clients? That I’m a doormat to be walked on? That I’m less of an agent because I’m not snippy all the time? I DON’T THINK SO! In fact, I hope people think that I’m nice. Yes, you heard me - nice.

Why is it that in today’s business world that the general feeling is that a woman needs to be borderline aggressive and witchy in order to be taken seriously? Why is it that being “nice” is viewed as being weak?

Whatever happened to the Golden Rule? “Do unto others as you would others do unto you.” Ever since I learned that rule in elementary school, I’ve done my best to live up to that wonderful advice. I’m a firm believer that “you can catch more flies with sugar.”

Last week a very popular blogger asked if Agents and Editors can be friends. In my opinion – most definitely. I work with editors daily that I would consider professional “friends.” They ask about my family and share details about their own. They are people I love to hang out with at conferences and lunches in New York. If I’m having a bad day, I know I can count on them to cheer me up even just by talking about business.

Let’s take it one step further. What is the key component to any “friendship?” Trust. I trust the editors that I’m working with to do the best that they can for my authors. And, I will call them on it if I think there is more that can be done. Bottom line – I work for my authors and I will fight tooth and nail for them. On the flipside, I want the editors to know they can trust me. When they see a package from me come through, I want them to know it will only be top-quality material and when a deal is done, it is crucial for them to know that I will be upfront with them on all matters.

Would you respect a “friend” who lied to you? Or cheated? Or misrepresented themselves? Or course not. Would you hang out with someone who is bossy, arrogant or rude? In this business, being a successful agent oftentimes is dependent on character. Would an editor WANT to do business with you? Or, would they shudder every time your phone number pops up on the caller ID?

Although I’m not in this business to make friends, I’m not in it to make enemies, either. When editors hear my name, I hope words like smart, savvy, fun, good-eye-for-talent, tough-negotiator, reliable and organized come to their minds. But, you know, if sweet or nice comes first –well, I’ll take it.


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