Thursday, November 03, 2005

My thoughts on Agents

A few days ago, Miss Snark posted that if a best selling author turns in a subpar book, neither her agent or her editor will tell her that the book is bad, because the author will fire the agent, buy back her contract, and find a new agent & house that will tell her she's great.

The more I think about this statement, the more it upsets me. I count on my agent and editor to be my guides. To fight for me, but to also help grow my career. If I can't depend on them to tell me when my book needs work, who can I count on? It doesn't matter if you have the highest profile agent in the industry--if she won't be your conscience and your guide as well as your advocate, you have nothing. A great agent/author relationship is a two way street. It's not a one-way trip down Admiration Lane. If my agent didn't stop me from making bad decisions, then what am I paying her for? So she can stand back and let me crash and burn? No way.

But I guess that's me. Some people simply want an agent who gets them money and then gets out of their way. Not me. I'm not an idiot. I don't have delusions of grandeur that I can succeed on my own. I know I need a partner, a team, and it starts with my agent.

Any good agent can sell a good book.
Any good agent has contacts with editors.
No agent is flawless in every way. No person is flawless. It’s what makes us human.
But a great agent can make every author feel like the most important one in the world.
A great agent has boundless energy and enthusiasm
A great agent truly cares and lets her clients and editors know it.
A great agent can drive a client’s career forward through her belief and conviction in that client.
A great agent has the kind of relationship with her authors that allows for frank discussions about an author's career, books and decisions.
A great agent can deliver tough love when necessary, and a great author gets down on her knees and thanks her agent for it.

Editors can sense that enthusiasm that a great agent has for her authors. That commitment. That belief. That relationship.

Editors respond to it. It makes a difference. It gets an author to the computer every day to fight for her career. It gets an author to keep her chin up when the rejections roll in with reckless abandon. It makes an editor sit up and listen, even if no other credentials are on the table. It is what makes the relationship continue to prosper and grow over time, no matter what little blips in the road might appear. Industry contacts can be made and improved. Contract expertise can expand over time. Negotiating leverage builds with each sale to a house. These things build over the years, over the decades.

This other? The intangible? It’s there or it isn’t. If you don't have it with your agent, demand it, and be grateful when you get it.


At 6:50 PM, Blogger Heather Davis Koenig said...

Ooh, Stephanie -- Your post caught the eye of Miss Snark. Check out her response where she basically says that authors like you are upholding the integrity of the publishing system. No one wants to read an awful book.

BTW, sounds like you have a great relationship with your agent and editors. That's priceless. :)


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