Friday, May 14, 2010
Someone To Watch Over You
Somewhere on the web this week, someone said, "An agent works for you. You're THEIR boss."
I can see, in this environment, where good agents have hundreds of queries coming in every week from wanna-be-best-selling authors, how such a statement could be liberating. Writers worry incessantly about landing their dream agents. They slave over query letters, and they polish their partials to as high a brilliance as they can muster. They practically stalk agents on blogs and Twitter and Facebook -- and then in person at conferences. They send out their queries with high hopes and and when they get nothing but rejections, some of that worry and hope blends into acid frustration.
And that's where statements like, "The agent works for YOU" come in.
Sure, technically, you make more money than the agent per deal, and technically, you could tell them where to put that high six-figure deal since lunch with Oprah wasn't included in the fine print. And technically, an agent can't sell anything you don't first produce.
Still, I'm reminded of that brokerage commercial, where the surgeon is giving instructions over the phone to the poor, hapless guy armed with a kitchen knife and a bottle of alcohol. Publishing is like that. You need expert advice. Unless you have a terrific working relationship with your editor (and sometimes EVEN if), D-I-Y representation is not the best option.
Saying that you're the boss of this operation might feel good, but it's like saying you're the boss of the criminal defense lawyer you've paid to get you off of a murder rap. You can bet if I'm ever unlucky enough to find myself in such a position (and I'll be completely innocent, I assure you), I'll not be telling my lawyer what I think he should be doing.
I can understand the frustration. Not only are there scam agents out there, ready to fleece you, but there are ineffectual, down-right sorry agents who aren't your best advocate. There are also agents who are great for some other author, but not you.
And then there are agents that are your match made in heaven. I know they exist, because my CP Tawna Fenske has a great one in Michelle Wolfson. And that's just one of the many happy agent-client relationships I've heard of over the years.
In such a dream match, they are your guides in this strange publishing world. They explain things to you, manage your expectations, submit when they're supposed to and to the editors they're supposed to, editors you may never have heard of, because they know the market and they know who's looking to buy what you might be offering.
They are your fierce protector. They'll go to bat for you when it comes to a crappy clause in a contract, a really gruesome cover on your book, or possibly an are-you-insane deadline.
Sometimes they become your friend. Not always. But sometimes.
But the good ones? Even if they're not your friends, they're your guardian angel.
And I wouldn't even attempt to boss a guardian angel. Here's hoping that all of you meet your very own guardian angel if you haven't yet, so you'll have someone to look over you.