Monday, January 29, 2007

The Dream Client

So often I'm asked who my dream client would be, as if by knowing the answer it would be that much easier to get an agent or get published. The truth is that my dream client is the one who writes books I love and makes me a lot of money. But I know that's not the answer you're looking for. So who is the dream client and what can you do to ensure that status with me and other agents?

* Understand that this is a business. Know that the sale of your first book does not give you the right to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruit of your labor. Instead the dream client understands that that first contract is just the beginning and there's a lot of work still to be done.

* Communicate. I would so prefer the client who feels the need to call or email daily just to stay in touch than the one I never hear from. I can't be effective at my job if I don't know what your expectations are or even what you need in that moment.

* Publicize. I don't expect you to spend your entire advance on publicity and marketing, but I do hope that you are willing to get out there as much as possible to sell your book.

* Listen and learn, but not passively. Presumably you've hired me for a number of reasons, but the most important is to work with you to build a career. Therefore when you ask my opinion about what to write next, what we should be submitting or who we should be submitting to, I hope that you'll listen with an open mind. That does not mean that I expect you to sit quietly and do whatever I say, but I do hope that you'll give me credit for actually knowing what I'm talking about and that we can discuss any disagreements we might have and come to a middle ground. I also hope that you'll give me a chance to explain the reason for my decisions.

* Understand that I work for you, and not against you. Remember that the more successful you are, the more successful I am, so if I suggest that we not send out another book proposal right now or try to sell a fourth series, I'm not trying to hold you back. On the contrary, I'm trying to ensure that you have success with what you're doing and that you're able to focus on your current career. My job is to help you manage your career, and some of my responses might not be what you want to hear, but I'm also not the kind of agent who feels the need to pacify my clients just to make them happy. That's not in your best interest or mine.

* Move forward. I see this a lot. An author gets an agent or signs with a publisher and suddenly feels that everything she's ever written is publishable. Not true. My dream client isn't stuck in past, no matter how much she likes those stories, but is willing to let them all go and move on. That doesn't mean we can't discuss them or I can't read them. It just means that if I don't feel they are as strong as your current work, then you are willing to hear that. There is a reason I took you on or sold your current work and not the five stuck under your bed. Success moves forward, not backward.

And now it's your turn. What is your dream agent like?

—Jessica

22 comments:

Christine Wells said...

OK, now you're just fishing for compliments:)

Kimber An said...

Hmmm, I think can do all of them, but one will be a challenge. Communication. I would be in danger of being the client who never calls. I have a ghost from my childhood that says, "Don't be a pest!"

Dream Agent: Honest, good at her job, considerate of my feelings without emotionally pinning me to the wall (I need to adjust to big things in private), totally up-to-date on the market because it makes my head spin, and knows how to go after the Deal.

I have a hyperactive imagination, so I do have trouble focusing. It would be good to have an agent who could say, "Kimber, the market's hot for historicals. Throw one at me!"

Me: "Historical, historical, yeah, I got one rattling around in my brain in Heaps & Piles. Can it have a Time Travel element?"

Agent: "No."

Me: "Dang." Heavy sigh. "What about...what about...big green aliens in..."

Agent: "No."

Me: "Dang. All right, I'll Slash & Burn it."

Ella Enchanted said...

I think the most important thing is to be able to mix a personal and business relationship with your agent. There needs to be a strong bond of trust, and excellent communication. It's a meeting of minds, and it's mutually beneficial.

So I think that above everything that one usually looks for, I would love a trusting relationship with an agent. One that not only pats me in the back when I do good, but can criticize openly what I've done wrong, and bounce ideas off of in between.

God, I'm needy. :P

BookEnds, LLC said...

LOL Christine!

Actually I'm sincerely looking to hear about what authors are looking for. While I certainly can't be everything to everyone I am interested to know more about the type of agent authors see as ideal.

--jessica

Kate Douglas said...

Boy, Christine. You nailed THAT one! Actually, since Jessica is the only agent I've ever had and I love working with her, I imagine I'd have to say she fits the bill for the perfect agent. I can honestly say she's the only person I've ever worked with in any capacity where I DON'T feel the need to be in charge, and for a control freak like me, that's huge! The most important thing for me, as an author, is to have an agent I can trust to handle all the yucky business stuff of selling my books--the fact she's the one who represents me to the publisher takes me out of the "worry loop" and allows me the freedom to write. On a side note, I don't call every day, but Jessica deals with regular "ranting" emails from me. She's a lot cheaper than a therapist! (and probably has a much better sense of humor...)

Anonymous said...

I'm a multipublished author who has been through 3 agents. 1 I loved (left the agency) the other two I left.

Dream Agent - someone who sets expectations. I know agents are very busy. I'm very busy too. If at the beginning of the relationship the agent could let the author know up front - emails are answered in 2-3 business days. Calls within 1 week. (Or whatever the schedule) that would really help.

I think most agents would say that they do this. That they communicate in a timely fashion with their clients... while I can find just as many writers who say they left their agent because they were ignored.

And to an extent I get it. Agents are going to spend time with the authors generating the most sales and $$. That's business. If the author knows where they fall on the priority list - they may be less likely to stress when things take longer for them.

Or they can choose not to have an agent who ranks them at the bottom of his/her list. At least this way - everyone is up front with one another.

2readornot said...

definitely the dream agent is one who does have my career in mind -- one who knows the market well and whose suggestions are based on that knowledge rather than guesses (because I have plenty of those on my own). I love the idea of regular/daily/weekly communication -- I love e-mail, and I'd really struggle with an agent who didn't like that form of contact (I say this because I have a very reputable and talented agent currently considering my work who doesn't really like e-mail -- and I have another agent, who clearly loves it, also considering...wouldn't it be bizarre for it to come down to something like that, IF I actually ended up having to choose?).

lainey bancroft said...

An agent who wants to build a long term, mutually beneficial business relationship. Who is willing to receive emails AND phone calls to keep the lines of communication open. Who does not assume I can sell my house and my first born to travel coast to coast with a truck filled with books and promotional items. An agent eager to share their opinion and insider information about market trends...I MUST be dreaming! :)

On a serious note, I'd say ella enchanted summed my thoughts up quite well. An ideal writer/agent relationship for me would be a level of trust and communication where I felt I'd been well advised--not criticized--if I was advised to put an ms under the bed.

The only other thing I'd add is I hope to strike a relationship with an agent willing to keep me apprised of the steps he/she takes. The submissions and reasons they were well--or not well-- recieved. I've heard horror stories of authors not hearing back for ages only to discover a year after the fact they'd been rejected by x number of publishers. I have to think there must have been a glimmer of information somewhere along the line the author could have used to improve their craft while they waited.

December Quinn said...

Can't add much to what's been said. My dream agent wants to help plan my career. My dream agent is interested in my ideas and wants to help bring them to fruition. My dream agent is excited when I'm working on something new and can't wait to read it. My dream agent offers feedback and helps me polish my book (my DA doesn't see a first draft, of course, but will help me on the final).

My dream agent drops me an email or calls me every month or so when I'm working, to see how things are going. My DA is also available if I email or need to talk. I don't expect my DA to spend hours on the phone with me or to be my best friend, but it would be nice if they behaved as if they actually like me. I don't need my hand held, but the occasional "I love this idea" or "Your work keeps getting better!" wouldn't go amiss. Writing is a pretty solitary business, and it's nice to get compliments (I'm generous with mine, so my DA will never feel unappreciated by me.) My DA also has a bit of a snarky sense of humor so we can share a joke together.

Most importantly, of course, my DA sells my work and gets me good money for it. The rest is negotiable, but you asked for Dream Agent and that's what I gave.

Terri Micene said...

This is a little off track. I found the shift between “getting” an agent and “having” an agent no less than tectonic. Earth-changing, planet-shifting, world-colliding.

Getting an agent is not easy. We spend years agonizing over not just the perfect first three pages, but the manuscript package, and the amount of postage and the weight of the paper. We spend years studying our prey. She accepts mystery. Hey, I like the Gilmore Girls, too, but not last season. Maybe I should get a dog. We spend years sidling up to agents at conferences, pitch memorized, simpering about our wonderful manuscript.

We have been on the hunt for you, the Agent. Forever. You are the mythic creature pursued in dreams, that we need to ensnare. To conquer. To vanquish.

Please forgive us if we don’t know quite what to do with one when we get one!

A dream agent has to love books (an authors!)and be able to navigate through the business end of the business. I'm glad, Jessica, that you are able to wear those two hats so well.

Kimber An said...

I didn't spend years and years trying to land an agent. I spent those years just writing stories that I loved. I thought it was a hobby, but in reality I was developing my 'voice.'

But, that's just me. We all travel this road differently, I think.

Maprilynne said...

Terri, you are so right!

I'm in that transition right now and I do have my dream agent.

But I didn't know just what that meant until I got it.

I didn't think I wanted my dream agent to help me polish my manuscript till I was seriously ready to scream.

I didn't think I wanted my dream agent to "connect" with my work. Really. I was much more interested in an agent who connected with the marketability of my work. It has been a dream working with an agent who really, no really, gets my book. Now don't get me wrong, she gets the marketability too, but what a kick-ass bonus!

I also took a while to really appreciate that I am not my agent's first priority. Don't get me wrong, she *always* answers my e-mails, and has told me her phone is always open to me,m but she doesn't answer me in five minutes. I know she doesn't sit around waiting with bated breath for my e-mails , like I do for hers. But you know what? That's good. It means she's giving plenty of time to her old and established clients too--and that's what I hope to be someday.

She doesn't like all of my revisions. And let me tell you, when she's right, she's totally right. But it's frustrating till you realize just how beneficial it is.

So do I have my dream agent/ Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!!

Is it everything I thought it would be? Absolutely not.

Is it better?

Yeah.:)

Maprilynne

Karin Tabke said...

Dream agent requirements?
Well, other than the obvious, for me it's about mutual trust. I have that with my agent, and well, we just get each other. She loves my work, I love her style. I expect her to work for me, she expects me to produce. When she doesn't love something, she says so. I'm not the type of author who needs her hand held, but I do like to know if I need it, she will do it, lol, or roll her eyes and tell me to get a grip.

spyscribbler said...

You did say 'dream agent.' Am I hoping for too much? I don't mind reality checks, and a realistic agent doesn't need *all* these qualities.

Someone who:
* I click with.
* Has my back, side, or front.
* Wants to sell my career more than my book.
* Loves making deals AND making books.
* Is smart about what makes a book work (or not work).
* Is willing to read everything before it goes out forever and ever.
* Would never be inclined to think anything was good 'enough.'
* Is up front and clear about what they expect and want.
* Is professional, yet can be friendly.
* Is positive, and is a person I genuinely like and respect.
* Likes and respects me, too.

Most importantly, I want an agent who doesn't mind the worst of me (that they'll see). I tend to weigh any and all sides and possibilities before making any decision. I want an agent who understands that I'm not questioning their judgement when I annoyingly seem to ask about all options, scenarios and possibilities. I may even agree with them and will definitely whole-heartedly respect their opinion as more knowledgeable than mine. I just like to discuss and learn what I don't know and make sure we haven't forgotten anything in our considerations.

Jackie said...

Ohhh, the dream agent would begin and end with the word "Honesty". Honety used in two huge areas. One that "our" (we are a team earning) money, is safe, accounted for properly. The second Honesty is the honesty to tell me when I write slop, honesty to listen when I say that I don't like what is happening, and the honesty to realize that I've never done this before and need to have some thing explained, not assumed that I have ever bought a clue about the publishing world and to honestly tell me to be patient this will work.

EGP said...

As I near the end of the editing process of my first novel, my thoughts on this topic have been only fleeting. However. . .
(I know, avoid one word sentences and ellipses)

Above all, I'd say I want competence. By that, I mean the ability to sell my work, and the ability to tell me what I need to do to assist in the process. I want an agent who treats me as a professional and who acts like one her/himself. That's not say either of us are perfect or will not make mistakes, but I definitely will lean towards someone methodical and organized over someone who has success in spite of some lack of these characteristics.

I take a slightly different view of the business side of writing than many of the writers whose comments I have read on the subject. I am absolutely looking forward to the submission and publishing process with relish. That includes the inevitable rejections. Of course there will be some level of personal discomfort in a rejection, but what growth ever occurred without risking rejection? Putting myself "out there" for both the risk and the rewards of writing does not stop when I've completed my draft. It is in fact just beginning at that point.


So I don't need my dream agent to help motivate me, or to buck me up during a process that is admittedly the antithesis of sitting down and pouring out 5000 words in a sitting. Whether it's this novel, my next novel or my tenth novel that winds up being my first one published, I am able to take care of the motivation part myself. It's the career advice, the objective viewpoint, and above all the ability to sell my work that I need. Agents are in business to sell books, and when I am talking about one of my completed manuscripts, I am in a sense in the exact same business.

Aside from competence, which includes things like decent communication and professionalism that are part and parcel of competence, of course I'd love to have an agent that I got along with on a personal level. An agent whose well-being I cared about when I spoke to her/him and who returned the favor. But that really isn't critical if the business relationship works.

Anonymous said...

I had an agent for 2 years. She was a great person. Not so good an agent in my genre. I knew more than she did and after the third similar conversation concerning industry news that she'd never heard, I decided I was better off without an agent at least one who really wasn't very interested in learning the romance genre business. When she started dabbling in electronic publishing, I was very grateful I'd broken off the business relationship.

My first and foremost, dream-agent criteria is an agent who wants to be an agent, is happy being an agent, is good at being an agent, and has no desire to be a publisher or a published author.

I need an agent who can be so focused on her job that mine is easy because I don't have to think about agenting things and she doesn't have to think about writer things.

We each do our share and work as a team because no one gets published by themselves. It requires a tremendous amount of teamwork from agent/author to agent/publisher/editor/author and then everyone in between the beginning and the end result.

If an agent can deliver that with great contract negotiating skills and timely follow-up and updates, then that is my dream agent!

amy m said...

I'd like an agent who would honestly tell me if she didn't like something, but more importantly, WHY. And wouldn't make me feel like an idiot if I didn't understand something. Also, one who would keep me in the loop about what's going on with my project. I, like kimber an, also have that shy ghost from my past saying, "Don't be a pest!"

And probably because of that shy ghost, I'd want someone that I clicked with on a personal level, that understood my work and what I am wanting to accomplish.

Pam said...

My dream agent takes all queries and submissions by email. I'm at the computer 16-18 hours a day and just don't have time to print, package, and mail a bunch of pages.

Other than that, pretty much everything you listed as what you are/do/expect.

Katharine Weber said...

I have my dream agent, Gloria Loomis, and she has represented me on my four novels and my new two-book contract. She is well-read, always takes the long view, and is the perfect cross between a mother hen and a barracuda.

thursawilde said...

I'm not too fussy. Dream agent? One who believes in me and finds me a publisher. Until I reach that plateau, everything else is a bonus!
thursawilde - unpublished.

Deborah Sias said...

As a first-time author, I would like an agent who was willing to really look at my work and tell me the truth. It's great to be praised but only if it's sincere. I need the truth up front.

Your site has really helped me understand some things that I hadn't even thought of before. I can tell you are passionate about your work because of the dedication you have put into this site. That kind of dedication is thrilling to me. I don't know if you will accept the kind of books we write but your enthusiasm for your own Self makes me want you as my agent. I'm going to guess that your attitude towards your work makes you unique in this field. Thank you for that.