Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Dream Client

I’m often asked what my dream client would be, I think, primarily, from those hoping that when they do get an agent they can do nothing but make the agent happy. Well, just like all of you have different visions of what your dream agent would be and do for you, I think all agents have different visions of what a dream client would be.

I think there’s no doubt that there are probably some attributes about my dream client that have changed over the years, probably even since the time I first started writing these types of posts for the blog. That will be no different for you as an author. What you envision your dream agent to be like now, as an unpublished author, will change as your career changes. Those of you who have had agents and are back in the search again probably have very different criteria for what you’re looking for than you did the first time around. Those of you still with agents probably find that the criteria you had when you first signed with your agent had none of the things that you are (hopefully) thankful she does for you now.

Before I get into what I want out of a dream client, let’s clear up a little about what I don’t care about or expect. I don’t expect a client to be perfect and I don’t expect her to be a lemming. In other words, I don’t want her to blindly follow my lead and agree to everything I say. I don’t want her to yes me to death or hide when things go wrong for fear that I might get angry. In other words, the very first thing I want from my dream client is a feeling of freedom to be as open and honest as need be. When it’s wonderful, fantastic news I want to hear you squeal over the phone; when it’s the last thing you want to hear and you’re not sure you can take another round of revisions, I want you to call and vent and scream and let your frustrations out; and when you just need to spend time talking about revisions, ideas, concerns, or career goals I really want to be as involved as you want me. In other words, I want an open line of communication.

In exchange I want you to want honesty from me. I don’t want to feel like I have to couch my opinions when you ask for them. If you want my honest thoughts on your next book I’m going to give them, whether or not you want to hear them. If you want my honest thoughts on the direction you see your career going I want you to be able to hear what I have to say and not just listen and ignore later. Most important, though, my dream client will respect my professional opinion. It doesn’t always mean we’ll see eye-to-eye of course, but hopefully you’ve hired me because you’ll trust me to guide you and tell you the truth.

The last thing that popped into my head when I thought about the dream client, and I think one of the things authors should expect from dream agents as well, is the need for flexibility. Publishing is not a straight line and it’s not a circle either. It’s a series of bumps and bruises, hills and valleys, and for an author to really succeed she needs to have flexibility. She needs to be ready to shift her goals and change directions, sometimes with the market and sometimes because publishers and readers decide it for us. I’ve seen mystery authors become romance authors and romance authors become fantasy authors. I’m sure for many it wasn’t where they saw themselves, but it was where life led them, and because of the ability to be flexible and follow a new path they’ve been able to achieve the success they wanted, just not in the way they expected.

I don’t think there’s any set list of who the dream client is or what she’s like, there’s no such thing as perfection. What we can do to make a relationship work is be honest, communicate, and be the best we can be.

Jessica

17 comments:

LynnRush said...

Right on. I really think honest communication is the main thing. Without it, so many things just fall apart. Great post.

Heather Snow said...

The more I read your posts, the more I like your attitudes and professional philosophies.

Honest, open communication with shared joy/frustrations and mutual focus on career.

Sounds dreamy to me :)

Nice post.

Falen said...

all the things you listed for a dream client were at the top of my list for a dream agent.

Piedmont Writer said...

I hear ya!

DebraLSchubert said...

I just signed with an agent, and for all the reasons you listed. She's open-minded, strong, flexible, honest, and supportive. I can reach her when I need her, which is important to me. We're off to a great start, and I feel so blessed.

Your blog and interest in my work has been an inspiration along the way, and I thank you for that. Your support for writers is truly special. ;-)

Lisa Dez said...

Any successful relationship requires open communication. That’s no different in a business relationship, but it’s always good to be reminded. I’ve read the posts from authors who are afraid to talk to their agents for fear of irritating them and getting “fired.” My agent is very open and communicative. In exchange, I do my best to only bug her when I have something that needs to be worked out. (Not every time I’m stressing over something that she has no control over—like waiting on editors.) We email back and forth several times a week and talk on the phone when needed.

Donna Gambale said...

I'm a huge fan of honesty and communication, and I'm glad there are agents out there who find it equally important!

Robena Grant said...

"Say what you mean to say, say what you mean to say..."

Okay, I'll stop singing now. Communication is a two way street and when you have that in a relationship (marriage, workplace, business) it makes the journey so much easier.

james said...

All good relationships are based on trust and honesty. There is brutal honesty and courageous honesty and knowing when each is appropriate is very important. This holds true in all relationships.

Voidwalker said...

That's amazing, it sounded like you were writing about me **blush** hehe. Just kidding.

I honestly hope that if/when I land an agent they are straight forward like this.

Anonymous said...

Dream agents are ones who can offer sound advice and don't keep you waiting forever for their responses to mss., queries and e-mails. Plus they sell your books for big bucks and help promote it on their websites and blogs!

Anonymous said...

Basically, I expect two things from my agent -- be reasonably accessable and get my material to potential buyers in a way that will make them most receptive.

I don't need emotional or moral support from an agent. If they can provide editorial feedback great, but that's not what I want.

And realistically, a writer-agent relationship will depend on success. If you can't sell my work, your enthusiasm will wane for me. And I might start looking around for another agent for the next project.

I've had a few agents, and it's important to remember while you might become friendly, it is first and foremost a business relationship.

Jemi Fraser said...

Open and honest are always good starting points! :)

holly said...

a lot of people who need an agent would be happy to read this, it makes the authors learn in ways that make it easier for agents and the author to communicate:)

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks. I'm still dreaming of being anyone's client, but it's nice to know I'm dreaming in the right direction.

Steph Damore said...

I’ve seen mystery authors become romance authors and romance authors become fantasy authors. I’m sure for many it wasn’t where they saw themselves, but it was where life led them

This part really struck home for me as sometimes I think about writing in different genres. I freak out thinking that I have to write mysteries all the time. When that's not the case, especially since I'm not represented or published. Thanks for the reminder.

Mira said...

I want this type of honest communication in every relationship I have. If I had this with my agent, I'd feel very fortunate.

Thanks for the wonderful example, Jessica.