Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sell Yourself

On a recent blog post one of the infamous anonymous comments accused me of being offended by an author’s belief that an agent does nothing more than submit material and negotiate the contract only because I didn’t want to actually have to sell myself or convince the author otherwise.

I know upon reading this I laughed out loud and I would imagine other agents did as well. The thought that we don’t sell ourselves to authors is ridiculous and only comes from someone who has never met with an agent at a conference or been offered representation. Every single time I make a call to offer representation I’m going into it with a sales pitch of sorts. I have never once called an author with the assumption that this was an easy “get.” Whether I’m the first agent offering or the fifth I know that my job is to convincingly tell that author that I’m the best agent for her.

The same holds true of any public interaction with authors. Sure, I write this blog and I try to remain as honest as possible, but if you don’t think I’m editing myself daily to ensure I don’t offend potential clients you’ve got to be kidding. And conferences? Conferences are all about looking my best, acting my best, and being “on” as much as possible. Every author I meet is a potential client, which means I need to show my best and most professional side. Have you ever sat in on a pitch session with me? One of the first things I ask authors is whether or not you have any questions for me. If you do, my goal is to sell myself.

If you’re a regular reader of the blog you’ll see posts I’ve done on how difficult it can be to lose out on an opportunity to win over a new client, and if you’ve ever read blog posts from other agents you’ll see similar posts. An agent’s job is to sell. We sell our clients and we sell ourselves. We sell ourselves to authors and we sell ourselves to editors. If I can’t convince editors that I’m a good agent I can’t convince them that I have good clients.

To assume that agents don’t have to sell themselves to potential clients is short-sighted, but also I think doing yourself a disservice. I’ve said it over and over and over on this blog: When you get an offer of representation the very first thing you need to do is leverage that offer as much as possible. Give yourself the chance to choose the agent you feel is best for you. Doesn’t that statement alone prove that I’m encouraging authors to ask agents to sell themselves?

And yes, this post is a bit of a rant, but after a while I get tired (as do many of the readers who honestly post, learn, and give constructive opinions) of the anonymous who feel they know so much more than the rest of us. I can understand where this business can get discouraging, but bitterness toward those who only want success for you is not going to help you succeed.