Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Referrals from Clients

In my post A Different Way of Doing Business, a lot of discussion occurred in the comments section about the referring author’s responsibility and how I dealt with my client if a “bad” referral came in (for lack of a better word).

The minute you get a book deal, heck, the minute you get an agent, people are going to come from everywhere asking you to get them in the door with your agent. It’s natural, it’s normal, and good for them. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the business world it’s that the phrase “it’s not what you know, but who you know” really is true. Almost inevitably this means a client will come to me to say that Author J wants an introduction, she’s never read her work, but passed along my name. What I always say is that’s fine. No author, no family member, and no friend should be responsible for weeding out my submissions and I don’t judge my authors on the referrals they send or the number of authors who come to me using their names because they are in critique groups together or met at a conference.

I’ve gained a number of great clients through referrals, just signed one up as I’m writing this, in fact. I’ve also passed on a lot of material. You never know what will hit and I appreciate that my clients respect me enough and have enjoyed working with me enough to think my name is worthy of passing on. In my experience, clients will sometimes ask what happened with that other author, but rarely are they invested enough to get upset if I pass and never do I volunteer the information to the client.

What it comes down to is no one is responsible for your work, your career, and the way you present yourself but you. Once the introduction is made it’s up to the author who received the referral to close the deal, so to speak. No one else can do that for her.



Lexi said...

I've never asked my writing friends with agents for an introduction, assuming the request would not be welcomed by either the writer or his/her agent.

I'm pleasantly surprised by your post. Do other agents feel the same way, and is it different in the UK, I wonder?

Erika Marks said...

Since getting a book deal, I have had several family members and friends reveal their hopes of writing a book and have asked for any advice/links I might give on the process, which I am thrilled to be able to provide, having been the beneficiary of so many resources over the years myself.

So far no one has asked outright, or even hinted, about securing an audience with my agent, and I suspect that is because, as you pointed out, Jessica, all the referrals in the world are only as useful as the work being submitted behind them.

Happy Jackass said...

I've had a number of people ask me for referrals to my agent. Early on, he said it was okay by him since he largely worked by referrals. So I gave them.

In my own life, referrals have never done me any real good, except maybe get me crappy jobs. Personally I don't believe in them, because you're doing someone a favor and that favor inevitably doesn't turn into anything and ultimately that can create some friction.

But I do religiously believe in giving people information. And I think for this particular biz we're in, the freer the flow of information, the better it is for everyone.

But I think it is also important to dispel the myth that referrals really make any real difference. They don't. Agents are looking for good writing that they can sell for a lot of money. If you can write a query letter that SINGS, they'll wanna play.

That is all that matters, people!

There is a book out, has been reviewed in the Washington Post and NYT called MENTOR. both reviews prominently portray the moment when the great mentor offers to connect the author to the greatest fricken literary agent of the century. "I'll make the call this morning!" he says. And the author does get her as her agent, except she promptly hands him off to her underling and what follows is a tale of woe!

Screw the whole stoopid referral system, if you could even call it that. Make you own way!

Noelle Pierce said...

This comment isn't on the post, per se, but about your attitude in general. I love it! You're one of the most laid-back agents I follow, and actually got to see you at RWA when you were on the Queryfest panel. I was impressed by your willingness to see a query letter again if the book had been revised significantly (and your statement, "What's the worst that could happen? I say no again," really stuck with me when the rest of the panel seemed to be saying "No, don't send it."). I just wanted to comment and say how much I appreciated seeing someone who took it in stride and seeing how adaptable and open you were--even before the coffee kicked in. *grin*

Florence said...

Thanks. I learned a lesson last year. It hurt, but at least it taught me a valuable lesson.

I had someone open the door for me with a New York agent, who of course, shall remain nameless. Based solely on the referral the agent requested ... the same day ... the first fifty pages.

The lesson. If the work is not ready, you blow a good thing. I could have waited and didn't.

This was an agent I had on my "wish" list. I would be reluctant to write to this agent again.

Malia Sutton said...

I just tell people I don't make referrals...ever.

I keep it simple, and I never get into trouble :)

Gabriela Lessa said...

This is quite surprising information. I always felt asking for a referral would be seen as nagging and would make both the agent and the agented author uncomfortable. Good to know it's not a tabu.

Kate Douglas said...

I have referred a number of people to Jessica, but rarely have I read their work first--in fact, I have a notice on my website that I'm represented by Jessica Faust of BookEnds with a link to her site. I certainly don't expect her to sign someone just because I sent them to her, though!

On another note, regarding the constant requests I get from readers wanting me to help them get published--no. No one can help you get published--you do it the hard way by writing a good book and learning the ropes and submitting a decent proposal. And if I get another request for help written in text speak, I promise to respond in kind: U R 2 DUM 1ST LRN 2 SPEL

Makes me wonder if Jessica ever gets those!


Sheila Cull said...

I'd love to know if you get more writer's from referrals or more from an un introduced query. Hmmm.

Julie20201 said...

I'm still on the other side of still trying to find a literary agent, so I don't know what it's like to fend people off. Anyone wanna be my friend? :-)

The most I do is ask people for the name of their agent, as all the lovely magazines suggest. The leg work then still lies in the hands of the newbie.

Agent hunting is a bit of a sport. I guess I've got the luxury of seeing it as such because I have a day job. Grats to all who have landed 'em though. I hope to join you some day.

Saranna DeWylde said...

Yeah, it was wild. As soon as I won that contest, everyone was wanting to tell me about the book they'd written, or the one they wanted to write. I'm a big fan of supporting my fellow authors, but I can't read them all. I'm still learning the ropes myself. In fact, someone sent me an email the other day asking how to get an agent. *I* don't have an agent yet. *laughs*

Vickie Motter said...

I'm an intern and future agent, and I have found myself giving more time and consideration to those people who have been referred by someone else.

Now, as a rule, since agents don't get paid and we just don't have the time, I don't give advice to people I reject. I'm curious to know if you feel the need to help those people out who have referrals? I find the need to be kinder and give a little free advice, but I just don't have the time!

Brittany Roshelle said...

This website is the most informative one I have found for new writers looking to break into the publishing world! Wonderful articles! Thanks!

J. Nelson Leith said...

It's funny, every time I see a writer whose blog I've been following publish that excited "I Got An Agent!" post, I feel like handing them an umbrella and a pair of rubber boots.

Get ready for the rainstorm, my friend. You're about to be surprised how many "friends" you suddenly have.