Thursday, July 05, 2007

My Favorite Client

Not too long ago I did a post on who my dream client is. Recently, though, I was asked what an author should do to become my favorite client, and while a lot of the traits are similar, there is also a distinction between dream client and favorite client because, honestly, they aren’t necessarily one and the same. I could have five dream clients, but only one favorite.

So I’ve put together a list of all of those things that make a dream client the favorite, and keep in mind, many of them are tongue-in-cheek and just lots of fun.

As a reminder, Favorite Client needs to have many of the same traits as Dream Client. She needs to:
  1. Write books I love and make me lots of money by doing so.
  2. Understand that this is a business and that making a business work takes a lot more than just a great product (although that is essential).
  3. Communicate. Telling me her hopes, fears, dreams, and goals helps make me more effective and helps us have a better relationship.
  4. Publicize her books.
  5. Listen to and learn from the advice I give, as well as feedback from her editor. Together we can work to build her career if we listen to each other.
  6. 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.
  7. Understand the relationship, that I work for you, not against you, and that we are team.
  8. Move forward, working on the next big thing instead of obsessing about all of those old projects under the bed.

In addition to all of that, of course, Favorite Client also offers the following:
  1. She is filled with endless brilliant and marketable ideas. I know that if one project fails her she’ll be ready with another for me. And each will be more brilliant than the one that came before it.
  2. She loves sending me small trinkets and reminds me constantly how great I am.
  3. Favorite Client is so much fun to be around that I can’t wait for lunch dates and plan the entire day around them. After all, Favorite Client is too much fun for just a short lunch.
  4. Understands that I have a life too. She doesn’t get angry at me for taking vacation or not answering emails on the weekend.
  5. She shares the good news as well as the bad and knows that I’m more than just a sounding board for her complaints about the publisher.

Is it necessary to be my favorite client for me to work hard for you? Nah. Does my favorite client change on a daily basis? Yes.

So how about you? I know what you want in a dream agent, but what would you want in your favorite agent?



Anonymous said...

I think my dream agent would work hard and make lots of money for both of us. That agent would be able to tell me whether the next project I wanted to work on she could find a place for. That way I wouldn't tilt at windmills.
My dream agent would realize that I have a life, too, and sometimes that interferes with writing, but that I always get back to it.
And my dream agent would understand that once in awhile I need my hand to be held, oh so briefly when I have those dark moments when I feel as if everything I write is crap or I dont' understand why an editor is not getting back to us.
And I'd like the dream agent to be fun, but it should still be a business relationship.

Dara Edmondson said...

My favorite agent would be the one who is honest with me about my ideas. She'd say, "That's a good idea, but to make it better, let's put the heroine in X situation."
She'd keep me informed of market trends and sell my books to great publishers and she'd answer my emails or calls in a reasonable amount of time. She'd understand and share my work ethic. She'd push me when I got stuck and she'd pat me on the back when I reached milestones of success.

JDuncan said...

Honestly, that's a difficult question to answer, never having had an agent before. One can speculate of course, and so I will :-)

1. Is hands on. I know some agents like clients who are trouble free and turn in those nice completed ms's that need little work, but I'm not one of those. I know one of my weaknesses is in the editing process and I'd want an agent willing to work at least some with me on that.
2. Honestly communicates what works and doesn't in plain and simple language. I like the 'no bullshit' approach to things.
3. In it for the long haul. My goal is to publish and to keep doing so. I want an agent with the same goals and the savvy to help make it happen.
4. Is a tough-assed negotiator. I want to know that beyond my writing interests, my agent is striving to get me the best damn deal possible under the given circumstances.
5. Get along with well. I don't need to be best friends with an agent, but I do want someone whom I can have a friendly relationship with, who doesn't mind hooking up at a conference to have a drink and bs about writing, life, etc.
6. Understands that I have four kids and a regular job, and until we make scads of money together, my writing is not the main thing in my life, and thus won't be cranking out three or four books a year.
7. Really likes my writing, even when I can't string two sensible words together.

There'd be more I'm sure, but the kids are up and about wanting some breakfast and my brain is still muddled.


Anonymous said...

I have my dream agent--and she's a Bookends agent, but I'm terrified of becoming the client from hell so I've tried not to bother her unless absolutely necessary. I'd love to talk to her about my aspirations, etc., but she's very busy and ... see above.

I feel like a wimp--or perhaps an abused animal. My former agents had little or no time for me, and I tried not to contact them unless I had real concerns. It still feels odd (and wonderful) that when I have a question, my agent contacts me within hours. I don't want to jinx myself by being a nuisance to her.

Kimber Li said...

1) Personable, courteous, and optimistic. (No cynics who are only nice to people who make them money.)

2) Knows what she's doing and goes after it.

3) Has her finger on the pulse of the business, so she can give me excellent advice on how to proceed.

That's all I can think of for now. I'm only on my first cup of coffee.

Kimber Li said...

Oh, I thought of another one! Probably the most important one.

4) Respects readers. Readers are not idiots who will take whatever we dish out. They're intelligent, sensitive human beings who lead busy, stressful lives. Good books mean a lot to them. I was rather stunned to hear an agent speak of them otherwise. How could I rely on her for guidance? I can't. I won't.

Josephine Damian said...

I'd like an agent who doesn't act like they're doing me a favor just because they return my call.

I'd like an agent who "goes both ways" :-) - one who can broker book and screenplay deals for me in NY and LA.

I'd like an agent who understands that there's a time for writing the next book and a time for promoting the current book, and that that is NOT the same time.

Kate Douglas said...

Must remember: buy trinkets.

Anonymous said...

A favorite agent:
*would love to hear from me every day
*would always sell my books for tons of money
*would be fun to talk to about anything
*would make it clear she enjoys me
*would always be excited about my ideas, even if we have to shelve some of them...:)

Robin Lemke said...

My favorite agent would be committed to my career with me for the long haul - wouldn't mysteriously not return calls or e-mails suddenly. Would basically be an easy person to work with. I'm afraid of a secret code of agents. The writer does something wrong (sends a gift, doesn't send a gift, e-mails back too quickly, etc.) and you're out!!

Reid said...

My Dream Agent is someone who won't refer to me as "she" all the time. I hope we can work that out one of these days.

Seriously, though, I need my Dream Agent because I don't know the business. I grew up as a storyteller, not a publisher. I'm a writer, a creator, and a funny guy. That's what I do, whether it's writing, radio, tv, or stand-up. I need someone who can communicate with me how to take the next step. My Dream Agent talks to me about where my career is going, and guides me towards projects we can both benefit from.

I don't want to live in New York. I just want to keep writing. My Dream Agent helps me do that.

And then we both get paid and go out for milkshakes.

loralee said...

anonymous 8:41 said she's terrified of becoming the client from hell. Well, so was I until I realized communication is a vital part of the dream agent/dream client equation. Don't be afraid to let your agent know your honest feelings. How else can she/he help you? If your agent believes in your work and you believe in her ability to do what's best for your career, then you've got a win/win situation.
And yes, I'm fortunate to have a BookEnds agent, too. Thanks, Kim!

Writer, Rejected said...

Oh dear. In no other business would this kind of conversation occur. It's what makes publishing so amazing and satisfying and yet often so twisted.

Anonymous said...

My "favorite" agent would be ferocious on my behalf, lucky, classy, honest but not cruel, psychic and telepathic. She/he would have a "Michele sense" and know when I need a compliment or an encouraging word and when I needed a kick in the butt to snap out of self pity and get working. My favorite agent would never make me feel unimportant or stupid or "not as good as..." And they would try to keep other people from making me feel that way too (that's where that kind word comes in.) She/he would know when I'm just tired, or distracted, when I'm making excuses and when other parts of my life really are interfering so I need patience, not prodding.

Adrienne said...

Well my agent is definitely also my dream agent. I hope there is an element of dreamy-ness in me as a client. Maybe if I ply her with some drinks . . .

Anonymous said...

My favorite agent would be committed to my career with me for the long haul - wouldn't mysteriously not return calls or e-mails suddenly.

I've done my best to be a "good client" in the past year--contacting my agent only when necessary, presenting a proposal for a new book (which she liked), selling a few short stories, being polite and appreciative.

Unfortunately book didn't sell, and now my agent ignores my emails. It's discouraging and frustrating. I've heard this same story from other writers.

Why does this happen? How can we tell if an agent is going to treat us this way down the line? Is there something we should or shouldn't do to prevent a relationship breakdown? And how many chances do you give an agent? I'm not sure I should bother sending my agent the completed manuscript--maybe a contract cancellation letter would be a relief to her.

Please, BookEnds, if you can shed some light on this issue, I would greatly appreciate it.

Lorelei said...

I've had the dream agent. Great guy, still a friend, tragically leaving the business to go to film school. Here is the #1 trait that made him a great agent:

He trusted his own opinion. When he sent out my work, and someone didn't like it, he did not suddenly stop liking the work. This had been the pattern with previous agents. Not with the dream agent. He understood that people could have varying opinions. His own taste did not depend on the taste of others. He knew himself. This is such a rare quality I can't even tell you.

Anonymous said...

Coming from a corporate marketing background, I'm extremely proactive and value open communication. My dream agent would be equally proactive with communication being key to success.

I don't want to worry that I'm bothering my agent. If I have a question, I want to know that I can pick up the phone and call to ask my question. Even if she can't speak with me at length about my question immediately, I know she'll get back to me quickly to discuss it. I'm looking for a close partnership with my agent.

Helen DeWitt said...

I read an interview of Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, in the Financial Times a few weeks ago. Immelt: If I have to ask the perfect question to get an answer, you don't work for me.

The FA is someone who gets it.