Thursday, June 09, 2011

Disappointment in a Client

I'd like to hear from one of the agents on the subject of not liking some of their clients' works. Does that make you wonder if you messed up signing the person? or can you still see the potential and feel the love even if you don't think the plot or idea is marketable?

You know, I’d be lying if I told you that agents never feel that signing a client might have been a mistake. It rarely happens, but it happens. Honestly, it usually happens because the client is miserable to work with, but that’s a blog post for another day.

I have received many books/proposals from clients that I didn’t like. In fact, not too long ago I had a conversation with a client in which she was laughing at how nice I was trying to be, but how obvious it was that I hated the book she had sent. She was right. And then we spent over an hour on the phone brainstorming new ideas and new directions for her book and, if I do say so myself, we came up with some brilliant ideas. And never once did I regret signing her.

This is exactly why agents are so picky when it comes to signing people. We need to feel passion not only for the book we’re reading but for the potential we see in an author, because there will certainly be times when we’ll see a project that we just don’t see working, but knowing what that author can do will propel us to keep working toward the next thing.



S.P. Bowers said...

I'm beginning to think signing an agent (or author) is akin to finding a spouse. You have to love their good points, be able to put up with their faults, and be willing to celebrate the good times and slog through the bad times.

Once Burned said...

S.P. Bowers, the converse is also true.

Unfortunately, we writers have very little real information to go on in making this selection. And usually very little choice.

Jessica Schley said...

This week I read the interview of Sarah Dessen in Writers' Digest, and she mentioned how she's given her agent four books that her agent turned back and said, "This isn't your next book."

I found that, and this, humbling and reassuring. I read these and think, "Ah. Even once I've landed an agent, I still don't have to be perfect or poop golden eggs. I just have to keep writing and be a pleasure to work with."

And that, to me, sounds very doable.

Thanks for this post!

Cynthia DiFilippo Elomaa said...

I agree the agent you sign hopefully is the agent you will be with for years so the match should be like finding a spouse, second half, or mentor.

Joseph L. Selby said...

@Once Burned:

And usually very little choice

I disagree. No one ever forces you to sign with an agent. Even if you get the one offer, you're still able to say no. Any feelings of "I have to" is completely fabricated by the writing. Saying no may mean you have to wait longer, but saying yes may be a worse choice in the long run.

Kate Douglas said...

One thing I've learned is that when I turn something in to Jessica and she asks me to revise A LOT, she's always been right. As a writer, I often have tunnel vision about a project. Having my agent look it over and suggest other ideas, or merely say, "It needs to be bigger," (and no, I still have no idea what that means, even though I appear capable of doing it)forces me to look beyond my own self-constructed tunnel.

I'm currently working on a proposal I've revised numerous times. I can feel the difference--the other times the chapters I wrote were good, but they didn't excite me. This time, it's hard to walk away from the project and I don't want to turn it loose long enough even to send it to my agent. That tells me something has finally clicked.

But, if I'm asked to do more with it, I will, because I trust my agent. That's huge in this business, but the trust thing works both ways.

Lise Saffran said...

I have had my agent dislike something I wrote and in retrospect, I'm happy he was frank with me. The novel I wrote immediately following was the one I sold! I'd much rather have the difficult discussion sooner, rather than later.

Kristin Laughtin said...

It's refreshing to read this, honestly. A lot of us don't think past that first novel, but when we do, I think there is a certain degree of fear that we'll get dropped if our agent doesn't like the second, or third, or fourth novel. It's good to know that some (if not all/most) agents will be frank, recognize their author's potential, and try to help the author make that novel work rather than giving up on the author.

Hypothetical: What if you recognize that the novel is fine, should sell, will appeal to the market, etc., but for whatever reason it just isn't to your personal taste? Do you try for revisions then or do you swallow your feelings and try to sell it like normal, even though you have less passion for it?

Elle Wright said...

Thanks for this post. As an author, I often wonder how an agent handles a second or third book he/she doesn't really fall in love with. It's good to hear that agents are willing to work with their authors to fine tune ideas. It goes to show that this relationship is one of the most important to an author/agent.

Stephanie Damore said...

This just reminds me that the agent/writer relationship is just that--a relationship. It's not just a business transaction.

Carrie Butler said...

Who knew anti-anxiety treatment could come in the form of blog posts? I always find these entries so candid and reassuring. Thank you! :)

Tricia Clasen said...

This was such a lovely and encouraging post. I adore the idea of an agent/author relationship that is both honest and symbiotic in a way.

I suppose it is like any other relationship in that a foundation of trust and respect yields great rewards.

Anna Banks said...

Ha ha, this just happened to me this week! I pitched an idea for a new book to my agent and the email that followed was full of compliments on my writing, and she's sure it would be enjoyable/snarky/funny, but that the market....and that's when I laughed. She rejected me in a the nicest way possible. And everything she said made sense. :)

Martin Kozicki said...

In reading the comments, it's interesting to see how some have touched on a personality conflict between author and agent, whereas others interpreted Jessica's post the way I did: a conflict between agent and submitted manuscript.

Sure, an agent and author won't always get along as people, and an agent won't always enjoy everything an author submits. Fact of life.

But I'd bet dimes to donuts that both agent and author are more productive when the pairing is genuinely amiable, and not just tolerated.