Thursday, October 18, 2007

Client Responsibilities

I received an interesting question from a potential client yesterday. After asking some great questions about what she can expect from me as her agent, the writer then asked what her responsibilities were in our relationship. I thought this was a responsible and smart question, and one that gets overlooked.

The most important thing for me and I think most agents is that my client acts professionally. This means working hard and meeting deadlines. It also means being open to editorial guidance, though of course there will be times you disagree and will need to stick to your guns. It also means treating people with respect, and I'm not just talking about your agent. I also mean editors, publicists, book sellers, reviewers, and even readers.

Professionalism also means that you need to keep reasonable expectations. Publishing can move at a glacial pace, and there are also some archaic customs that should have been tossed aside years ago. Changes are being made, but it's a slow process and patience is absolutely required.


Josh said...

I'm curious about what you consider those archaic customs that should be removed. Working in a publishing ad/promo department, I certainly get a sense of how slow the industry can run at times, but are you talking about things like the full refunds bookstores get on returning unsold books, or is there something else you'd like to see removed and/or updated?

Josephine Damian said...

How about:

Don't call.
Don't call.
Don't call.

That seems to be message I'm getting from agents: they hate to get phone calls (I don't blame them cause I do to!)

How about be respectful to the gatekeepers: the agent's, editor's, publicist's assitants who are a terrific source of info and can be most helpful if you rightly acknowledge the importance of their role.

Jonathan Lyons said...

Josh - I'll try to address this in more detail in another post, but for now I'll just say that I think the entire business model needs to be re-evaluated. From consignment to out of print, cover design to marketing, there is a certain "don't rock the boat" attitude that prevails, to the detriment of authorship.

Robin S. said...

I'd be interested to hear more on this topic. "Don't rock the boat" is a tough one to fight, anywhere, but so often, it's worth the trouble.

Josh said...

*nods* I can see that perspective, yes. I think it also flows into the minds of writers (often new ones) who feel like they have to be entirely passive in the publishing process, otherwise they might offend the agent and editor by asserting themselves and thus ruin their chance of ever getting the book out. Should make a good discussion.