and working with an agent is a lot
like dating. From what I remember about that process, a successful
relationship is more than hooking up with somebody who looks good, has
a great personality, and is a lot of fun. It’s about having common
interests, liking and wanting the same things, just plain getting
along. And I won’t go off into falling in love—there isn’t enough space
in this whole magazine to do justice to that one.
But as in dating, just because
someone is an awesome agent doesn’t
mean they are right for you. During pitch sessions at conferences, I
like to point to a wall and say, “The publishing industry is like that
wall, but I can’t work that entire wall, so maybe I work where that
window is.” Maybe some other agents work the window next to it. Maybe
they overlap a lot, but chances are they are different.
You see, agents don’t generally
sell to publishing houses; they sell
to editors with whom they have an established relationship. And they
stand a better chance of selling a manuscript if they genuinely
understand what the editor is looking for. It is easier for me to
connect with editors who share similar tastes in the manuscripts that
appeal to me. I have to work at understanding what other editors want
in a manuscript, and there are other editors I have no relationship
with at all. You could say that they are working a different window.
That means an author could
present to me an awesome manuscript, but
if I’m not working with an editor who would be interested in it,
chances are I don’t have the right contacts for it. For me, that’s part
of the dating process. I don’t like to hold up a manuscript if I don’t
see a good place to take it. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a good place
for it; it just doesn’t fit in my window.
My client group is tight. We’re
friends, and that is part of the
dating process, as well. Do we get along? Do we like each other? All of
my clients are Christians. That doesn’t mean I don’t handle secular
books or work in the mainstream market, but I require that all clients
be on an online list so I have the ability to talk to all of them at
once if I want. I do weekly updates, but often I just do group
messages. About half of that group is on priority only messages. The
other half talk together, a lot, and they pray for one another’s
problems, projects, and opportunities. They celebrate over one
another’s successes and console on near misses. If they aren’t
publishing, they take heart from hearing about the ones who are. I
suspect a non-Christian would be uncomfortable in the group.
become such good friends that it is hard to
part company, but on occasion I determine that I have used up the
contact points I have for a client and release them to find an agent
who has a different set of contacts. Sometimes they come to that
conclusion themselves and ask to be released. In either case, I believe
all of the partings have been amicable. Breaking up is part of dating,
Dating is best accomplished
face-to-face or when someone is
introduced to a particular partner by a friend. I think that holds true
for the agent relationship as well. Most of my clients I initially met
at a conference or were sent to me by an author, editor, or even
another agent. That doesn’t guarantee a thing, but it does ensure a
very close look if the person is not only making the introduction but
championing the work.
I could give more comparisons,
but I think this makes the point.
However, the one big difference is successful dating ends up with a
match to a single partner, but I get to hook up with a whole group of
them. Is that cool or what?