The Agent Question:
Will They Respect Me in the Morning?
By Jordan Dane
As a debut author, your first relationship with an agent can be like a courtship. The first blush of an offer to represent is followed by the unforgettable satiation of that first deal. You light up a cigarette and revel that nothing will ever be the same again, but in the afterglow, some authors may wonder:
- Did I make the right choice?
- What do I know about them…really?
- Was I sober when I agreed to this?
That first deal can be a heady experience. In the throes of a first-time negotiation, some authors may throw caution aside and grab that first warm bodied agent who comes along. And others may struggle with which agent is THE BEST. I think there is no “best” agent. It’s what is right for you—at the time. And one agent might work well for one author, but not so much for another—for many reasons.
Some authors might feel disappointment if they don’t get a call from their agent the morning after… or several times a week. And it’s easy to point the finger elsewhere when the ego is involved. But I think you have to have realistic expectations of your work. An agent can’t be expected to sell into every foreign country, for example. Sometimes an author’s work may not suit the readership in certain countries. Does that mean you break out the tar and feathers? (I say save that for Saturday night and a group of your kinkiest friends.) This is a subjective business and the beauty of an author’s work is in the eye of the beholder. This also applies to agents…and hopefully not at 2 a.m. when the lights are dim and liquor is involved.
It’s nice to think that your first agent will be your last—your one and only. Loyalty can grow from a solid first-time relationship, but you have to be realistic and keep asking questions as a debut author until you’re savvy enough to take off the rose-colored glasses of first love. Is your agent responsive to your queries? Do they have a plan for your future that they’ve discussed with you? Are they accessible? Do they come to you with ideas? These may be the types of questions you first ask yourself to get a realistic view of your agent, but as time goes on, the questions will change. This is a business and you eventually have to ask the tougher questions to make sure your agent is still right for you—and if they marry up to the type of author you are or are becoming. You may have to ask yourself—What level of success can I handle? Do I have the chops to catapult myself into the big leagues? Will my sales numbers support me becoming a diva/star?
And as in any good relationship, it’s important to keep the dialogue open between you and your agent. Don’t assume they know what you want or that they perceive you a certain way. Good communication and rapport is key. This just makes solid business sense. But again, where do you want to be as an author—realistically—and do you have the ability to get there and sustain it? I think once you figure this out, the agent question will become apparent as long as you keep those lines of communication open. If your agent isn’t willing to grow with you, then it’s time to break out your best black lingerie and go trolling.
One final thought—the main focus for a debut author (or for any author) is to WRITE the best book you know how to do. And like they say in the hokey pokey, “That’s what it’s all about.”
© Jordan Dane, 2007