Can/should you be best friends with your agent and editor?

31 January, 2013

Here’s a little insider secret from someone who has been both an editor and an agent: make them love you!joellecaricature

Yes, be shameless, authors!  Your editor and agent can be your best allies.

For some bizarre reason, some writers believe that an agent and even sometimes an editor is someone to be feared.  Especially when it comes to agents, writers reason that only a “tough” agent can get them a good deal and advocate effectively for them.  That may be true for some (we agents come in all stripes), but my experience has shown that one can get much more from editors with honey, and the same is true for what my authors can get from me.  A writer who is pleasant, professional, respectful, truly listens, and maybe is even fun and delightful is often the one we work hardest for. We hate to let them down!  An author who is a bully or peevish or a whiner may occasionally manage to get his or her way, but in the long run, will wear down the good will of those who are nurturing and promulgating a writing career.

As an agent, I reserve my toughness or proverbial big stick for those situations that truly require it.  Indeed, because I try to be gracious more often than not, when I do need to put real pressure on anyone in a publishing house, it will be more effective precisely because I am not crying wolf all the time.  From a client, I appreciate frankness, so if an author is unhappy or concerned about something, by all means, they should speak up and not be afraid to alienate me.  I am here for them (hopefully).  But at the end of the day, at least as an independent agent, if it becomes a trial to represent a chronically unhappy author, chances are the relationship will be terminated by me or the client.  One of the beautiful things about owning your agency is that you can walk away, choosing instead to play with those who play nicely with you.

Here are a few tips:

*Choose an agent with whom you feel a rapport, someone who you feel intuitively understands and appreciates your work.  Factor in, too, whether you feel a personal connection and can communicate clearly and easily.

*Trust your agent to try to match you with the best editor out there.  Even then, sometimes things go awry, and you may find you have a hard time getting along with your editor. In that instance, ask your agent for help in finding the right approach for working with your editor.

*Always treat the assistants/interns at the agency and publishing house with utter respect.  Thank them for helping you. Often, the assistant can solve your problem or answer your question, and the agent or editor will be forever grateful that you are freeing them up to do their most important job in advocating for your work.

*Similarly, take the time to get to know everyone you interact with at the agency and/or publishing house, from the publicity office to the special sales department.  And thank them when they do something nice or good for you.

*Stay positive.  Remember that this is a shared journey, and while you are the driver, we all want you to arrive at your destination!

–Joelle Delbourgo