High Maintenance Agent?

Excited Nerd Girl With A Big Idea

We’ve all heard of high maintenance authors. They whine unnecessarily about covers, edits, and deadlines, make impossible demands, and otherwise exhibit other diva-ish behavior.

But what about your agent? You want a partner who will work with you but not interfere. Someone who will encourage you but not be so intrusive that you get nervous. An experienced friend who will give you tips on how to create a more effective story but not insist her ideas or better or — Horrors! — try to rewrite your book.

I always talk to my authors about the level of back and forth they want and need and I tailor my efforts accordingly. I’m not perfect, but I do my best to achieve effective communication with each author. Everyone understands that the number of phone calls and emails will ebb and flow according to where we are in the publishing process.

Each author is special and every agent has a different style, so there is no right or wrong way to communicate — except not to communicate at all.

Your turn:

How often do you want to hear from your agent?

Do you want your agent to call or email only when there is real news, or to check in to say hello once in awhile?

Do you want to know about every rejection, or do you just want to know good news?

16 Responses to High Maintenance Agent?

  1. Amy Boucher Pye November 14, 2013 at 3:32 am #

    I love hearing from my agent. He’s straight-talking, which I appreciate, even if I have to take a deep breath every so often. I want to hear all of the rejections, even if they are painful. What I’ve found surprising is how he’s able to tell if it’s a rejection after a certain period of silence; that’s helped me move on even though emotionally I’d rather keep the flame burning. I see in other blogs about authors complaining about the silence of some agents when they query; I don’t hear agents complaining about an editor’s silence. This speaks volumes to me!

    • Jeanne Takenaka November 14, 2013 at 7:27 am #

      Amy, I too have heard writers complain about an agent’s silence. I appreciate your point that you don’t hear agents comment/complain about an editor’s silence. Great point!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray November 14, 2013 at 7:30 am #

      Amy, the best agents have excellent relationships with editors and have a good feel for their methods and speeds of responding.

    • Rachel Muller November 14, 2013 at 7:55 am #

      I also agree with Jeanne’s response to your comment. That’s a good point to bring up.

      • Amy Boucher Pye November 14, 2013 at 9:18 am #

        Thanks; it’s been eye-opening to work with a good agent with loads of experience. I’m learning a lot.

  2. Jackie Layton November 14, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    In the beginning of the relationship, I’d probably like to hear a little more to make sure I’m on the right track. Plus an agent is such a big part of a writer’s life, it might be nice once in a while to drop each other a quick note.

    On the other hand, one of my friends only wants to hear from her agent if he has something specific to say about a book deal. Otherwise she wants to be left alone.

  3. Jeanne Takenaka November 14, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    I’m with Jackie. I think in the beginning of a relationship with an agent, I would want to know if I’m on track with what we’ve discussed or not. I don’t need to hear from an agent all the time, but I like communication, so a note or call on occasion would be welcome!

    I think when we are beginning a new project, I would want to hear more, but as it’s released into an agent’s hands the communication would decrease, if that makes sense.

    Knowing me, I’d want to know the steps on the journey—rejection or acceptance.

    Thanks for this post today!

  4. Rachel Muller November 14, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    Good morning! Ah, the post I’ve been waiting read, LOL. I would have to say that when I do sign with an agent I will have questions and I will be looking to that agent to help guide me along the way. I’ve only been studying this industry for a little over 2 years and since I’m not published as of yet I will be asking for that agent’s advice on many things. Phone conversations work best for me, unless it’s something that can easily be cleared up over email.

    Tamela, working with your assistant over email this past August worked great since the questions posed didn’t require long answers and explanations. However, if issues over a book deal came about I think the best means of communication (at least for me) is a phone call. :)

    It’s important to keep the communication branch of the author/agent relationship open. I would hope that an agent wouldn’t be bothered if I called for a question every now and again, and I certainly wouldn’t turn away my agent’s phone call.

  5. EvaUlian (@EvaUlian) November 14, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    Now with so many agents on Twitter, facebook and blogs, the relationship between agent and writer can be strengthened or weakened according to the persons involved thus making the quick “hello” email or call surplus. However there are things that cannot be discussed publicly and that is the professional processing of the work, in that respect emails are far better than phone calls for they are not ephemeral and therefore both sides are more able to internalize what is really said.

  6. marci seither November 14, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Since there are so many things that authors need to be doing to strengthen their readership while working on a project, I think an occasional “just checking in” email would be appropriate. Since every book is a team effort,
    I would imagine short updates are important to keep the dialog fresh.

  7. Ron Estrada November 14, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I’d like an agent to check in from time to time. I’ve always got new ideas and would love an agent to bounce them off of. It’s what I miss most as an unpublished writer without an agent. I want someone in touch with the industry to let me know if I’m completely off course.

  8. Penny Zeller November 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    At the beginning of an author/agent relationship, I think it’s important to combine phone calls with emails so both are on the same page. As time goes by, I’m fine with primarily emails unless it’s really important news or too much information to put into an email, then a quick phone call is best. I personally like the idea of an agent emailing to say “hello” from time to time. :)

    I’m blessed to have Tamela for my agent and I appreciate the way she communicates with authors. She’s very open and I feel I can ask her anything.

  9. J.D. Maloy November 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    “An experienced friend”… ooo, so encouraging!

    I’m going to piggy back on similar comments. Great minds, y’all :)

    My dream relationship would be one where a quick weekly or bi-weekly hello and or check would be manageable. Nothing high maintenance (I fully understand how busy agents are) so a simple “I’m rooting for you!” or “Keep writing, sister” or “Did you try the featured sea-salt caramel mocha at Peets?” would do the trick.

    On the business side, I love learning about this craft and industry. Right now, I can say that if an editor, provides reason why my piece didn’t work for them I would want to know, especially if it’s one of my favorite editors or pub houses. There might been some nuggets of truth to what they say or I might not agree with any of it ;) Now after X number of rejections, this might change and perhaps I’ll want to hear only the good news.

    When I get a contract offered from a house, I would love to be told over Skype! Face to face so I can share my freak out moment with my friend. One can dream :)

  10. Martha Rogers November 15, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    I happen to love my agent. :) I want all the bad news as well as the good, and it is nice to hear from her once in a while just to know she cares, and she does.


  1. High Maintenance Agent? | The Steve Laube Agenc... - November 14, 2013

    […] by Tamela Hancock Murray We've all heard of high maintenance authors. They whine unnecessarily about covers, edits, and deadlines, make impossible demands, and otherwise exhibit other diva-ish behavior.  […]

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