by Tamela Hancock Murray
You have an agent, but want to be low maintenance. You value your agent’s time and hesitate to fill her in-box with lots of chatty emails or tie him up on the phone all day. I’m sure your agent appreciates you for being considerate.
Still, writing is a serious profession and a business. Therefore some personal events and occasions in your life are critical for your agent to know:
If you are the bride or groom, the parent of the bride or groom, expecting a new life in your family, are taking a month-long vacation to Hawaii, or have another major happy event planned, let us know so we will be aware that you might not be around for stretch of time.
Death of an Immediate Family Member
If you don’t tell us about a death that affects you in a major way, we won’t understand your emotional state. Also, consider that if you are responsible for executing a will and disposing of an estate, it’s best to let your agent know you are involved in time-consuming, heart-wrenching work that could affect your productivity.
Major Medical Issues
This includes any major illness or surgery, particularly if you may be looking at time-consuming physical therapy and multiple visits to doctors. If you don’t tell us, we won’t understand that you must see the doctor three times a week so you never seem to answer your phone or email. Or if you are faced with a chronic condition that changes how you approach your work.
If you must become a caregiver let us know. Not only are you having to adjust to a new routine, but taking on the responsibility of an adult who is unable to function on her own will also consume much time and emotion.
Difficult Family Circumstances
Family difficulties, a separation, or even a divorce are all things that you might hesitate to mention to your agent. Don’t fear judgment. Let your agent know. Your agent is your business partner and these situations can have a chilling effect on your creativity. And sometimes the agent can let your publisher know if you are in danger of missing a deadline, but in a tactful manner that protects your privacy.
Each state has different rules regarding Jury Duty. For some it is only a day. For others it means being on call for a month. But at least tell your agent if you think you’ll be sequestered. If you are, then we’ll have a heads up and have thought of an action plan for while you are away.
Keep us up to date, even if you are months away from our deadline and don’t think it affects your work flow. We need to know your new address. And don’t forget to tell the publishers who are sending you checks! Or if you spend months in a second home, let us know when you switched to the new location.
What Not to Do
Please remember that the sooner you can let us know about any changes, the better. The worst mistake you can make is hoping against hope that things will be better than you think, and you can still make that deadline. Don’t make the mistake of meeting the deadline by just turning in whatever you have on screen, in other words, the raw first draft. It would be better to ask for a few extra days to clean up the mess before scaring your editor with something not ready for prime time.
And please, do not assume anyone is reading your Facebook or Twitter updates and consider that sufficient notice. Social Media posts do not substitute for an intentional notification via e-mail or a phone call.