Communication

How Can You Manage So Many Clients?

I am frequently asked the question, “How do you manage so many clients?” It is a perfectly reasonable question to ask since many agencies carry a sizable list of clients. The underlying question is really, “Does or will this agent or agency have time for me?”

We post a list of our clients on the website because we are honored to work with so many gifted people. Not every agency makes their client list public. It is neither right nor wrong; it is merely a preference. As of this morning, we have more than 280 clients on our roster.

[A quick reminder to all readers. Our client list is the combination of Tamela’s, Bob’s, and my clients. We’ve chosen not to distinguish on the website who is represented by whom since everyone is under the same agency banner.]

Ebb and Flow of the Work Load

Proper management of a client base is all about communication and work flow. The best metaphor I’ve been able to use to describe how a literary agency works is this: “We are like a major airline that is always overbooked but never flies full. But if everyone showed up at the gate at the same time, we would be in serious trouble.”

The writing profession is somewhat cyclical. During the proposal and contract stage, agent-author conversations are frequent. But once the deal is set, the writer disappears into a cave to write. Then periodically the writer comes out with a question or a situation that needs attention. Later the editorial, production, and marketing stages can have issues that require an agent’s attention.

Rarely does much of this happen on the same day. Thus, the airline metaphor is apropos. If every client called their agent on the same day, it is doubtful that any author would be served immediately.

This past week I dealt with a number of issues for clients that I did not know existed when the week began. Nary a one of more than a dozen situations were on my daily to-do list. But this is normal. Each crisis was handled without delay and resolved.

“Active” and “Inactive” Clients

Another consideration when looking at a list of clients it to realize that not every author is what can be termed as “active.” An active author is either writing their book, creating a new proposal, or otherwise engaged in activity that affects their work as an author whom I would be representing.

However, I have some clients who have retired; but there is still work to be done their behalf when issues arise on their older titles. Other clients have passed away. In those situations, if there is an issue with the estate and the intellectual property, we are still there to handle it. We have clients who take years between projects. We keep these people on our list of clients because they are our clients, but they would not necessarily be considered active.

Responsive Communication

From a workflow standpoint, I try my best to respond to each client’s situation as soon as possible. Am I perfect? (Who is?) But generally we hope our clients are satisfied with what we can do for them. Each of us in the agency works hard to take care of each situation as it arises. Some days are crazier than others. Email is a tremendous tool for taking care of quick questions. Plus the phone still rings.

Ultimately, the question is not “can we” but “do we” manage a number of clients? The answer is a celebratory, “Yes, we do!” We will not take on a new client unless we think we can sell their work or help them achieve their publication goals. A project or an author must be commercially viable; otherwise nothing happens, and no one is happy. So while our client base may continue to grow, it is done with intention and purpose.

 

[This is a heavily revised version of a post that ran in April 2012.]

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Never Burn a Bridge!

The sale of Thomas Nelson to HarperCollins and last week’s sale of Heartsong to Harlequin brought to mind a critical piece of advice:

Never Burn a Bridge!

Ours is a small industry and both editors and authors move around with regularity. If you are in a business relationship and let your frustration boil into anger and ignite into rage…and let that go at someone in the publishing company, you may end up burning the bridge. And that person who you vented on might someday become the head of an entire publishing company.

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Why I Left My (Insurance) Agent

The number-one complaint I hear from authors about their agents is that they don’t communicate with them. My understanding of this was renewed when I was on the side of needing an insurance agent to respond to me. I needed an adjustment to my policy that will mean I’ll pay …

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Creative Boundaries

Creative people usually don’t like being told what to create or what not to create. Similarly, explorers and researchers don’t like being told, “Don’t look there,” or “Explore over here.” By nature, they follow their training and instincts from place to place and thought to thought. As a writer, while …

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Your Money is Your Business or Keep a Lid on How Much Money You Make

How much should author friends reveal to each other about contracts or other business dealings when they have business with the same publisher?

I think it is a huge mistake to reveal the amount of your advances to other authors. This is similar to finding out the salary of the co-worker in the office cubicle next to yours. When I was a retail store manager we had major problems when salaries were revealed, a near fist-fight between two people who had been friends.

Money is viewed as a measure of worth; i.e. a measure of the worthiness of your work.

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Markets are Different Than You Think

Last week I addressed the issue of trying to be too specific or too general in identifying a reader-market and the need to continually address new generations. Today, let’s discuss the culture in the United States and the Christian writer. Here are some unavoidable things to keep in mind as …

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Rumor Control

I was talking with an editor this week who asked me, “How are things going? I hear that your agency is barely making ends meet and that you’ve had to take on other type of work to survive.”

I must admit that I was so startled by this rumor that words nearly failed me.

“Where did you hear that?” I exclaimed.

“Oh it was at a recent writers conference and folks were talking, and your name came up.”

At the risk of sounding defensive, let me set the record straight.

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The Challenge for American Christian Authors

The majority of Christian books published every year are written in English by authors in the United States. U.S. Christian publishers in a billion dollar industry publish many thousands of new titles every year. Still, I am not sure all American authors who desire to have their books spread across …

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