Too Much Communication with Your Agent?

Some authors ask me if they share too much. If you’re asking, you probably aren’t! In my opinion, most authors connect the right amount, or if anything, err on the side of not communicating enough. You might ask:

  • Too much information? Not for me. I once heard a sermon that everyone needs to hear something eight times to remember it. I don’t mind hearing about something critical eight times, although I do try to remember the first time! Feel free to send me any and all information you want me to have. I’d literally rather get eight emails about the same topic than to be left out of the loop.
  • Emailing too often? I don’t mind hearing from you – everything from a contract/editorial/deadline/industry scuttlebutt to the latest shoe sale at Macy’s. Don’t want to miss that!
  • Calling too much? Again, no. Sometimes it’s better to call than to email. I’m good with that. Of course, if I want to receive an urgent call, all I need to do is to step out of the office long enough to retrieve the mail. But I’ll get in touch if I miss your call.

The number one complaint I hear from authors about agents is that they don’t talk to them enough. I don’t claim to be perfect, but this is one area I attempt to emphasize. I want to be responsive. But I can’t be responsive if the author doesn’t tell me. Please, if you need your agent, or just want to talk, speak up! Don’t let your agent think all is well, if in fact, you feel all alone. Make sure your agent knows the level of communication you need and do your part to keep in touch.

Admittedly, there are times when an agent will send a signal of lack of interest by not responding to author communication. My personality lends itself to overtalking rather than the silent treatment but if you’re feeling neglected, I recommend initiating a heart-to-heart talk to get back on track.

You wouldn’t write a book about two people not talking to each other. Don’t live that out in real life, either!

 

Your turn:

Do you think there is such a thing as too much communication?

What questions would you be reluctant to ask your agent? Why?

How long do you think it should take an agent to respond to an email?

 

38 Responses to Too Much Communication with Your Agent?

  1. Brennan McPherson August 10, 2017 at 4:05 am #

    I do think there’s such a thing as too much communication. We should be kind enough to care about annoying other people, and should pay attention enough to see when others are giving off the “I’m annoyed” vibe. However, I think if I had an agent that liked to communicate as much as you do, I’d be a very happy author. One of the worst things about being an author (in my opinion) is the isolation. Luckily some author friends have filled that void, along with my editor, who’s a saint.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 10, 2017 at 5:22 am #

      Brennan, you make a great point. Yes, it IS possible to go from, “I had a real need to call three times today, though each call was brief,” to “I love calling all times of day or night just to chat for an hour about nothing because I’m bored.” A few days ago I needed to call my mother three times (briefly) to plan an event, but I apologized the second and third times — to my own mother! (Who didn’t mind anyway).

      Because my blog readers are great and all of us here respect one another, I feel free to be open and honest. Also, as you can probably tell, I enjoy communicating.

      Now, would I tell my 34,000-plus Twitter followers to send me direct messages at will? Ummm, not so much.

      I appreciate my authors. They are all awesome about displaying both common sense and courtesy.

  2. Melissa Ferguson August 10, 2017 at 4:49 am #

    My biggest communication worry with my agent was that I always found myself tinkering with my proposal/manuscript. I was embarrassed to email an updated version…again. Do you think this makes authors look unprofessional/unprepared or is it a common practice of your perfectionist, gotta-just-add-this-one-thing clients?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 10, 2017 at 5:24 am #

      If I haven’t sent the manuscript out yet, I don’t mind. Every, “Oops, can you send this version instead?” stays between us!

  3. Loretta Eidson August 10, 2017 at 5:35 am #

    I used to think agents were too busy and didn’t want to be bothered with trivial communication. However, you’ve totally changed my belief in that regard and I am grateful!

  4. Tisha Martin August 10, 2017 at 6:08 am #

    Although I’m still in the praying and pitching stages of finding an agent for my WWI and WWII historical fiction as well as idea-stage nonfiction (exploring fraying family relationships and broken dreams, with a determination to rescue both), Tamela, you’ve encouraged me with these words of communication is the lifeblood between author and agent. Thank you.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 10, 2017 at 7:43 am #

      I’m so glad you could benefit from the post! Praying you find just the right fit for a wonderful partnership.

  5. John de Sousa August 10, 2017 at 6:09 am #

    So refreshingly real and transparent. Thanks for this insight into the world of an agent. Hopefully someday I will have reasons to communicate!

  6. Rachel August 10, 2017 at 6:27 am #

    I probably err on the side of not communicating enough, but I don’t want to clutter up my agent’s inbox as I know he is so busy.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 10, 2017 at 7:45 am #

      Each agent/author relationship and I’m sure he respects the way you communicate.

  7. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 10, 2017 at 6:34 am #

    When we ponder all the verbiage flung
    to make word-blizzards waded through,
    the saddest words in mortal tongue
    must be, “I thought you knew.”

  8. Sharon Cowen August 10, 2017 at 7:10 am #

    Thanks for this post. I feel it’s a fine line to cross. I want an agent, but don’t want to seem like a predator. Is my writing good enough? I want to be present, but not invasive. And then there’s that thing of writers being naturally introverted….

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 10, 2017 at 7:49 am #

      Sharon, the fact that you’re asking shows you are conscious of how to communicate, and so it’s doubtful you seem like a predator. Just go by your gut. If you have something that needs to be said, say it. It’s okay to ask for status updates on proposals you’re waiting to hear from, for instance. Hope this helps!

  9. Rebekah Love Dorris August 10, 2017 at 7:26 am #

    What a gift you must be to each of your clients! You sound like a dream agent.

    This brings to mind a question that often stumps me. Maybe it’s food for thought for a future blog post. The Bible says “let thy words be few.” Proverbs is adamant about how a wise person is known for his closed mouth. How do writers apply this wisdom? Especially when words spill so freely?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 10, 2017 at 7:55 am #

      Thank you for your kind words. I always try, though no doubt I often fall short.

      What a great verse! As with every Bible verse interpretation, my opinion is open to debate. I’m not certain this verse applies as much to publishing as it does to one’s personal life. I believe it means that we don’t need to offer an opinion on every topic, complain about every slight, or indulge in the rude (if witty) comment meant to put others down. In other words, every feeling does not need to find verbal expression. When it does, we are guided by emotions instead of wisdom.

      Some of my biggest victories have been those times when I said nothing.

  10. Damon J. Gray August 10, 2017 at 8:19 am #

    My initial reaction was the same as that of Brennan – I do not want to be a pest. I do not want to have my name appear in the email Inbox, and have people sigh and mutter, “Oh, no. Not him again.”

    I believe communication of most often welcome, but we need to draw the distinction between communication and simple noise. There are those who are overly enamored with the sound of their own voice. That moves us from communicating to borderline obnoxious. But as long as it is valid communication, transfer of information and knowledge, I believe we are safer to over-communicate than to under-communicate.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 10, 2017 at 8:22 am #

      Absolutely, Damon! And when the communication makes sense and is needed, a good agent doesn’t mind responding.

  11. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D August 10, 2017 at 9:52 am #

    Tamela, thanks for the posting. I like to hear from my agent every month or so, but sometimes a lot more time goes by. In fact, I plan on sending him a “what’s happening” email this afternoon. Thanks for your comments on this topic. I didn’t want to bug him, but I do want to know where we are in the process.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 10, 2017 at 10:12 am #

      I’m glad the Lord could use me as a vessel to help you in your partnership!

  12. Angela Breidenbach August 10, 2017 at 10:21 am #

    I try to send my agent (waving, Tamela) a bullet list update from time to time. Why? Because we don’t live next door to each other and both of our lives have, well, life happening. It helps us both remember our to-do items, helps me think through my schedule, and helps her know if she needs to do something for me for any reason. Sometimes it’s just a follow up with a list of projects we’re working on. But usually I include important dates and events in my life so she knows if there’s anything happening that would cause a hiccup or celebration.

    Hmm, that reminds me I haven’t done one lately.

  13. Natalie Monk August 10, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

    What an excellent post!

    Whether communicating with my agent (*smiles at Tamela) or even with critique partners, I’m always afraid of bugging them, though they’ve welcomed interaction. It’s something ingrained in me I think, and I have to be reminded to communicate. Introvert alert! 🙂

    To avoid “lazy” questions, I try to do all I can to find the answer on my own first. But then I convince myself my reason for emailing is too trivial, so I don’t. It’s comical when I think about it. Or either I’ve fallen behind in my writing goals and am ashamed I haven’t accomplished more work! *blushes* Haha!

    Tamela, thank you for such a great reminder of how helpful communication is. I’m guessing you’ll receive a ton of updates after this post! I know I’ll be typing one soon. 🙂

  14. Joanna Politano August 10, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

    I’d venture to guess this isn’t the norm for every agent–one reason I’m grateful to have signed with you 🙂 I can’t tell you how valuable it’s been to me to have you heavily involved in the contracting and editorial process, letting me talk through decisions and ask you countless questions! I’ve been reluctant to ask, especially small or beginner questions, but you’ve been gracious in hearing them all 🙂

  15. Linda Riggs Mayfield August 11, 2017 at 10:42 pm #

    Tamela,
    My profession as a research and writing consultant for doctoral scholars (and occasional book editor) has one particular similarity with that of an agent: communication with clients. Although I bill by the hour and do charge for in-depth teaching sessions, I don’t keep track of or charge for brief email exchanges. I never hear from some clients except when they send me manuscript drafts, and some require hours of detailed instructions and coaching via email; but I had one client who was determined not to be charged for my professional advice, only my editing, and set a record of emailing me 12 times in one day. 😀 One reason I even have a policy about emails is the good models I’ve seen from agents and editors about submissions–they specifically state how long to expect it to take to receive a response. I like knowing what to expect. If I had an agent, I think I’d expect an email response within a few days. I’d be considerate, but I think if something came up that was important enough for a phone call, a reply within a day or two would be reasonable. What do you think?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 12, 2017 at 6:09 am #

      That’s more than reasonable. During a normal work week, I’m usually faster than that by far. Even if I can only say at the moment, “I’ll get back to you,” at least you know the message did go through and I’m working on it.

      Recently one client waited several days wondering why I never answered an email. I hadn’t received it. Thankfully, she called.

      As for the person who didn’t want to pay you, are you in a situation where you can agree not to work with people like that? When someone acts like that, it seems you should be able to say, “Hey, this doesn’t seem to be a good match. Would another consultant be a better fit for you?”

  16. N.D.Cole August 12, 2017 at 5:55 am #

    Tamela,

    Thanks for the insight. Speaking of communication, my question concerns the initial communication between the author and agent. Do you personally prefer to recieve/read proposals via email or a proposal you can physically hold in your hand (sent via mail)?

    I know that either way is fine for delivery, but for you personally, which is your preference?

    With so many proposals being sent via email nowadays, I’m thinking that sending via mail like it used to be done may just work out better for the author. This way the author knows it didn’t get lost or overlooked with so many emails in the agent’s inbox. It may be refreshing to have a physical one every now and then. I believe in doing the total opposite of what the majority does, which automatically helps in standing out. I’m interested in your thoughts on your personal preference.

    Of course, the bottom line is whichever way it’s sent, the proposal needs to be a good one. However, it’s like many who grew up reading/physically holding newspapers and holding books in their hands versus how books and newspapers are digital now. Most baby boomers and other generations that grew up holding books and newspapers still generally prefer to physically hold the newspaper or book while reading. Many agents are from that same generations, so I’m interested to know your personal preference. I hope all of this makes sense. Thank you so much.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 12, 2017 at 6:12 am #

      I prefer email because that’s how I send submissions to editors. If you’re worried your submission got lost, you can ask for a quick acknowledgment.

      • N.D. Cole August 12, 2017 at 7:02 am #

        Thanks, Tamela.

        I think I will send both ways, email and regular mail. In the mailed proposal, I will note that i also sent it via email on XXX date. This way I am still being different while also still giving the agent what the agent wants. By listing the date, the agent can quickly search and find the emailed version.

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