Tag s | 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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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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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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Great Customer Service

Last week I blogged about a poor experience I had with a hotel, comparing it to a great experience with a different property. This week, I offer a few more tips on how writers can meet and exceed expectations in customer service. Answer in Person I was interested in a …

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Not So Great Customer Service

In publishing, all of us are really in Customer Service. The agent serves the writer. The writer serves the editor. The editor serves the publisher. The publisher serves the reader. Of course, there’s lots of overlap, but you get the idea. Recently I had a not-so-great customer service experience when …

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The Accidental Pharisee

Anyone who spends even a little time reading the New Testament discovers the only times Jesus got really angry was when he confronted religious people who were so far off the intended track they needed outright and immediate correction or even condemnation. Jesus could judge, after all he was God …

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You Say Tomato, I Hear Guacamole

I have a hearing problem. My ears are fine. For some reason listening to songs like Smoke on the Water and LaGrange on my headphones forty years ago had little or no effect on my eardrums. But over the years, I’ve begun to hear something different than what is being …

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A few years after the dawn of the internet in the mid-nineties, vision for the world wide web shifted to the “2.0” version, which involved encouraging audience interaction, viewed as significant progress by marketers and communications experts. Comment sections, message boards, chat and community discussion started off with great energy …

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