Tag s | Communication

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?

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Make it Count for Something Important

Everyone has a pet peeve. People who drive too fast, or too slow, or fingernails scratching on a blackboard.  My pet peeve is a strange one. I have a visceral reaction to the fast-talking legal-speak at the end of radio or TV commercials. I have to change stations…immediately.

You’ve all heard them…commercials that are 50% written by the legal department of the advertiser.  The last 100 words are compressed into 10 seconds so you can’t say we didn’t tell you that the drug could kill you or the sale on flat screen TV’s is only for people named Arnold and only good on Tuesdays. The irony is that ads for lawyers and legal services don’t seem to require it! (But I digress)

So why do I have this reaction?

Being an untrained freelance psychologist, my deep self-analysis concludes that the advertisement is simply wasting my time and attention.  There was no possible way I could ever understand anything they are saying, but they had to say it.  They just wasted my time on purpose for no reason.

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Yes, This Post Is About You

Almost every time we post a story or give a “don’t do this” example, we receive emails and phone calls. “Were you talking about me?”

Why, yes. Yes we were.

Actually, something you did may have reminded us about something someone else did, which reminded us about something else that happened years ago. I’ve been an agent for well over a decade, so I’ve seen lots of situations happen more than once. So I might be inspired to write about an event because the fact it’s happened more than once shows that addressing it will help a lot of people. Maybe even you.

If it makes you feel better, realize it’s a two-way street. People also write about agents. I may read a post and wonder if I’m the particular agent who offended someone. Maybe. Maybe not. But I can learn from reading posts about how I can be a better agent.

Think about your stories. Aren’t many of your characters composites of people you know? What would happen if you had to field phone calls from offended friends and relatives every time a character misbehaved in your book? How would you address an angry phone call from your sister-in-law? Or the dismay of a cousin? I suggest first, thank her for being one of your readers.

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The Tell-All You Can’t Live Without

Karen Ball

Okay, okay, I admit it, the title of this blog is hyperbolic. Kind of. But let me explain why it’s not that far off the mark to say you really can’t—or at the very least, shouldn’t–live without it. Also, let me explain why I’m addressing something that Tamela addressed a mere 3 months ago.

So far this week, I’ve had no fewer than seven conversations with writers, agents, and editors, all of which hit on the same topic: finding out important information long after they should have. The conversations covered a broad range of information:

An author calling to say s/he was going to miss a deadline—a week before the deadline. A client receiving an extension on a deadline from an editor A publishing house moving a pub date without letting the author know A book arriving with a cover that was completely different from what the author approved

My response in every case was utterly profound:

“Are you KIDDING me??”

So though Tamela addressed the following in March, let’s talk about it again. Because friends, this is important stuff. (And because you know who will address it next: Mr. Steve. And he won’t be as nice as Tamela and I are! <insert evil grin here>)

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A Few Things Your Agent Needs to Know

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:

Happy Event

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.

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Are We Speaking the Same Language?

by Karen Ball

I love languages. I started studying French in the 7th grade (“Bonjour, Monsieur DuPree. Comment-allez vous?), and by the time I had my double college degree in multiple-languages and journalism, I’d studied French (12 years), Spanish (5 years), and Russian (1 year). But I confess, I never expected to have to learn a new language when I entered the publishing world.

Surprise!

I remember the first time I realized words and terms had very different meanings in publishing. As a PK and PGK (preacher’s kid and preacher’s grandkid), I knew my duty to widow and orphans. It was right there in the Bible. So you imagine my astonishment when I discovered it was now my goal to kill the widows and orphans. Then I learned that bleeding in the gutters had nothing to do with murder, that picas weren’t fuzzy little forest animals, leading wasn’t something done to stained glass, fonts weren’t receptacles for baptismal water, a kill fee wasn’t about hiring a hitman, and a galley wasn’t the kitchen on a ship.

It all reminded me of a line from a poster I had up in my college dorm room: I know you believe you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure that what you heard is what I really meant to say. Or the poster in a friend’s room that said, “I’m not as drunk as some thinkle peep I am.” (Okay, it has absolutely nothing to do with that last one. I just put it in because it makes me laugh…)

It’s taken years of study and practice, but I’m finally fluent in Pub-Speak. Or so I thought until a few days ago when I had a discussion of editing terms with the illustrious Steve Laube. It went something like this:

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