Just last week I finally sat down with the latest survey form for Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents (or whatever the full title of his book is), and while each year most of the questions remain the same, a few change. This year, the one that struck me the most asked this: “What do you think people like about you and dislike about you?”
What an interesting question, and I can think of so many answers—my husband dislikes my singing (although he’s subjected to it constantly) and my seeming inability to clean anything. I suspect though that his love for my cooking, my organizational abilities, and my charming personality override his dislikes. I’m pretty sure though that’s not what Jeff Herman was looking for.
So, in a business sense, what do people like and dislike about me and, more specifically, what do my clients like and dislike about me. I’m probably opening a can of worms here, and I can only imagine the comments that will pop up from those “anonymous” posters. But in my mind, what most people like and dislike about me are actually one and the same—my honesty and directness, no matter how painful.
If you’ve been following this blog at all you’ve probably noticed one thing: I don’t hold back. I pull no punches and say it the way it is (at least the way I see it as it is). My day is busy, and unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time to spend coddling my authors. I’ve been hired by them to negotiate contracts, find the right publisher for their books, take charge when an author isn’t getting everything she should be, and help guide a career. When doing all of that I often need to be blunt. If you submit a book that I don’t think is your best work, I’m going to tell you. I’m also going to tell you how I think it can be fixed (if I think it can), and I won’t submit something that I think you can do better with. Part of guiding an author’s career is seeing that she is nothing less than the best she can be. See, I’m like the literary Army.
I try to refrain from being downright nasty, and yes, I do couch my comments in kindness, but I’m a big believer that honesty is the best policy and that it doesn’t do anyone any good for me to tell an author that her work is great when it’s really crap. What I’m telling you isn’t always what you want to hear, but hopefully you’re not paying an agent to simply tell you what you want to hear—you can get your friends to do that.