I received this question via e-mail, and since the reader referred directly to the blog I thought it was worthy of a post. And by the way, while I don’t mind e-mails, please feel free to ask questions on the blog at any time. In some cases I’ll answer them in the comments section and in others I’ll do a post at a later date.
I have a question regarding reading works in progress from current clients. As an agent, do you prefer to be kept in the loop about all new book ideas? Or do you want to discuss works in progress only when there is a partial manuscript already written? Where is the line between a client’s needing too much hand-holding with their works in progress and clients keeping their agent in the loop?
To me there is no line. Each client is different and I don’t think it’s fair to treat everyone as if they’re the same. Some clients need to talk through every thought and idea and others I don’t hear from for weeks or months. When it comes to your specific question, though, I think I prefer discussing ideas and even brainstorming together. I’m sure some of my clients will be happy to share stories of our brainstorming sessions or when I take a simple one-line idea and either tear it apart or expand on it with ideas of my own.
I think that once you have an agent it’s a waste of time to write a partial without discussing it first. If I don’t think it’s something that’s marketable, wouldn’t it be better to talk about it up front. On the other hand, for some people I’ve discovered that discussing an idea beforehand can actually hamper creativity. These authors need to flesh ideas out while actively writing the book. That’s fine. My job is to work with you in a manner that is best for you and your writing.
Either way, if you have the agent that’s right for you, you shouldn’t have to worry about the level of hand-holding you need. A good agent—and I mean one that’s a good fit for you—won’t balk at the questions you ask or the attention you need. Instead she’ll patiently work with you to build a career, alleviate anxiety, explain the business, and make it all fun.