Yesterday’s post on Jennifer Crusie’s post about being fired by her agent elicited some interesting comments from all of you. The biggest question though seems to be what happens next. Do I think Ms. Crusie received hundreds of emails and phone calls from agents trying to woo her and what do agents do to distinguish themselves in a field obviously filled with agents?
First questions first. I want to address a few comments from Jennifer’s blog. A few readers felt that her agent was making a huge mistake and were concerned that if even bestselling authors get fired what kind of hope do unpublished authors have. I addressed this yesterday, but want to repeat that I have the utmost respect for an agent who is willing to let a bestselling author go for the good of that author’s career. According to the original post on the subject the agent didn’t agree with the new direction Jennifer saw her career going and therefore (my words) didn’t feel she would be the best agent for the job. This is the agent everyone wants. Not a “big name,” not your best friend’s agent or not someone who buys you great drinks. You want someone who truly believes in you as a writer and your work and who is willing to risk losing money if it means honestly telling you that the direction you’re going in doesn’t fit what she can and should do for you. Remember, the author/agent relationship is about teamwork and if not everyone on the team is able to play the same game you don’t have a chance in heck of winning.
Now on to your questions…Yes, I suspect there were more than a few phone calls and emails from agents looking to sign Jennifer in about five minutes flat. More importantly though I suspect all authors already have a list of agents they’ve met over the years and liked, know very well or have just heard good things about. If something should go awry they already know who they might contact. While this might not be a conscious list, I would suspect everyone has a list nonetheless. After all, it never hurts to be prepared. In the same way I have built acquaintances with many published authors who are not my clients, authors are regularly building relationships with publishing professionals. It’s only natural. For me, I would be thrilled to sign some of these acquaintances immediately, while others I would have to talk to first. Jennifer Cruisie mentioned that she is going in a new direction that her now former agent doesn’t feel she can support. Without knowing what this direction is any agent worth her salt is going to want to talk to Jennifer before committing. She too will want to make sure she’s the best agent for the job. But to really answer your question, few agents feel the need to go about trying to rally up clients. I don’t know Jennifer Cruisie personally. If I did would I be dropping her an email? Probably not. Most likely I would already have an idea of whether she’d be calling to talk to me anyway.
The question that was asked that intrigues me most is what does an agent do to make herself distinct. I talk over and over about making your work and your queries stand out, but what can agents do. Well I’m going to throw that right back at you? Imagine yourself in this situation or, if that’s too big of a stretch, imagine yourself faced with multiple offers of representation. What would you want to hear, see or know about an agent that would make her win the ultimate prize (your business)?