I’m often asked what my dream client would be, I think, primarily, from those hoping that when they do get an agent they can do nothing but make the agent happy. Well, just like all of you have different visions of what your dream agent would be and do for you, I think all agents have different visions of what a dream client would be.
I think there’s no doubt that there are probably some attributes about my dream client that have changed over the years, probably even since the time I first started writing these types of posts for the blog. That will be no different for you as an author. What you envision your dream agent to be like now, as an unpublished author, will change as your career changes. Those of you who have had agents and are back in the search again probably have very different criteria for what you’re looking for than you did the first time around. Those of you still with agents probably find that the criteria you had when you first signed with your agent had none of the things that you are (hopefully) thankful she does for you now.
Before I get into what I want out of a dream client, let’s clear up a little about what I don’t care about or expect. I don’t expect a client to be perfect and I don’t expect her to be a lemming. In other words, I don’t want her to blindly follow my lead and agree to everything I say. I don’t want her to yes me to death or hide when things go wrong for fear that I might get angry. In other words, the very first thing I want from my dream client is a feeling of freedom to be as open and honest as need be. When it’s wonderful, fantastic news I want to hear you squeal over the phone; when it’s the last thing you want to hear and you’re not sure you can take another round of revisions, I want you to call and vent and scream and let your frustrations out; and when you just need to spend time talking about revisions, ideas, concerns, or career goals I really want to be as involved as you want me. In other words, I want an open line of communication.
In exchange I want you to want honesty from me. I don’t want to feel like I have to couch my opinions when you ask for them. If you want my honest thoughts on your next book I’m going to give them, whether or not you want to hear them. If you want my honest thoughts on the direction you see your career going I want you to be able to hear what I have to say and not just listen and ignore later. Most important, though, my dream client will respect my professional opinion. It doesn’t always mean we’ll see eye-to-eye of course, but hopefully you’ve hired me because you’ll trust me to guide you and tell you the truth.
The last thing that popped into my head when I thought about the dream client, and I think one of the things authors should expect from dream agents as well, is the need for flexibility. Publishing is not a straight line and it’s not a circle either. It’s a series of bumps and bruises, hills and valleys, and for an author to really succeed she needs to have flexibility. She needs to be ready to shift her goals and change directions, sometimes with the market and sometimes because publishers and readers decide it for us. I’ve seen mystery authors become romance authors and romance authors become fantasy authors. I’m sure for many it wasn’t where they saw themselves, but it was where life led them, and because of the ability to be flexible and follow a new path they’ve been able to achieve the success they wanted, just not in the way they expected.
I don’t think there’s any set list of who the dream client is or what she’s like, there’s no such thing as perfection. What we can do to make a relationship work is be honest, communicate, and be the best we can be.