At the beginning of every year, and usually another time mid-year, I spend some time going through all of the things I pay for (cable, internet, lawn service, accountant, etc) to make sure that I’m really getting what I pay for. In some cases it’s a matter of looking at what I have and changing to less expensive alternatives (dropping some of the cable channels I pay for, but have never heard of), in other cases it’s a matter of looking at how I use the item and seeing if I should be doing more with it (asking the accountant to review my books bimonthly instead of quarterly).
The same should go for your relationship with your agent. Now, I’m definitely not advocating for dumping your agent (do you think I’m insane!), but I am suggesting that since you pay your agent you take a look at how much you’re actually utilizing her.
I have some clients who are terrific at using me when they need me. We brainstorm ideas for new books, titles, editorial suggestions. We discuss and help resolve emotional breakdowns, deadlines and editorial conflicts. They keep me posted and updated on marketing and career plans in general so that I can help guide, direct, or even keep them in mind when something new pops up.
There are other clients however who seem very fearful of bothering me. Usually it’s because things are going along smoothly, they have a great relationship with their editor and they are great at managing it all on their own. And that’s great. Until it’s not. The client who is used to doing it all herself will often also put out all fires herself but, let’s face it, even the best firefighter can’t do the job on her own.
An agent gets paid a 15% commission and that job should entail more than just selling the book and negotiating a contract. It should be about building a career and all that goes with it. If, for example, your cover stinks but no one bothers to show your agent until it’s final she can’t go to the publisher and insist on changes. If the cover stinks and the book doesn’t sell. Well, it’s hard to build a career if your books don’t sell. That’s just one example, but I think you can see where I’m going.
Your agent is your business partner and if you’re running a business with a partner hopefully you aren’t making all of the decisions on your own. Use your business partner as much as possible. They say two heads are better than one.