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The Advantage of an Agent Who Knows You Well

The agent/author relationship is often compared to a marriage, querying like dating. I’m not always sure that’s true, but other times I’m convinced it’s absolutely right on.

The other day I was having lunch with an editor and we were discussing the difficulty of editing a new author, especially one who has moved to your house from another, or moved to you from another editor. It’s not like dating, but more like an arranged marriage. Here you are trying to edit someone with no sense of how well she takes edits, what sorts of edits she’s used to or whether you’ll connect on the types of edits the book needs. And this is exactly why authors have agents.

An agent is often the one constant on an author’s team. She’s the person who not only negotiates contracts and submits new projects, but she also gets to know the author on a personal level. She knows how an author handles edits. She knows which authors ignore everything the editor suggests, but somehow makes the book sing anyway. She knows the author who freaks out and rants and raves for a full 24 hours before realizing that everything the editor said is right on target, and she knows which author will need her to interpret the editor’s notes.

The agent can be as invaluable to the editor as she can be to the author. When an editor has bad news to give she’ll often call the agent for advice on how best to give it and how the author might react.

The more an author (and editor) tap into the skills an agent has, the more successful, and happier, she’ll (they’ll) be.

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4 comments

  1. It’s a complex job, I get that very well. I know what it must feel like when people expect you to sell a book in two weeks r something. I don’t have any agenting experience, but as a translator I have clients who want 20 pages of high finance translated in 2 hours, imagining I have some sort of software where I push a button. I guess in all lines of business there are “fragile” clients who require extra tactful handling 🙂

  2. I just read your post, Jessica, and realize how much I’ve helped you hone your skills over the years. Example, this section: “She knows the author who freaks out and rants and raves for a full 24 hours before realizing that everything the editor said is right on target, and she knows which author will need her to interpret the editor’s notes.”

    Where would you be without me to practice on? Two skills you’ve gotten lots of experience handling, right? I know where I’d be without you as my agent, (most likely NOT multi-published) so I guess we’ll have to call it a trade off. ❤️

  3. Spot on! Some of the best advice I was given was to research, follow (etc) the agent/house you want and make sure you seem a good fit. The next was by someone we wont’ name *cough Kate* that suggested when receiving edits open, review, close and walk away for a few.

    TRUER words have never been spoken. That first initial red SHOCKER, steals your breath, can cause instant nauseousness and raise hackles in seconds. BUT– nearly every time, when you go back later, every mark and note make sense. For me I think the biggest freak out, was when I was asked to move two chapters. Not delete, but move. Guess which two? THE FIRST TWO!!! I thought I was going to pass out.

    You know what? The story was da BOMB afterwards. Tight, concise and super sparkly. In my first year of writing I penned this,

    “A good editor is like tinsel on a Christmas tree. They give the perfect amount of sparkle without being gaudy.”

    The funniest request which resulted in some good natured banter back and forth was when I was told my heroine was naked and needed some internal worry over it.

    Me- “Um, she’s got her undies and bra on.”
    Editor- “She’s still naked.”
    Me- “No, she’s in her undies.”
    Editor- “Come on, you know that’s naked.”
    Me- “True. If I was in my undies outside my locked bedroom, I’d consider myself naked and freaking out.”
    Editor- “Well then?”
    Me- “Um… even MY lard butt, in underwear, would not think twice of running in the woods if a crazed serial killer was chasing me with a chainsaw. And *insert editors name* I-don’t-run.”
    Editor- Pause.
    Editor- Pause.
    Editor- “You got a point.”

    I still did write a little moment in prior to the chainsaw being started where she hated being near naked, which worked for both of us. But we had a good laugh at thoughts of how many, regardless of what we’re wearing or what shape we’re in, could sprint in a second when a chainsaw is cranked up.

    Happy Thanksgiving Jessica! Keep the great posts coming.
    🙂

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