Solid Boundaries Lead to Success
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 27 2022
As a new agent, I thought success meant doing anything and everything for my clients. No matter when or what. No matter the emotional toll it took on me or whether or not I agreed. I wish I had been empowered much earlier in my career to set boundaries. It would have helped if someone had explained that the key to success isn’t about doing more, but about setting solid boundaries. It’s something I’m constantly urging the team at BookEnds to do.
Life without Boundaries
I see now how exhausting and harmful working without boundaries was for me. And, to be honest, how it wasn’t helpful to my clients either.
Checking email on weekends or over vacation didn’t allow for real relaxation. Instead of being present with friends and family, I was obsessing over an author’s due date or revisions. And if I did reply it wasn’t always as thoughtful or thorough as it would have been had I waited until I got in the office. Until I was calm and focused. Never shutting off work meant I never came back refreshed or fully my best.
A lack of boundaries also meant that a few clients (luckily not all) took the opportunity to steamroll me. Even when I was fully honest, they would convince me to shop their book “just to see.” Even after I explained it wasn’t the best direction for their career. Never did these books sell. Instead I spent hours of unpaid labor that could have been spent growing the careers of other authors and my own.
Life with Boundaries
Today I have much stricter boundaries and I encourage all who work at BookEnds to do the same. These aren’t a list of rules I’ve necessarily sent to clients, they are just how I work and we interact. And to the best of my knowledge, I have a lot of happy clients.
I don’t read email on weekends, nights or while on vacation. That’s time for me to do other things for myself so when it’s time to read email I can be focused and intentional. I’m not dashing off an answer while rushing to dinner with friends or in between baseball games. Instead, I’m thoughtful and in my BookEnds Head when I do it.
All communication is done over Zoom, phone, or email. I don’t work over text or DM, primarily because I like to keep a record of our conversations so I can check up on things easily and keep track of what others have said in case I need to search something up.
I value the partnership and remind myself that the author hired me for my knowledge and expertise. I don’t submit projects that I don’t feel are in the best interest of the author’s career. This is a tough one, but if the book isn’t your best I don’t want to pretend otherwise. I want your career to continue and grow and it’s my job to let you know when I don’t think this project is the right one to do it with.
I’m fought on the idea of boundaries all the time. Not by those who have come to understand mine, but by those who need to set them. It feels scary to shut down and stay away. But we’re not surgeons. No one dies because we didn’t check email. I want the agents of BookEnds to be here for many years to come. Burnout is real and it’s part of my job to try to prevent it from happening to all of us.
I encourage people to read and follow Nedra Tawwab. Her Instagram and book on boundaries have been invaluable even to someone who is pretty good at setting them already.
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