I write like
Jack London

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Know What You're Really Getting Out of an Agent

Currently reading - Legal statutes and CDC papers on chronic diseases.  Seriously.

When I first read Angie Benedetti's comment on the Publishing Subjectivity the Retail Way post, I got pissed.  Liked steam coming out of my ears pissed.  And I couldn't figure out why I was so mad.

I like Angie.  We have similar viewpoints on a lot of subjects.  Her comments usually get me to think outside of my safe zone and really analyze what I want as a writer and as a human being.  Besides, she has an adorable dog, so she has to be a good person in my book.

So why was I so freakin' pissed?

(You know you should never reply to any communications while pissed as hell, right?)

For once, I listened to my own advice, walked away from the computer and thought.  I knew I wasn't angry at Angie.  Also, I wasn't angry about her opinions, because, geez, I'd heard the same opinions from hundreds of other people and never gotten mad.  So what the hell was triggering this reaction?

I do my best thinking while walking, but between errands, the start of soccer season, and other miscellaneous crap, the only time I actually walked was through the mall on Saturday.  (Yeah, I know.  The one freakin' Saturday I have off and I go to the same mall where I work.)

Lo and  behold, the Revelation came while purchasing bleeding tapers at Yankee Candle.  The trigger was the last paragraph.  Take out "writer" and substitute "attorney", add a lot of obscenities and name-calling, and you've got a VERY similar conversation I had with a particular client when I still practiced law.

At time, this person had only been a client for literally four days.  I even came in to the office on a Saturday because she couldnt take time off from work.  Unfortunately, she expected me to immediately solve a problem that, in truth, was her own fault.  As she screamed at me over the phone on Wednesday, I couldn't help but think, If your opinion of me is so low, why did you hire me in the first place?  Needless to say, I told her she needed to find another attorney who could meet her needs.

Now I knew the emotional trigger, the next question was why I was bothered by the polarization of writer attitudes when it came to agents.

This led to Revelation #2 while I walked down to purchase the two new Twilight Barbies at Target.

The primary thing I hate about writers/agents bullshit is that few seem to truly understand the agent's role.  Roughly half the opinions of writers are that agents are the guardians to the gates of publishing heaven.  The other half believe an agent's only role is to suck out their souls.  (The only time either of these statements is true is if you let be true.)

Agents are not the boss of writers, but neither are they true employees. The best description I can come up with while on a football and Cincinnati chili overload is a professional partnership.  I would sign with an agent just like I would hire an accountant or a plumber--for their experience and professional expertise in the areas I'm totally lacking.  But I don't dictate exactly how they do their job.

For example, I can handle most basic toilet and sink repairs, but I call Dave, who's got twenty years of experience, for installing a new cold water shutoff valve in the kitchen.  On the other hand, my CPA Ed literally does everything for me when it comes to taxes.  Different professionals, different levels of reliance.

And if Dave pulls out the master bathroom tub when he's supposed to be replacing that shutoff, then yes, I have every right to raise holy hell because that's NOT the job he was hired to do.

Whether or not you hire an agent is your personal decision.  Hopefully you've made a career plan, and you know what your strengths and weaknesses are.  Some folks, like Angie and The Query Fairy, are business savvy ladies who don't want or need someone to tell them what they already know.  For others, like Classy Christie Craig, an agent has been a great help.  But the most important thing is knowing what YOU need.

One last tidbit to remember--with the rapid changes occurring in the publishing business, you want to make sure you get what you're paying for.

Tommorow:  Managing Your Expectations

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