Many of you are in the middle of the Grand Agent Quest; others of you are making furious plans to enter the fray soon. And I want to remind you of something important:
It's a relationship. It may also be a Stepping Stone, an Accomplishment, a Victory, or a Goal Met, but mostly and maybe-forever, the agent thing is a relationship.
As such, it's two-sided. Once you sign that contract, it's not about you sitting there trembling and twitching and wondering if it is-or-isn't-okay to ask your agent this or that question. Communication is at the foundation of any healthy relationship, and it's going to be equally your responsibility to keep that communication going.
No, that doesn't mean be a pest. Or an emotionally draining burden. Or a needy, care-for-me-or-I'll-die client whom your agent will rue daily.
It does mean ask questions. It does mean being clear about your expectations and professional goals. And, yes, it does mean being a good listener and remembering that your agent is human, too. (Well, usually.)
For nearly two years, I counseled a friend to leave her agent. Communication was abysmal--the agent wasn't even letting her know which editors had her stuff, and my friend was too intimidated (and sometimes too downright angry) to ask. I watched her shrivel up creatively, so unsure of what to write and if it even mattered any more that, toward the end, I hardly knew her (as a writer, that is). This gal is a strong writer with a vibrant mind and more ideas in a week than I would have in a decade! I wanted to see her thriving, and she wasn't.
Yes, she finally left (it was amicable). The final insult was discovering that the editors her agent had led her to believe had been subbed to, never had been. For months, my friend had been biting her nails FOR NOTHING.
This is an extreme case. I'm delighted that my friend can now begin fresh, and I believe she will be successful. It was merely a case of BEING IN THE WRONG RELATIONSHIP.
It doesn't mean my friend was a dud client. And it doesn't mean that the agent was a dud agent. It was a COMPLETE MISMATCH.
It happens. And the better the communication, the more quickly this sort of thing can be uncovered and dealt with.
A word to the wise. Because I want you all to find the RIGHT FIT.
If you don't? Divorce papers aren't necessary. Contracts have exit clauses (unless, of course, you're my first agent-from-hell, who never provided me with one); use when necessary. It might be terrifying to jump into the sea after all the fishing you've done, but the old adage is true: The wrong agent is worse than no agent at all.
Now, go get 'em! And have a wonderful weekend.