Yes, I care about the journeys of other writers. Yes, I tend to particularly "mother hen" those of my colleagues with whom I share friendship as well as writership.
As in, if you hurt, I hurt. If you're angry, I'm angry. You know how it goes. You do it, too.
But I want to channel my latest bout of righteous indignation into something productive, and here it is:
Signing with an agent is a wonderful thing. But if it ends up less than wonderful for any reason, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
I know that many of you who read my blog are either getting ready to query or have been querying and are firmly entrenched in I-need-to-find-an-agent. Then there are others of you who are recently or not-so-recently agented, but not yet published. Like me.
Let me tell you something. When you sign with an agent, you have not won the lottery. You have worked hard and made a business connection that will be (hopefully) beneficial to both of you. Being agented is a STEP along the way. It is not a mode of being that requires you to stay in a perpetual state of stunned thankfulness.
Don't get me wrong: I am daily thankful for my agent. I adore him and he knows it. And I think he must be at least marginally fond of me, because, let's face it--he's put up with me for quite some time now. But the bottom line is that Josh treats me well.
Yes, I've been frustrated sometimes (and he knows it--because I've communicated it). It's almost always because of a lack of communication. The truth is that I feel "taken care of" when I'm communicated with. Dark holes of silence? I don't do well with those. Not even marginally. But all relationships, both business and personal, have their ups and downs. Because nobody is perfect, and forgiveness is key to happiness. And threaded through the frustrations and miscommunications is a strong sense of being treated well. Being respected. And I know--because he's said it--that Josh is in for the long haul. We are, both of us, imperfect humans. But I think we've got an undeniable synergy that trumps the hiccups. Our relationship feels good.
This isn't always the case with agent-client relationships. Of course, it's not always the agent who's the "bad guy". Nobody wants to represent an author who is whiny or demanding or full of himself. Agents are overworked and trying to inhumanly multitask on an almost-daily basis. If we need respect, then they need it, too. Respect for their time, their priorities, their private lives (yes, they do have them).
If you feel more angst than satisfaction with your agent, something is wrong.
If you're not feeling supported, encouraged, energized, challenged to be become better, something is wrong.
Mind! I am absolutely not saying that your agent exists solely to be your cheerleader. HE DOES NOT. But cheerleading is part of it. Letting you know that he's excited about something, or that you've done a good job with the latest round of revisions, is a very decent-human-being sort of thing that needs to happen.
And if you've done something a bit out of line? Like, maybe you posted something on your blog that's a bit taboo--or maybe you've made an unreasonable demand? Then your agent needs to communicate this to you professionally and kindly. If you receive anything less than professional and kind, then that, to me, is a red flag.
(This is assuming that you are also being professional and kind. Right?)
You need to be treated well. Not pampered, not coddled, not deferred to on a daily basis. But simply treated well.
I walked for more than 2 years through a bad agent situation with a colleague who felt unsupported and condescended to by an agent with a reputation for suddenly emailing clients and telling them she no longer wanted to represent them. This colleague lived in fear that the same thing would happen to her. When she finally found the courage to "break up" with this agent, she found a new one--and got a book deal fairly quickly.
I've watched colleagues fall apart because their agents decided to call it quits after one try with one novel. (Which is why it's important to determine up front whether or not the agent you're signing with is a "career agent" or a "let's throw one book at the wall and see if it sticks" agent. If he's the latter, and you're longing for the former, you're going to end up disappointed. And you won't feel like you've been treated well.)
And, most recently, I've been privy to one of the most unprofessional communiques from an agent that I've ever seen. (Not rivaling what I went through my my agent-from-hell all those years ago. But, truly, there isn't a whole lot that could rival that.) All because my colleague dared to ask for an update on her submission list.
Here's a disclaimer on that last one: No one likes a pest. It's never okay to PESTER your agent. Weekly emails that say, "Hey! How's it going this week?" are going to drive your agent to the nearest bar before 2 p.m. But asking for an update after your agent sends you an editor list on the brink of submission and then goes dark is not, in my opinion, "pestering".
You are allowed to ask for updates. You are allowed to ask questions. You are even allowed to ask for advice.
You are allowed to be treated well.
You are NOT allowed to be a diva, or to hurl invectives at your agent when he doesn't measure up, or to expect that your project and your needs will always come first. In short, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE A JERK.
But if you are being a decent, hard-working, non-pesty client, and you aren't being treated well, then it's time to reevaluate your relationship with your agent.
Love yourselves, people. Love yourselves enough to know when the way someone treats you isn't okay. Love yourselves enough to trust your instincts when something isn't right.
Love yourselves enough to LEAVE when you are not being treated well.
And that is my mother-henning for the day. Write well, live well, love yourself so that you can love others well.
Thank you. I feel better now.