The Author/Agent Relationship: It's a Marriage

As a literary agent, I get contacted daily by authors (published and those not yet published) looking for assistance. Perfect. You're looking for me....and I'm looking for you....maybe.

 Trust me, literary agents are looking for authors who are great writers and hard workers. You need us and we want you. That's where the magic begins.

I have written about this before, but it bears repeating. The last couple of weeks I have been working on a project for an author who has all the right elements already in place. A large platform, an engaged audience, and has already sold hundreds of thousands of books. That should make my job easy. Emphasis on should and the reason for this post to help make the relationship as successful as possible.

 Authors, your relationship with your literary agent or publicist is a marriage. Yep. If in your mind it is not, then bail now, because it will be a constant source of frustration for us both. I just finished writing a book (Four Secrets to a Forever Marriage - Worthy Publishing, July 2015) for an author. The focus is on four essential ingredients for a successful marriage. If I may, I would like to apply the principles here to help you establish a successful relationship with your agent, publicist or project manager in your writing career. These ingredients work for any relationship, but as I is a marriage. Here goes:

 1. Transparency

 The contract outlines the responsibilities of the agent or publicist. It becomes the foundation and the beginning of transparency as they share with you their plan to accomplish the tasks. But an agent (or publicist) can only work with what information you have given them. So as the author, it is important that you share with them who you are, your goals, your activities, speaking engagements, opportunities, etc. These become tools in their tool belt as they work for you.

Example: I was working with an author on the release of his new book. Because he had his own television and radio program, I was working with him and his staff to create a timeline on when to begin announcing the book and run ads to correspond with the release and publicity campaign.

 What the author didn't tell me-until a week before it happened-- was that they had partnered with another very, very large ministry who had a huge television audience. The other ministry was going to air a special program which completely focused around the message in the book.

The problem? I knew nothing about the program and had no time left to create any momentum in the media or his audience to build on this important event. It was still a good event, but it was a stand-alone. We couldn't use it to launch anything else with the campaign because it was hidden from my view. When I asked the author why he didn't mention it to me, he looked confused and explained that he didn't understand how we could have utilized it further. Just because he didn't know how to promote it further, didn't mean I didn't. It was a huge lost opportunity. He had not been "transparent" when we had discussed upcoming events because he didn't realize it was important to share that type information.

When it comes to working with your agent or publicist. Share. Let them know your schedule and opportunities as they arise. They can often help turn a one-time or small event into a larger opportunity by simply positioning the timing or exposure or adding some creative insights.

2. Truth

Be honest. Always. I've had authors that have:

  • shared inflated numbers of how many books they have sold in the industry.

  • Omitted information that they were releasing another book or currently working with another publisher that conflicted with the book we were working on together.

  • Had recent conflicts with the media or "incidents" that had hit the media that were coming back to bite us with the release of the new book.

  • That they had pulled their website just as I was releasing their proposal to publishers.

  • Etc.

Some of these are omissions of truth and some are simply forgetful omissions. But either way, it causes enormous problems for an agent or publicist when the truth comes out... and it always will.

3. Trust

In any relationship there must be trust. How do we get to the level of trust? Through establishing the first two steps of transparency and truth. When those are firmly in place, trust is established. The more that an agent and author or author and publicist can operate together in trust, the further they will go.

Trust is also reaffirmed with communication. The saying, "frustration ends where good communication begins" is completely true. Quick simple responses to questions in a timely manner reaffirms transparency, truth and trust. An author wants (and needs) communication from their agent. (Sometimes more than we have to give.) But I get that. Even if we only pass on the information that nothing new has happened with the proposal or book, it lets the author know you are on our radar.

Subsequently, authors when your agent or publicist asks for information or an update and we receive no response, we come to a standstill. We ask because we need some piece of information, a date, a figure, etc. to complete our work. No communication is like asking us to create bricks with no straw....and neither of us will be happy with the result.

4. Unity

 When transparency, truth and trust are in operation, the result will be unity. We work together and pull together as a team. The scripture in Amos 3:3, "Two become one and have great reward for their labor..." comes to mind.Anytime we create unity, we create strength and we can go further. It's about relationship...a marriage.

So I'll say it again, authors, help me help you. You wanted someone to come along side and help. So allow us to help, by communicating quickly, getting us the information requested, being transparent and sharing information about upcoming opportunities. You may be surprised that as you give us more "straw" to work with that the "bricks" begin to really multiply....and so do the results.