Based on some comments in the.. uh… comments section, it occurred to me that I’d never really written a post on the ideal author/agent relationship or my ideal client. And while I don’t talk about specific relationships on the blog, it’s actually a pretty simple equation. Every author/agent relationship is different, but they all depend on two essential ingredients: trust and communication.
Trust is especially key, and while it is something that is steadily built over time, it’s essential for an author/agent relationship to kick off on sound footing. Over the course of the relationship the author and agent are going to go through some great times and some not so great times. They’re going to have to deliver difficult truths to each other. The author is going to have to trust that the agent has their best interests at heart and is working hard on their behalf, and the agent has to trust that the author will fulfill their responsibilities.
I really can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Some authors I’ve spoken to are incredibly paranoid that their agent is going to pull one over on them. People, there is nothing to be pulled! There is just no incentive for a (reputable) agent to scam their clients. We ARE our reputations in this business, and we’re on your side. We want you to succeed as much as you want to succeed.
The essential second element is communication. The lines of dialogue must be open. I can’t believe how many authors approach me who are scared to talk to their agent! This is like being scared to tell your doctor that you have a cough. If you are feeling uncomfortable about something, talk to your agent. Give them a chance to address the matter. If you want to change something, talk to your agent first. If the lines of communication have broken down it’s a serious matter, but first give your agent to address the problem.
So when considering whether to sign on with an agent there are two questions you need to ask yourself: Do I trust this person? And can I communicate with this person? While every author/agent pairing is different, a solid relationship will be built on this foundation.