Monday, April 09, 2007

The Honeymoon

Industry wisdom says the relationship between a writer and her literary agent should be like a good marriage: it needs chemistry, support and excitement. I guess that means I'm on the honeymoon because I just got a new agent a couple of months ago. That's one of the writing life's great "ups": finding an expert in the business who loves your work.

I'm feeling especially up because at our wonderful PASIC conference last weekend I sat down over a glass of wine with my new agent and we talked about all kinds of things, including my writing. She took me on as a client on the strength of an unpublished book which I adore; it's about a hockey goalie and a poet. Not only that, the poet is seven years older than the hockey goalie. This manuscript won PASIC's Book of Your Heart contest which I was especially thrilled by because it truly is a book of my heart.

However, I wasn't sure why my new agent had been drawn to it so I asked her point-blank. Now it may seem as though I was simply fishing for compliments. Not true (although compliments are always most welcome)! Readers may enjoy a book for many different reasons, some of which will surprise an author. It was important to me to find out what my agent saw as the strengths of my work so I can play to those and know what sort of projects to develop in the future. I also wanted to make sure that she wasn't going to expect something from me that I wasn't interested in duplicating in my next books.

I was thrilled--and relieved--to hear that she loved the same things in EMPTY NET that made it so special for me (most especially the hero!). Now I know she and I are truly on the same page (go ahead and groan at the pun). I can write what brings me pleasure with no shadows of doubt creeping across the computer screen. Whew!

Since we're talking about agents, what else do folks on this blog feel is important in an agent-author relationship?

7 comments:

Nancy Morse said...

FEEDBACK!!!!! I want to know where she's sending my work. And if it comes back, I want to know that, too. If it came back with a letter from the editor, I want to see that letter. I don't want to wait month to find out and then call her and hear "Oh, it came back." Really? When? And why is this the first I'm hearing about it? It's not enough to love my work (which, of course, is a definite must), but I need feedback. I don't want to have to chase after an agent for information. I do my job by writing the books. I expect an agent to do her job, part of which is keeping me informed.

Samantha Hunter said...

Nancy that is such a wonderful agent-story, and the book sounds great. :)

I'm with Nancy M, I like feedback and I'm hoping for that with my new agent, who signed me based on the writing I've done and a premise for a book I have yet to write. I'm not sure we're in a honeymoon stage as much as the "getting to know each other" stage, and we'll see how it goes, but the risk is the same for both of us -- we both agreed to work together on potential work, which is kind of nice, actually -- like with your agent, I think it's important to find someone who loves your writing, not just a particular book.

I want someone who will guide me with that feedback, but not overwhelm me or try to direct me -- you know what I mean? I like response, but I also don't want to be pushed where I don't want to go. However, I may need help finding out where I want to go, and I felt lucky to find someone who was willing to help me with that, rather than all the agents who just want something to sell up front.

So I guess in some ways what meant the most to me in a agent relationship was finding someone who wanted to represent *me* -- not just a book. Sounds like you found that as well. Congrats!

Sam

Nancy Herkness said...

Nancy M and Sam, you're right: feedback is hugely important. I've been pretty lucky with that as even my former agent was prompt about forwarding letters from editors. My current agent is terrific as well.

Sam, congratulations on your new agent! It's an exciting time, isn't it?

I completely agree with you on the "feedback without pushing". I think a really good agent has a very light touch in guiding her authors in the right direction.

I'm glad you think EMPTY NET sounds good. It has characters I just love spending time with and that's why I can't wait to finish it.

Sally MacKenzie said...

Maybe this is the same answer, only a little different. I think communication is SO important. I'm fairly new to the agent scene--I've had my one and only agent for a little less than two years. There are many things I like about her, but the most important thing to me is that she answers all my questions promptly and clearly. No question is too stupid--and she never makes me feel stupid for asking.

And another thing--I'm constantly amazed that there are authors who seem to be afraid of their agents!

Nancy Herkness said...

Sally, you're so right. If you can't speak frankly with your agent, it's not a good fit. I feel strongly about the relationship being that of business partners and if you can't discuss things with your partner, what's the point of having one?

BTW, it was such fun hanging out with you and Laura Drewry at the PASIC conference! I had a blast!

Sally MacKenzie said...

Me, too, Nancy. We'll have to get together at National and/or NJRWA's conference.

Did you see that The Wall Street Journal panned The Pirate Queen? My husband gleefully showed me the review.

Nancy Herkness said...

I'll see you at NJRW--won't be at National.

I don't know why The Pirate Queen is getting such bad reviews--I thoroughly enjoyed it. My only complaint was that the music is unmemorable but I loved the strapping Irish lads dancing so who cares if I can't hum a single melody from the show?