Awhile back, someone I was trying to sign as a client was on the phone asking me questions about what I was like to work with—how I liked to stay in touch, what houses I sold to most often, what degree of editorial involvement I have, etc. The usual. Then came a question I never thought I’d get.
“Your reputation is for being really nice,” she started. At this point, I’m feeling pretty good about where things are going. She continued, “So how can I trust that if I need you to fight for me, you actually will?”
Well, I never.
I kid. It was a huge surprise, but looking back, it’s a fair question. We’re in the business of being demanding. In some ways, our jobs are as professional advocates willing to do the dirty work so that the author doesn’t have to go through the nitty-gritty business side of things and can focus on their writing.
On the other hand, it’s a business of relationships. Authors also count on us to have a stable of editors who know and trust our taste…and actually want to work with us.
I like to think I’ve struck a balance over the years. At the start of my agenting career, I admit that I was tentative to ask for things. I still did it, but I was perhaps a bit meeker than I should have been. Growing as an agent, at least in part, has meant locating the balance between authoritative and rude, demanding and pushy.
Have I hit that sweet spot? You can ask the person who wanted to know if I was too nice to be an agent. She signed on. I still got it!
As a side note, the reason my blog entry is later than usual this week is that the first one I wrote was struck down by two people here. The reason? They thought I was too mean. Those bitches.