Author/Agent Etiquette - article

I always tell people it’s much better to be pleasant than unpleasant in a relationship, and what you, as an author, have with an agent is a relationship. So how would you treat somebody in a relationship? If you’re going out with a guy, you don’t want to be calling him all the time. You’re going to put him off. I think agents are a little bit like that. If you call too often, they’ll think, “Why did I take this person on?” So don’t call every day. But at the same time, stay in touch. I try to call authors regularly, especially if they’re new, because I know they are feeling a little bit tender. I try to make sure they’re feeling comfortable, especially if they’ve got a project I love. If somebody hasn’t contacted you within three weeks to a month, give that person a call. Sometimes, that’s enough to make your manuscript go to the top of the pile, especially if you com across as a really nice person or say something about the project that grabs the agent’s interest. But don’t overdo it; you don’t want to be a nuisance.

One thing that really puts me off is when people say something like, “I have a whole bunch of other agents who are interested.” I think people sometimes advise authors to say it, but it doesn’t work. It’s like trying to blackmail somebody, and it doesn’t make a good impression. Just be yourself and be polite. Call and say, “I know you’re busy, but once you’ve had a chance to look at it, will you get back to me right away?” And most agents will. So just confirm that they have your proposal or manuscript in their pile, and then wait. Some agents are worth waiting for; some are not. You should have done your research in advance to make sure a particular agent is someone you want to work with. I’ve heard some agents be really rude on the phone, and if I were an author, I wouldn’t put up with that. But if you really want to work with a particular agent, hang in there.

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