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Friday, September 02, 2005

The Dynamics of the Agent-Author Relationship

Agent Jennifer Jackson considers the dynamics between author and agent in her column at Romancing the Blog. She points out the damage that miscommunication and frustrated expectations can do to that relationship. And in the end, it really is a relationship - and like any relationship, if the parties are not compatible, it will suffer, and in some cases, have to be terminated.

I lucked out in finding my own agent, Janell. A few years ago, I inadvertently sent her a query with sample chapters for my first novel thinking I was sending it to Marie Brown. (Yeah, I know, I know, how could I be so dense? Although Janell is an agent for Marie Brown, she's in Florida, not NY - again, dense, huh?).

Anyway, my mistake actually was a boon; Janell liked the pages enough to ask for the full mss and I gladly sent it to her (Federal Express, if I recall). About a month later, she sent word that although the mss showed I had a good voice, in the end, the characters just weren't compelling enough (as it was my first novel, I can agree with her now, although at the time it stung something awful; at that time, I was still in the process of learning - still am). The one thread of hope she gave me, though, was that she would be open to reading any other works I had.

When I started yet another novel, I sent her preview pages and she gave me feedback. But as novels go, the project went the way of the desk drawer (or in my case, another file saved on my hard drive, although I do intend to finish it one day). That she was open to read anything I sent her encouraged me to continue writing and eventually I wrote Again, and that was the one that clicked with her. It needed majoring restructuring, and thanks to the constructive criticism of one publishing editor who turned it down, but gave me some insightful comments of how to improve it, I re-wrote some chapters, added others, and made the mss much more compelling. After the re-write, Janell submitted it to several publishers, including Kensington/Brava, who immediately offered me a two-book deal. Thus, my life as author (make that "validated" author) began.

I didn't have to worry about a bad relationship with Janell; she already had a proven track record - she represented Tananarive Due, one of my favorite horror authors, for her first novels and now there's a movie deal pending for one of them.

So far, Janell and I click as we both have the same vision for my nascent career. And like any relationship, when the parties are compatible, it works. Unfortunately for some authors and their agents, the relationship doesn't work - sometimes it's the fault of either, or both, or neither. But the one thing to remember is that when it doesn't work, or it stops working, you have to decide whether to try to resolve the problem(s) - or sever the ties completely. And like any divorce, there will be some pain - but in the end, it might be very liberating.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 9/02/2005 09:01:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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