For Agents: Some Dos and Don’ts
A Guest Post by Hope Vestergaard...
This is the second of two guest posts by author Hope Vestergaard. In yesterday's post, Hope offered a list of Dos and Dont's for Editors. Today she directs her advice to agents.
- Do have a website, however minimal. If you don’t have one, we will be forced to google you and glean information from random sources. Critical info: what genres you represent, any you hate; selected projects you represented; submission directions; timelines for a response; how editorial an approach you take.
- Do stick to the same submission policies mentioned below for editors: be timely, be clear, be honest. If you offer editorial input, please distinguish between big picture and close-up feedback. If you employ first readers and assistants, let us know that. Sharing manuscripts is a relatively intimate endeavor. Imagine going to your personal physician, donning your gown and having three interns join the exam, unannounced. It is comforting to know who will be in the room, whether for a physical exam or a manuscript evaluation.
- If you blog, do so with tact. Are you promoting yourself or your clients? Are you promoting your clients equally? Include a FAQ to which you can direct newbie questions, thereby resisting the urge for snarky remarks.
- Don’t leave your clients hanging. There’s probably a good reason you haven’t gotten back to us, but we can’t read your mind. Acknowledge receipt of manuscripts with a brief note and a ballpark of when we should hear from you again. Respond to regular questions within a day or two, even if just to say, “I will look into this and get back to you ____.” Call us occasionally just to touch base and remind us that we are on your horizon even if we don’t currently have anything “hot.”
- Do tell us if you just aren’t excited about something we submit to you. Don’t hope we’ll forget about it. Say it’s not your favorite and steer us in the direction of something you think we’ll be more effective with.
- Don’t tell tales out of school. When you give a speech and mention that obnoxious client who did this annoying thing that one time, we will figure out who it was. When you gossip with us about other clients, we may enjoy that “chosen one” sensation in the moment, but later on, we’ll wonder what you’re saying about us to others.
- Do help us know where to put our marketing efforts. Help us make the decision whether or not to hire a publicist. Put in a good word with conference planners if you know we’re a good speaker. Let the PR people you talk to know how energetic and personable we are. Likewise, if you know that public speaking is not our strength, help us be okay with that.
- Do let us know what we’re doing well. If you think we’re really strong in one genre, let us know. If you appreciate our professionalism or patience, let us know. If you think we have a really good humorous YA novel in our future, let us know. We are like dogs: loyal, attentive, and eager to please. Throw us a bone!
I imagine that some editors and agents may be spluttering, right about now, that I obviously don’t know how bad you have it, or how awful some of the slush is, or what it’s like to be inundated with inappropriate submissions. Sadly, I have an idea! The nincompoops who fire off typo-ridden, poorly thought-out queries to umpteen editors and agents at once also target writers. Attempts to reach these folks with sarcastic, condescending feedback are misguided. The people who need to hear those things don’t recognize their own blunders and don’t seek information about improving their craft and professionalism.
On the other hand, the well-intentioned people who make innocent newbie mistakes learn very quickly when they find good advice on respectful, professional blogs such as this one, or Editorial Anonymous, or Nathan Bransford’s blog, just to name a few.
Dear industry insiders: please don’t pander to the lowest common denominator. True writers are ready to learn! We want to succeed. We are happy to treat you with the professional courtesy you deserve. We’re not asking for much – just mutual respect.