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Professional Relationships with Agents

Once your agent negotiates your book contract with a publisher, the two of you enter into what will invariably be a long term professional relationship that oftentimes blossoms into a friendship. However, even if you part ways with your agent, you will potentially deal with him for many years to follow. He will continue to collect your royalties and cut you a check, and he may still sell the foreign rights to your book. Whether you keep your relationship strictly professional or spend the weekends golfing together or trading war stories over a pitcher of beer, there are a few guidelines you should follow.

  1. Determine the preferred means of communication. If that's email, make sure you have your agent's correct address. If you change your address, let your agent know, and ensure he has your current telephone number and mailing address. He will continue to send you royalty statements, 1099s, and other documents for the life of your book contract, so keeping him in the loop is imperative.
  2. In addition to the means of communication, you need to know the method. Do you and your agent prefer informal or formal communication? Do you chat about your families and which movies you watched or books you read, or do you get right down to business? Pay attention to cues in the conversation and respond accordingly.
  3. Determine how often you should expect to hear from your agent. Just ask. This way you won't spend your evenings pacing by the phone or laying awake at night wondering why he hasn't called.
  4. If your agent doesn't respond to an email or phone call, don't freak. Remember that emails are forgotten or computers crash, messages are lost or accidently deleted, and any number of problems can occur. Send a follow-up. Wait until at least three unreturned messages before you commence a panic attack.
  5. Let your agent know your schedule. If you're going on vacation or will be out of town, let him know, and ensure he has a means to contact you. This goes both ways, too. Your agent should let you know when he takes off to the Bahamas or Paris to spend all the money you've made for him.
  6. Remember your agent on the holidays. This includes birthdays, anniversaries, children's graduations, etc. An email or card will do. Forgetting is no longer an excuse thanks to the wonderful world of online calendars and automated reminders.
  7. You won’t always agree with your agent, and your agent won’t always agree with you. That's fine. You don't have to always agree, but a disagreement shouldn't lead to an argument. Also, if you have a good agent, he will let you know when your work sucks and when it rocks socks.
  8. Know your goals, and ensure your agent does too. Work together to accomplish them.
  9. If there is a problem, don't stew. Discuss it with your agent, and expect him to do the same with you. Better to lay it all out on the table and resolve the issue rather than letting it potentially built into something much worse.
  10. The publishing world is a very small industry, and gossip travels quickly. Yes, even authors, editors, and publishers have their own special version of the paparazzi. Be professional, courteous, and treat others with dignity and respect.

Top Ten Pieces of Advice for a Good Agent - Author Relationship [Folio Literary Management]

Check out the original article on my website.

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July 4th. Congratulations, US armed forces--past and present!


Thanks for the advice re: dealing with agents. You cover the subject with the didactic thoroughness of a West Point Grad.

Actually, I'm commenting your blog entry today mainly to thank you. You and all the current American military personnel who are but the vanguard segment of a proud lineage of American defenders that goes back to 1776, and the day we are now remembering with celebration.  No one can refute that the American military won us our country and that it has perpetuatated our sovereignty since its birth.

I thank you. Our nation thanks you.

Dennis Shay

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My Thanks

Thank you for your comments, both on my article and on the military.  Yesterday I had the honor of witnessing the largest reenlistment ceremony in the history of America. On July 4, 2008, 1,215 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, raised their right hands and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Listening to their voices boom through Al-Faw Palace gave me chills.