Friday, November 19, 2010

The Delicate Dance of Agents and Authors

It is a marriage. You have a courtship then a honeymoon then a working marriage and then at some point a divorce. You never like to think of getting divorced when you are married but it happens. But lets back up to the courtship. You are a writer and they are an agent. You have something they want and they have something you want. It should be symbiotic and so you start out by courting them. You send out your manuscript until an agent accepts and you go on a date.

Usually the first phone call is all hugs and kisses. They love your work and you love them because they promise a way to the promised land. The phone calls are all feel good and you get off feeling like you could leap tall buildings. Then you enter the honeymoon. They are submitting your work to editors. This is unbelievable. You have just jumped ahead ninety percent of other authors. You have a conduit to that mysterious world of publishing. Now is when you have your first quarrel usually. The rejections start coming in and you question the agent. Why did you submit it to them/ How about this person? This is a minor quarrel and you roll on.

Now here is the first fork in the road. The agent does or does not hit pay dirt. If he does not find a home for your book then you are looking at a quickie divorce. You might drag on a while but lets face it the bloom is off the rose and agents are in business to make money and if they can't make money off you then those calls will not be returned and those emails will go un-answered. You simply fall out of love. It happens. But if the agent sells your book then you go to the next level.

Now your are in a thriving working marriage. You have made the agent money and you have made money. Everyone is happy. This could last a very long time especially if your book does well. Maybe a lifetime. But, unfortunately, a lot of times the contract is paid off and the royalties dwindle and the followup book might not pan and then you enter that declining era in the marriage where no one is happy. You feel like you are not getting enough attention and the agent doesn't want to wast time on projects that won't pan out. So you divorce.

As an author you have to be very attuned to this cycle in author/agent relations. You want it to all work out the best but you don't want to be delusional either. If it feels like a bad marriage it probably is and you best be on your way to divorce court. There is nothing worse than thinking someone is doing something on your behalf when they aren't. So go get a divorce, then jump right back in the saddle and start dating again.

Books by William Hazelgrove