Dear Ms. Lerner:
Are there different ‘types’ of client? The midlist author with no idea his career is in irretrievable decline (although you’re fully aware)? The literary author trying to deny the fact that she only had one book in her? The Shotgunner, who sends you a different idea every month? The Hibernator, who you don’t hear a whisper from for years, until a new manuscript arrives at your desk? I’ve always wondered if agents have a ‘Field Guide to Clients.’
Also, what percentage of clients sell a couple of books then never write anything else? What percentage keep writing, but stop selling? For how long?
Dear W: Clients, like agents, come in all shapes and sizes. Insecure, egotistical, driven, lazy, perfectionist, intrepid, resourceful, blaming, determined, fragile, headstrong, complaining, stoic, you name it. I think I even wrote a book about it. More interesting is to watch how any given writer responds to going through the process of sending out his work, looking for an agent, getting a publisher, getting his edits all the way through to post-publication. Every aspect about the writing process is character-defining. For instance, when one writer gets rejected he takes his marbles and runs home. Another swears he will never quit as a result of getting turned down – he doesn’t care by how many. One writer gets a great review, believes his own press and never writes another true word. Another writer gets a great review and develops a case of stage fright, never writing another word. One writer gets slammed by reviews and becomes a pit bull, another grows timid and eventually silent. Your books slips beneath the waves: do you? A Field Guide to Getting Your Ass Kicked is more like it. A Field Guide to self-loathing and doubt, a guide to self-flagellation and self-aggrandizement and hemorrhoidal hell. A field guide to every insecure thought and jealous rage. A field guide to my brilliance, to my ass, to misanthropy, my loneliness, my love. What species are you?
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