• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I Thought Love Was More or Less a Give

Today has seen all the colors of the client rainbow. One was super cranky about his publisher. Another was intimidated by her publisher. One wanted to fire her editor. Another was pissed about publicity. One was grateful for his starred Publisher’s Weekly review. One was going nuts waiting for a contract. Another was waging war with his editor over catalogue copy.  Another was thrilled with his jacket. (It is a kick ass, home run, slam dunk jacket.) One needed reassurance that he could write. Another wanted to have coffee to talk about new ideas. A new client needed help with his proposal. And one little piggy  ran all the way home — turning in the final chapters of a novel that’s been in progress for a few years. And he nailed it. Dear Lord, help me help all my clients achieve their dreams. Help me help them.

What do you want from your agent? And if you don’t have one yet, what do you think you’d want?

70 Responses

  1. What do I want from an agent?


    Not that it’s likely given my writing.

    Well, what I’d *really* want is honesty about what I write, honesty about the chances of my work being published, and honesty about my areas for improvement (honesty and as clear-as-possible commentary).

    I’d also like honesty about what my agent did for my book in the last time period (week? month? quarter) as well as what the publishers/editors are saying.

  2. A kick in the butt to settle on subject to write about and another to actually write a good first three chapters for submission.

    BTW, i like your blog, and I like your book (FFTT).

  3. Too funny. I didn’t download the pic on my email but was thinking about the old lady in the shoe as I read your post and there she is… kind of. Old dolls are creepy.

    Honesty. I want honesty.

  4. Damn. That’s too many colors for me. I wouldn’t have the patience to listen to people whine all day.

    But, kudos to your client on the kickass book jacket.
    I don’t care what anyone says, a great jacket matters. Yeah, the writing content has to be there, but a badass cover matters. Perhaps this is a throw back to my love of vinyl album covers, but an ugly/wrong jacket does rub some of the shiny off.

    May tomorrow bring you less angsty colors and more of the kickassness.
    Also, I lovelovelove that you care so deeply about your clients dreams. (that’s all any author need want from an agent)

  5. I would like any agent to be kind but frank in evaluating my novel. I understand, of course, that we all have some days that are better/worse than others, but I would wish the agent to evaluate my work on its own merits.

  6. A smaller rake would be nice.

  7. When I get an agent, I’d like him or her to be honest about what needs to be changed so I can start working on it. I’d like updates on how things are going. Something like we are waiting to hear back from publisher x and that will take 6 months. Excitement about my projects (if they are good and truth if they are bad)

  8. One: A contract I would/could never get or negotiate on my own.

    Two: Know enough of me to be my.. buffer.Viewer Discretion of rejections advised. Yep. Filter those rejections: send me the good rejections but spare me snarky sharks. Remember I just may have spent a life time or three to write that book. If they don’t see the layers –their problem. You do! I’m a moderately healthy neurotic but what’s biz talk to the editors and you might just make me want to stab myself in the jugular with a pen.Many times.

    Three: Ziplocked lips. What I tell you in private– is not for sale– is not for cocktail parties.

    Four: Listen to my latest greatest Ideas and be honest. ( I won’t listen anyhow if you say nay it won’t sell plus I prefer you nod with glowing eyes as my need to believe the lie I am original is ever present and even better—from time to time if you can look — gobsmacked.)

    Four: Visionary genius and clarity. See me for the writer I am. Where I am. How I work. Where I could be. (Forget age and trends and pigeon holes. )

    Five: Even when there’s a writer in the room with more star power than me and she or he is not your client, you might want to pay a tad more attention to me, your client, and not froth at the mouth in his or her direction so obviously. Just sayin. Kinda rude. Like those men I used date who stared at other women’s breasts and thought I didn’t see them.

    Six : Keep praying that dear lord prayer above. We know it helps to have friends in high places.

    Seven : Most important (after number one) : a sense of humour.

  9. i want trips to NYC and some of those lunches you talk about with editors.

    i want texts saying, “SOLD!” and emails with contracts sent as attachments.

    i want their unwavering loyalty and total attention and clear direction.

    at the risk of being katherinized…if you told us the top ten (five?) things you want in a client, i would tattoo the post across my back right under my big block THUG LIFE letters.

  10. Jesus. After reading that list I hope you have a nice, calm shrink and a pack of Marlboro Lights.

    As for my dream agent, I’ll take the belief theme from yesterday. And a sense of humor.

  11. I need someone who will be on my side—not a sycophant or a boss, but a business partner.

    I would consider it a bonus if s/he gets my sense of humor and has perfected the Undetectable Eyeroll of Tenuous Patience.

  12. What I want from my agent is to find them.

  13. What I want in an agent is exactly what I have–Wendy Schmalz. She’s smart, funny, and in my corner. She also likes dogs.

  14. I want an agent who knows how to tan a beaver hide, track a moose, and make blueberry jam. Metaphoriically speaking (sortof).

  15. Competence. Honesty. Respect.

  16. Someone to kick my ass and hold my hand. Nah, that’s Mama, not an agent. Are agents ever Mama?

  17. You.

    Too bad you don’t rep what I write.

  18. Gosh, I think I’d cling to any scrap of love and attention I could get right now.

    • I’m not an agent, but for what it’s worth {{hug}}.

    • Not that agents can’t be loving and attentive but you might want to look elsewhere for those things. This is a business and the emotional toll it takes on everyone can be all the more brutal when you get too attached to those you’re working with. It’s unrealistic to think those attachments won’t sometimes happen but when writers get too emotionally dependent on their agent/ editor/ publicist, it can spell major fallout.

  19. I would like to have an agent with a huge sense of humor and a bizarre interest in guided missile systems and epilepsy so I could share my memoir of my genius brother Roy. Of course, I’ve only written 1400 words so far. (Not including two unpublished novels) Thanks for asking.

  20. Simple. I want an audience. Get me an audience and your mine forever.

  21. I want someone who likes what I’ve done, can tell me if it needs more polishing so it’ll sell for as attractive a price as possible and have the contacts and finnesse to pull it off. I need someone who realizes I will earn my 85 if they earn their 15. A business partner.

    • 85/15 isn’t meant as a zinger. I’m creative but also pragmatic. Good business deals are clear about compensation and understanding what is expected from both parties. Business savvy is knowing where to find the strengths to compliment your own.

  22. I want what I didn’t have with my ex agent – Honesty, and a willingness to talk to me or email me about my book. Somebody who can assure me a little when the going get’s rough. A sense of humor would be wonderful.

  23. I want my agent to walk side by side with me and the both of us experience success.

  24. I want my agent to advocate for me if I need her to, or to empower me to advocate for myself.

  25. Someone who is as excited as I am about my book, and has the talent, the gift to make it better.

  26. I want a great editorial eye to help me get the manuscript in the best shape possible, someone who answers my calls and emails in a timely fashion and most of all someone who will stick by me until my moment comes.

    Of course I want someone supportive but I don’t need a best friend or therapist or mom. That’s what my best friends, therapist and mom are for.

  27. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amy MacKinnon, Amy MacKinnon and Lydia Sharp, Randy Susan Meyers. Randy Susan Meyers said: What do you want from your agent? What @BetsyLerner 's clients want from her. http://bit.ly/ey1tKE […]

  28. Simple yet perfect agent prayer.

    Is there a condensed version of the many excellent writer prayers above?

    Or a mantra transforming me into a perfect client?

  29. A sense of humour and pep talks and long walks on the beach are all great, but the best things about my agent are that she cuts through my crap like a bullshit surgeon to find the real gems, she challenges me to do better, she’s a brilliant line editor and best of all she knows people. Without contacts and knowing who takes what why and a track record of success it’s all just a circle jerk. Now she also happens to have a wicked sense of humor – she specializes in crime thrillers and when we occasionally get together for lunch, I feel a little bad for other diners as some of our graphic conversations about plot points and crime scenes must make the casual diner ready to upchuck their Cobb salads. But that’s just for fun – the business is a whole other ballgame

  30. Precisely what you’re doing here on this blog is what I want from an agent right now. What I want later I’ll figure out later.

  31. A lovingly administered deconstruction of my work.

  32. I want my agent to be my new best friend, but a bossy one who will whip me into shape when I need whipping and who wiill stay up all night thinking about my problems for me.

  33. I want to be treated like a commodity.

  34. An agent who will define the words “interesting” and “soon” and “almost”.

  35. To work with me.
    To work for me.
    A crack business mind.
    A contact list to die for.
    A sense of humor like mine.

  36. i want a punk agent. the one who says “fuck off” and means it, not “let’s do lunch next week.”

  37. Last week my kid had some nasty intestinal bug–really, you can’t imagine how vile a sweet little angel’s poop could smell–and a couple of days ago I thought I was coming down with it. My wife wouldn’t let me touch anything, no food prep or cooking, no dishes or not even bathing the child. Turns out I didn’t have the bug, but I milked that cow ’til soft and flabby were the teats. I felt just awful about what I was doing, but I should be better soon.

    Sometimes I’m like that with my writing, getting lazy, looking for shortcuts. I want an agent who won’t hesitate to tell me when my writing is compromised because I’m being an asshole.

  38. What do I want from an agent? Simple – how about an agent – period. I have one book written and self published but the marketing part is more difficult than some think so didnt sell as many as I had hoped. Would an agent have helped? Most likely but being new to this career, time will tell.

  39. A passionate reader who cares about good writing.

  40. Someone who likes my work, gives a shit about me, and gets me a Really Big Book Deal.

  41. I got a lovely rejection today (do those two things go together) from someone seriously considering my project (and yes, I do know the difference between a sincere rejection and a form letter and this was the former, several graf rejection). Ultimately, this agent passed because the current structure of my story wasn’t her vision of the story. And while the rejection hurt (I cried), I still REALLY appreciated her turning the project down because she wasn’t 100% committed. I want an agent who will help me craft my story into the best book it can be while staying true to my vision. And who can then take it out and talk the heck out of the book and be its greatest cheerleader (not my cheerleader, the book’s).

  42. That picture, miss muffet, speaks lovely. I would say simple honesty: This won’t sell, this I can do something with, and all the rest: cajoling, ass-kicking, insulting, heart-felt truths about writing and selling books, a couple of cat-fights (we’re talking writers here,) a hello, and a bunch, which is a measurable weight, of others things that I can’t imagine yet, some love, some yes, that will work. But, my book in a book store would be the best. Oh, right, gotta finish it. Fuck me! Those fucking details. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to be cliche — you rock.

    • Oh, yeah, money. Pockets full of money, suitcases full of money, boat-loads of money, bank accounts full of money. So much money that I will need to figure out something that means something to me to do with it. That kind of money.

  43. What I want in an agent is in a lot of ways what I wanted (and found) in a wife: some one who allows me to be myself, but isn’t afraid to tell me when I am being a prick. Someone who believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. And an agent who knows, and expects, each project to be better than the last.

  44. A pulse.

    Oh Jesus, help me finish this effing novel so I can begin to query. So I can, please, please, fplease, find an agent who will help me get the thing out into the world lookin’ good.

  45. I don’t want an agent that blows sunshine up my butt, I don’t care if they share details about me at cocktails parties, or filter my rejections. I’m a big girl. I think I know the limits of my talent (which are seemingly infinite) and if you want to sell a book nowadays you have to be interesting.

    What I want is irrevelant. I think in the beginning at least. But I do want an agent who is going to sell the hell out of my work. I want an agent who has good connections with not only publishers, but will help with foreign rights, movie/TV options, and will point me towards a good lawyer, publicist, and any one else I need on my team.

    Basically I want an agent who does their job, but as they say beggars can’t be choosers. I’d be happy to just finish my book at this point!

  46. One who catapults a ton of money my way.
    BTW I love your blog.

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