This will be my last agent-related post for a while…I’m itching to yammer on about something else. But there are two more points I'd like to cover on this topic before I move on--how to know if your agent is right for you, and how to build a great relationship with her.
If you're just starting out and you finally have the attention of a good agent, you probably won’t have the luxury of trying to decide if she is right for you. My advice would be to just go with her for now and hope for the best. Once you’ve been published, it will be easier to shop around for someone else. It is important to know, however, that when an agent makes a sale for you, they will continue to receive all commissions on that particular sale even if you decide to find someone else for your future projects.
If you are in a position to evaluate your relationship with your agent, then there are a few things to think about. Ideally, you’ll want someone who will answer your phone calls and e-mails in a timely matter. You’ll also want a tough negotiator and problem solver. You’ll want someone with whom you can speak freely and not feel intimidated. And, most importantly, you’ll want someone who believes in your work and in the longevity of your career—someone who sees the big picture.
Like any partnership, however, there are two sides. Many writers demand the world of their agents, yet neglect their responsibilities in the relationship. Remember Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character, Rod Tidwell in the movie Jerry Maguire? He was a nightmare client—demanding, arrogant, emotional, needy. Rod had Jerry, his agent, dancing at every turn. The only reason why Jerry put up with Rod was because he had no other clients, but if he had, I guarantee that Jerry would have ignored more than a few of his phone calls. Rod is a perfect example of how not to act.
To have a great relationship with your agent, you need to remember that you are not his only client. That means not expecting 24/7 access to him, or calling every day for little things, or crying to him on the phone over every bad review or anything else bad that’s going on in your personal life. That means allowing him a reasonable time frame to answer your messages, and trusting that if he hasn’t called back it’s probably because there’s no news to report. Basically, it means handling yourself with as much professionalism as possible. Yes, your agent should make you feel important and treat you with respect, but like anything else in life, the only way to get that respect is to earn it. If you approach the relationship with consideration, it will be returned to you.