Agent Expectations and Priorities, Part 2

Last month I talked about mine and our agency’s priorities. You can view that post here.

Briefly, the first four were: 1. Contracts, 2. Reviewing/Editing Proposals, 3. Submitting Proposals, 4. Client Detail

Next…

5.  Editors:  I value highly my relationship with editors. Many of them are people I call my friends. I care about their lives, and, in return, they care about mine and the lives of my clients. At the end of the day, people do business with people they like. Doing business is not all about trust and relationship, but it is a huge reason that our agency is successful.

Consequently, each year I make time to meet personally with as many editors as possible. I have to get to know who they are, what they love to read, and what their particular house is looking for. Instead of making the July ICRS convention a priority, I go to Grand Rapids, Chicago, and Eugene every year; Nashville twice a year; and New York every other year, which allows me to visit all the CBA Houses, one on one, in a relaxed environment. ICRS may be handy (all editors together in one place), but they are also pushed, exhausted, and often overwhelmed during that crazy-busy week. I prefer to meet them at a relaxed, less-pressured time, making it enjoyable for all. We get more business done, but more importantly, we do more natural relationship building. Colorado Springs, the other publishing Mecca, is just down the road. I’m usually there monthly.

6.  Industry News: The transition that publishing has been going through the last three years has been a game-changer for agents. I’m now spending about 3-5 hours a week reading insider news about the publishing world. It’s a headache, but I do it so you don’t have to.

7.  Referrals: While the agency is always looking for the right type of authors, I personally am not looking to expand my author list. For the time being, Barbara is not signing new clients either. I will add a few clients each year, but it is rare. Your confidence in recommending us first to your author friends means a lot, but like every agency, we’re very picky.

What you won’t see me doing…

  1. I don’t have time or a desire to be famous. Though I tithe a small amount of time each year to encourage new writers, this is not a large focus. Most of my time is dedicated to my author-clients, as this is what they expect me to do (and what I love doing). Other agents do have a desire to be known well, and they have their reasons for this. Writing this monthly blog is hard enough with my jam-packed schedule. If I were to do a daily blog, the work above would greatly suffer. You will rarely read a Tweet from me unless it’s to announce something about what one of our agency clients is doing. Cathy keeps our fan page updated. The bottom line is that WordServe’s aim is for our authors to be well known, not me or the other agents who work in our company. I want to be known as an agency that gets things done; I want to deliver steak not sizzle. Ultimately, this is what authors want and need most.
  2. Though we are proud of our website and social media efforts (Facebook, this blog, Twitter posts that connect and promote our authors’ projects, our upcoming Pinterest emphasis), this is not our number one priority either. Quite frankly, we already receive way more inquiries than we can handle, so advertising or promoting our company does not benefit us. Word of mouth is our best advertising, when our clients and editors hand our names to excellent writers seeking publication. Most often, enthusiastic referrals from professionals yield our best new clients.

Agenting is about priorities, but so is life. Along with doing this work that I love, Becky and I are involved with people in our church, with our six kids and five grandsons, and trying to keep life balanced and fruitful. It’s a fun challenge.

What priorities matter most to you in a literary agency?  (Or if you are a new writer, what would you imagine you’d like your agent’s priorities to be?)

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This entry was posted in Agent's Desk and tagged , , by Greg Johnson. Bookmark the permalink.

About Greg Johnson

I’m the president of WordServe Literary in Centennial, Colo. and founder and president of FaithHappenings.com. More importantly, I’m married to Becky, and together we share six adult children, and are grandparents to seven. In previous years, I've been a Campus Life leader (10 years), Breakaway magazine editor (5 years), author or coauthor of 21 books. But for the last 22 years, I've been a literary agent privileged to work with a great family of authors and staff trying to make a dent for the Kingdom.

11 thoughts on “Agent Expectations and Priorities, Part 2

  1. This is my wish list for my agency’s focus: 1. Contracts, 2. Reviewing/Editing Proposals, 3. Submitting Proposals, 4. Client Detail.

    Well done. I love that you do your best to balance your work life with your church and personal lives as well. Can you bottle that? :o)

  2. Informative and transparent. I enjoyed your post, Greg. I’m always glad to hear of someone, whether it’s an agent or an author, that tries to build relationships and prioritizes their time and energy. Although I don’t have an agent at this time, I know I’m not looking for a ho-hum whatever type attitude. I want a partner. A friend. Someone who believes in me enough to say, ‘you can do better than that’ or ‘good job’ and cheers when WE succeed. And, seeing as how I’m agent-less at the moment, it’s hard for me to come up with an answer to your question. So, I’m with Janalyn. 🙂

  3. For me the top priorities would also be contracts and career direction. I’m grateful for your solid reputation, game plan, and success record. The fact that you are a man of Godly character and base your agency on those characteristics gives me trust and confidence for my writing future. Thanks for sharing about your relationship with editors. That felt really right to me.

  4. I’m grateful for my agent’s publishing expertise and connections. I feel like we’re on the same team, focused on the same objectives. And I know that I need a great coach!

  5. Greg, thank you for sharing your priorities with us. They make me feel valued as a person as well as author. What I’ve most appreciated about my time with Barbara I think falls under client detail. I appreciate the way she made time to get to know me as a person, and how she is available for brainstorming ideas and concepts, and her advice is always spot on, even when I don’t want to hear it.
    I feel honored and privileges to be represented by WordServe and I thank the Lord for making the divine connections that brought us together.

    • So glad to hear that, Henry. Barbara is a pros pro and is serving a select group of authors wonderfully.

  6. Greg, thanks for giving us a look behind the scenes for many writers knowing what goes on in the Agents camp is very important and it helps dispel myths and wrong attitudes so thank you. Enjoy your life. Fred

  7. Thanks for sharing your priorities with us, Greg. Your post just confirmed that I am with the right agency. I’m honored to be a part of WordServe and Barbara has been wonderful.

  8. Your priorities certainly explain the success of the authors you represent. You are the wind beneath our wings. Thanks to you, Barb, and Sarah, for exemplifying godly standards. I still shake my head in awe at representation by an agency of your caliber, and a woman of God like Barbara. May God continue to bless you all.

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