Strategic Relationship Management, Part 4

The Ideal Agent

In part 1 of this series, I outlined the concept of Strategic Relationship Management. So far, I have applied these principles to publishers and authors. Today, I want to apply them to agents.


I was a literary agent for six years, so I am speaking here from experience. What would the ideal, high-profit, low-maintenance agent look like from the publisher’s perspective? Here are fifteen characteristics:

Profile of the Ideal Agent
High ProfitLow Profit
1. Demonstrates a win-win financial paradigm.1. Demonstrates a win-lose financial paradigm.
2. Understands basic publishing economics.2. Doesn’t understand basic publishing economics and doesn’t seem to care.
3. Has clients who generally recoup their advances.3. Has clients who generally don’t recoup their advances.
4. Places more value on long-term relationships than short term transactions.4. Places more value on short-term transactions than long-term relationships.
5. Routinely sends us every new proposal.5. Doesn’t send us every new proposal.
6. Does lots of business with us and the volume is increasing.6. Doesn’t do much business with us.
Low MaintenanceHigh Maintenance
7. Sees the publisher as a partner (i.e., a customer), values his role, and reinforces it with the author.7. Sees the publisher as an adversary (i.e., “the enemy”), regards him as a necessary evil, and is constantly undermining his role with the author.
8. Prepares well thought out proposals and follows our proposal format.8. Sends us weak or incomplete proposals, requiring us to do his or her work before it is presentable.
9. Provides collateral sales material when it is available (e.g., audios, videos, previous books, etc.)9. Does not provide collateral sales material and seems unwilling to get it.
10. Is honest with us—tells us the good, the bad, and the ugly.10. Is not honest with us—only tells us the good and often exaggerates that.
11. Responds promptly to phone calls, e-mails, and other inquiries.11. Doesn’t respond to our phone calls, e-mails, or other inquiries in a timely manner.
12. Quickly passes on our requests to the author.12. Sits on our requests then blames us when the author complains about being rushed.
13. Gives us the benefit of the doubt and encourages his clients to do the same.13. Looks for opportunities to catch us doing something wrong and then points it out to the author.
14. Steps in and helps us when the author is not cooperating.14. Tells us (in so many words), “You’re on your own. Good luck!”
15. Expresses gratitude and encourages his clients to do the same.15. Rarely expresses gratitude and almost never encourages his clients to express gratitude.

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