Agent-Client Communication

A writer asked: “How much communication should you expect from your agent? Is it unrealistic to ask them to let you know to which publishers they’ve sent a proposal? Should they give you periodic updates (perhaps quarterly?) or are agents generally so busy that it’s unfair to expect them to contact you unless they receive a ‘pass’ or someone shows interest?”

Sheesh, you clients are so demanding!

Okay, just kidding. Here’s the deal. Every agent has a different style. That’s why it’s so important to try and get to know an agent at least a little before you sign with them. Some agents carry a larger client load and don’t make it a habit to stay in close contact; some carry fewer clients and do more client communication.

I do think it’s reasonable to ask your agent for an update periodically, every couple of months should be okay. Pertinent information would include any new publishers to whom your work has been submitted, or any feedback, positive or negative, from publishers on your work. If you have published works in the marketplace, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting royalty statements and that your agent is available to help you understand anything about them that’s confusing.

I always send an email to the client when a submission is about to go out, letting them know which publishers I’m sending it to. When responses start to come back from publishers, I periodically let the client know what’s going on. (More often when things are happening, such as offers coming in.) When there is an offer on the table and then when there’s a contract in play, we keep our clients updated as often as necessary for them to know what’s going on. Sometimes this can be everyday or several times a day if things are changing fast.

Don’t expect regular communication if you have projects that have been out on submission for months with no positive response. At that point, you may want to contact your agent and talk with them about what you can do next or what you can do better to try and get something more marketable into the pipeline.

Similarly, when you have a contract and you’re in that stretch of months when you’re writing your book, you’re free to contact your agent for random questions, but you probably won’t hear from them. They assume you’re happily writing and don’t want to be disturbed.

The most important thing is: Ask your agent. There’s nothing wrong with writing your agent an email asking the same questions asked at the top of this post. “How often should I expect to hear from you? Is it okay if I email you with questions, or should I wait for you to contact me?”

Readers, chime in. What kind of communication do you have with your agent? Is it enough? Is there something you’d like to see improved?

Photo byย Quino Alย onย Unsplash

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!

7 Comments

  1. Pat Iacuzzi on May 25, 2018 at 9:22 AM

    Oops! Didn’t mean to repeat the message–not sure how to remove one of them.



  2. Pat Iacuzzi on May 24, 2018 at 7:18 PM

    I have learned so much from a coaching session with you last year, Rachelle, and I’m really enjoying the Author School’s lessons and on-line discussions.
    I think the communication you have with your clients and students is clear and direct; something to look for in other agents as well. It made me pause and think about the questions I need to ask, making sure they are important and to the point, not time-consuming. If and when my work is accepted, I’ll know what a professional relationship between client and agent looks like. Thanks, Rachelle.
    p.s. You have the visual, auditory, and tactile teaching methods covered! ๐Ÿ™‚



  3. Pat Iacuzzi on May 24, 2018 at 7:16 PM

    I have learned so much from a coaching session with you last year, Rachelle, and I’m really enjoying the Author School’s lessons and on-line discussions.
    I think the communication you have with your clients and students is clear and direct; something to look for in other agents as well. It made me pause and think about the questions I need to ask, making sure they are important and to the point, not time-consuming. If and when my work is accepted, I’ll know what a professional relationship between client and agent looks like. Thanks, Rachelle.
    p.s. You have the visual, auditory, and tactile teaching methods covered! ๐Ÿ™‚



  4. Gabster on December 11, 2011 at 2:13 AM

    Feedcast…

    Fantastic blog post, saw on…



  5. canvaschild on January 29, 2008 at 5:34 PM

    >I’m glad I checked this post, since I e-mailed you asking this very question today ๐Ÿ™‚ I tend to be an over-eager person who finishes things months ahead of the deadline so it’s important for me to learn patience when it comes to things like this. Blessings. Emily.



  6. Cathy West on January 29, 2008 at 4:05 PM

    >Well, I have a friend who has an agent and that agent has not (to my friend’s knowledge anyway) even read her full manuscript. That struck me as kind of odd. Maybe a lot of agents offer representation based on other things? I would think though that an agent needs to know what your book is all about and needs to believe in it like you do. And also know what you’re about as a person. Agents can pick and choose. First time authors who desperately just want an agent, are not always so discerning. I would hope that most CBA agents are the real deal, but I think the key is communication. Not to be high maintenance as Mary said, but to at least have a plan and a purpose for the career you have or hope to build. I would think my friend should at least get to know what the plan for that book is, but so far I think the agent is just submitting it as is. I guess the lesson there is, don’t be afraid to ask anything, especially if you’re uncomfortable with something that’s going on. Not all agents are as good as Rachelle!



  7. Mary DeMuth on January 29, 2008 at 12:21 PM

    >I view it as a professional relationship, so I have the same expectations as I would any professional. My agent answers my emails that day, usually within the hour I send it. She’s attentive and helpful, and she always gives updates on the status of things.

    I’ve met authors who are a bit disgruntled with their agents. Some are probably right in being disgruntled. Never hearing back from your agent would be a red flag. However, as Rachelle says, agents are busy. Be sure to offer grace.

    Most important, develop a relationship with your agent over time. If you’re a new client, don’t bombard him/her with every question that pops in your head. You don’t want to be known as High Maintenance.

    Mary DeMuth
    http://www.wannabepublished.blogspot.com



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