Working With An Agent: Personality Counts (guest post by Mercedes Yardley)

Today’s guest post comes from the talented, kind, and very lovely Mercedes Yardley! She graciously made our blog a stop on her tour promoting her new short story collection, Beautiful Sorrows, which you should probably go buy and then devour like a box of tiny dark chocolates.


Me: Hello, Brilliant Agent?

Brilliant Agent: Hello, Talented Author.  How’s the book coming?

Me:  Good.  Right on time.  I mean, pretty much. I’ve been busy with life and things.

Brilliant Agent: …

Me: I mean, the last book just hit, and I’ve been doing an awful lot of promo, you know. Blog tours. Signings. Holding that pen can get kinda exhausting.

Brilliant Agent:  …

Me:  I’ve been sick. Hard to work when you’re sick. And I’ve been watching a lot of X-Files reruns.  Love those.

Brilliant Agent: …

Me: Look, I’ll get to the point. Can I have an extension on the deadline?  Like, a few months or so?

Brilliant Agent:  I’ll give you 30 days.  Feel better! 

That’s pretty much how our last conversation went, and I love it. I love having an agent that forces me to be accountable.  He knows that I, personally, do better when being challenged and pushed, so he makes sure to do so.  It works very well for me. For others, maybe not so much.

Working with an agent is a different experience for everyone.  Agents are like lovers in that each relationship is different.  Some agent/client relationships have lots of hand-holding, coddling, and working with your heads together in the quiet of night, and that’s great for a lot of people.  That isn’t how I work.  I like having an agent who answers my questions but doesn’t hover, who isn’t up in my grill unless he needs to be, and who doesn’t let me get away with procrastinating. That’s what I need.  That’s what I enjoy.  I don’t want my agent to suffocate me.  I want my agent to spar with me in an arena and to help me grow stronger.

There are certainly things that you should look for when searching for an agent. You want somebody who knows what they’re doing, of course. They should represent your genre and be a fan of your work.  But an amazingly large part of it has to do with personality.  Do you want somebody hungry?  Do you want somebody to be there every step of the way with you, or to keep their distance while you create?  Do you want their input on your stories or would you like them to focus strictly on selling your work?  Shall your children call them “Aunty Agent” or simply “Sir”?

I met with several agents who had everything that I thought I wanted, but our personalities just didn’t mesh.  I’m a sarcastic darling, and I didn’t want to worry about inadvertently offending my agent whenever we had a conversation.  I wanted somebody knowledgeable and smart, but not a stuffed shirt.  My agent sold me when he answered several of my pitched ideas with the word, “Cool”.

I know agents are tough to come by, but don’t jump into an incompatible professional relationship just because they’re the first person to say yes.  You need them.  They need you.  There’s absolutely no shame in waiting until Mr. or Ms. Right comes along.  They’ll show up, eventually.  So just keep looking, and writing.

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  • galen dara

    Thank you so much for this Mercedes! I have found working with various art directors to be a bit of a similar experience in discovering working styles. SUPER excited to read Beautiful Sorrows.

  • Bo Bolander

    Dude. I want your agent.

  • Simon C. Larter

    Wait…Mercedes is sarcastic? What? O.o

    And totes looking forward to that copy of Beautiful Sorrows that’ll be arriving soon. *nods*