I write romance, so it’s no coincidence I often see life through a filter of heaving bosoms and greased abs.
It’s not just the love scenes (OK, it’s mostly the love scenes). Aside from that though, there’s a parallel between finding a great agent and achieving the elusive happily-ever-after.
The thing you think you want isn’t always what you need. That’s a common romance novel theme, whether it’s a guy debating between churches in a faith-based inspirational romance, or a woman plotting a threesome in a steamy erotica. Before I had an agent, I thought I might like to be represented by a larger agency with a big-dog reputation in my genre. After a year in just such a relationship, I realized that wasn’t what I needed at all.
For the last three years, I’ve been represented by Michelle Wolfson and her smaller boutique agency with a more personalized approach. I couldn’t be happier if she showed up on my doorstep every afternoon with a bouquet of roses and a bottle of wine.
Well, the wine might make me happier.
Equal partnership is key. In romance novels, you don’t see a lot of browbeaten heroines picking up the overbearing hero’s socks. There also aren’t tons of heroines flogging their submissive men (unless it’s a BDSM novel, in which case flogging is encouraged).
Naïve writers can fall prey to one of two misguided ideas about agent relationships – the chest-thumping notion that an agent is some sort of subservient employee, or the cowering, “I’ll lick the gum off the bottom of that agent’s shoe as long as she occasionally returns my calls.” Neither is quite right (though for the record, Michelle has a lot of cool shoes I’d consider licking if she promised to give them to me). Both agent and author bring something vital to the relationship, so balance and mutual respect is crucial to making things work.
You’ve gotta talk. There’s a stereotype in bad romance plots called “the big mis.” Short for “the big misunderstanding,” it’s where your story’s entire conflict could be cleared up in 30 seconds if the two characters sat down and had a conversation. In a good agent/client relationship, this isn’t an issue. You talk about your goals. You talk about submission plans. You talk about trashy TV shows and the superiority of Starburst over Tootsie Rolls.
Few things are more important in any sort of relationship than the ability to talk openly, honestly, and kindly (unless we’re talking BDSM erotica again, in which case name-calling is preferable to kindness).
Oh, and you want to know one area where agent relationships and romantic ones aren’t alike? You can’t have a romance novel where the hero and heroine never meet.
But in over three years of working together, Michelle and I have never met in person. We plan to remedy that in June at a national Romance Writers of America conference, but in the meantime, I’ll just have to imagine our delightful trip to Jamaica to do publicity for the release of Making Waves.
In my mind, there is a cabana boy with greased abs. Can you see him?
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