So, what to do when you and your agent/editor are not seeing eye to eye? Part of the answer depends on what kind of problem solver you happen to be. Me? I’m total conflict avoidance, so I tend to take the wimpy road out of town. Others are very comfortable with mini-confrontation, and I often envy that quality.
Here’s my advice. Don’t call, write, email, text, send a smoke signal or communicate in any way when you’re angry. Chances are you’ll say something that will come back to bite you in the ass. There’s a fine line between being assertive and being a prima donna. Make sure you stand behind the line. Before you make contact, have a plan.
I write out whatever the problem is and then I try to brainstorm solutions. It’s much easier to come to the table with a solution in hand than to simply leave it up to ‘fix this.’ You may hate the fix more than the problem. As foolish as this sounds, practice. Make sure you’re presenting your issue professionally and honestly without sounding like a whiner. The last thing you need is to be considered a ‘problem’ author. Think of as many solutions as possible and rank them in order. But be realistic in your thinking.
Try not to leapfrog. Some battles aren’t worth fighting over. DO you really want to leap over your editor’s head to talk to his/her boss? If you do, be prepared for your editor to get his/her feathers ruffled. At times, the ruffle just leads to punitive damages. It takes longer to get things done; you get last minute revisions. Hey, these are people and they don’t like it when you got to their supervisor. That’s simple business 101.
What if the problem is with your agent? They are the gatekeepers of our careers. Hopefully you have an open relationship with your agent, allowing for frank conversations about things that matter to you. The problem I see most often is people thinking their agent can read their mind. Well, they can’t. You owe it to your career to tell them what it is you want so they can accurately present the issue to your publisher or know how to market a submission. It’s very important not to sit on your hands here. Delays cost you money and valuable writing time. Again, no stalker calling or texting every hour. Define the problem, then think of possible solutions.
What if that doesn’t work? Well, I’m a fan of firing an agent who doesn’t have my best interests in mind. If it isn’t working out, move on. Just do it professionally. Make sure you really want to fire your agent and you’re not just pissed about one aspect of how you’re working together. And if you’re afraid of your agent, definitely get a new one. You need to have an advocate, not an adversary.
Most of all be true to yourself and know where you want your career to go. That requires long and short-term goals. Attainable goals. You can’t control hitting the Times list but you can control how many manuscripts you can write in a year. And never forget that at the end of the day, it is all about the writing.