Hand-holder vs Tough Nut

I’m close to my agent. We tease each other. I know about his family. And dog. He knows about my family. And dogs. He plans to come and stay on vacation some year. And I would love an excuse to visit him in LA.
He is my #1 supporter (well, perhaps my mother would wrestle him for that title), he thinks I am gifted, he represents a herd of writers and illustrators and is surely no stranger to writers’ foibles and angst- this is polite vernacular for the crazies.
He’s been through the process with me a few times now. He’s getting my measure, he knows my highs and lows. But we do not really talk about them.
I struggle to be professional, and I call my mother and sister instead if I am feeling pathetic.
Maybe once a year I confess some anxiety to him. He is always very rational, thoughtful and understanding. He makes me feel better and he bolsters my confidence but there’s no way I would bother him with that on a regular basis.

If you’d asked me four years ago what kind of agent I wanted, I’d have said without hesitation, a hand-holder.
An editor friend told me once that agents basically split into two groups: the cuddlier therapist/cheerleader and the gruff/occasionally prickly professional. (I know that agents are as diverse as the authors they represent, but for the sake of argument, let’s pretend they fall into one of those categories).

Both sorts make deals. Both achieve great successes for their clients.

Sometimes I read online posts or tweets about such and such an agent and writer. They seem more like BFFs sharing everything, and I am conscious of a twinge (OK, maybe a spasm) of jealousy.
But then I think, I have BFFs, and if I really felt that I could share all my worries with my agent, he’d probably suggest that I go see a psychiatrist, and also it would be a huge waste of his time. He does represent me, he nurtures my career, but really he sells my books. My books are inanimate and don’t need a cuddle or a stiff drink like I do. Obviously he wants me to be happy but it’s not really his job.

Actually he does remind me of my mother a little bit. She is British with that whole stiffer upper lip thing happening. She has a bracing way about her. She’ll put up with some whinging from me but not much and then she’ll tell me (in a nice way) to buck up and stop being ridiculous. And like my mother, he would get all mother-bearish if he felt I was not being appreciated professionally.

He has a broader view of my career than I do. I am so focused on whatever book I am working on. Sometimes I forget that there will be one after that one (hopefully!), and then another, and another. He can step back and take the long view, and advise me accordingly and that is even more precious than a hug.

2 thoughts on “Hand-holder vs Tough Nut

  1. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a wonderful observation on the different types of “professional” relationships that happen. I’ve only been with my agent since Dec, she’s kind and encouraging but I still can’t imagine calling her on the phone and crying. Then again…I don’t do that with anyone except my husband. So maybe it’s me that likes the professional distance.

    Looking forward to your blog tour!

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