A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Why the Writer/Agent Relationship Works Better Without Underwear

My first wife, who I will call Underwear Woman, had a strange habit that eventually led to the demise of our marriage. Well, that and the fact she was a shrew and I was dating my second wife while still married to her. When we first started dating, I thought it was sexy, even a little kinky, that she liked to keep her underwear on (not panties, mind you, underwear) when we made love. Then I realized it wasn’t just a fetish that she did sometimes, but ALL the time. Every time we made love, there were three of us—me, her, and her underpants. I went along with it for a while, but finally I asked her if we could try doing the nasty all naked, or maybe even all clothed, just for a change. The resounding “No!” was the shockwave that crumbled the shaky foundation of the rocky mountain that had been our marriage. No discussion, no explanation, no dialogue, and definitely no resolution.

What’s my point here and how does it relate to writers and agents?

The relationship between a writer and his agent is just like a marriage. Communication is key. Knowing upfront the quirks, idiosyncrasies, goals, needs, personality traits, and foibles, among other things, about each other is essential to making any relationship work. Sometimes I think there should be agent/writer therapy groups instead of couples therapy, or maybe writers and their agents should just crash those groups when trouble sprouts, which it can if both parties aren’t fully prepared to work on the relationship.

Underwear Woman’s other little foible that helped squash the bedbug of bliss was that she blabbed to all our friends about my “underwear fetish” and how it was my problem. By this point in time, I really couldn’t have cared less if I ever saw another pair of underwear again, including my own. She wouldn’t talk to me about it, but all of her friends knew my proclivities. This was bad for two reasons: 1) Communication in a relationship belongs between the combatants, er, partners, and 2) Wife #2 ended up being one of her chums she blabbed to, who liked the fact I was so “adventurous,” rich and soon to be single, and she also hated underwear (and I suspect Underwear Woman, too).

Again, my point? It is that I see too many writers on discussion boards asking questions about their agents or agent’s practices to, strangely enough, writers who are looking for agents. Not too smart. If you have a problem with your agent, you should talk to the agent, not go asking every wannabe on the planet what they think. Even people who have been agented for a long time can't speak to how your relationship should be--every marriage is unique and so is every writer/agent relationship. If Underwear Woman would have talked to me instead of her buds, maybe I would have talked her out of her underpants and into an actual marriage. I am, after all, a smooth talkin’ SOB. Instead, one of her friends saw the opportunity and took it—and me. If your spouse does something you don’t like or you think is weird, would you get on a discussion board and ask about it? Or call your mother? Or your best friend? Communication with your agent is just as important as communication with your spouse.

If we worked on this more, maybe there would be a lower divorce rate and a higher rate of publishing success.

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