I was sitting out on the deck
having a cup of coffee and thinking about my day. I was a chamber of commerce
manager for nearly thirty years representing businesses and doing business.
When I had a chance to become an agent I immediately saw there was little
difference between representing businesses to other businesses, to suppliers,
to government, in all sort of relationships, and representing authors in their
relationships, primarily to publishers.
It was like I had been
training for thirty years to do the job. But the question that came to my mind
over my coffee cup was “as an agent do I make some decisions or choices that
are not good business decisions?” I don’t know . . . maybe.”
First, business is
necessarily about making a profit. Since I’ve started working as an agent it
has been more about trying to help good authors, almost exclusively Christian
authors, get their words our there where they will serve the Lord than it has
been about money. I’m good with that decision, but is it a good business
decision?
I know a lot of agents and
editors don’t necessarily answer everyone that submits to them. It takes a huge
amount of time, but I do, every one of them. Do I waste a lot of time that way?
It’s something I really have to do, but is it a good business decision?
I require all of my clients
to be in an online client group so I have the ability to contact all of them at
one time but they can choose to only receive such priority messages or to be in
the group that can interface with one another which they do . . . a lot. I’ve
been told I interface with that group too much, again wasting a lot of time. I
like being close to my clients, but is it a bad business decision?
When I took a test at a
conference to see how to use what talents I might have for the Lord I came up
with three special gifts, writing, music, and the gift of encouragement. I go
to a lot of conferences primarily as a use of that gift of encouragement, but
even though most pay expenses they cost money anyway and many of them are a
straight expense. I’ve gotten most of my clients from conference contacts but
for the number of clients that I have, am I spending too much there? Is the
number of conferences that I do a poor business decision?
Our agency doesn’t charge any
money up front but we do have the ability to charge back telephone, postage and
copy expenses. I don’t, I’m not happy charging such things to authors unless I
have first made them some money. Another poor business decision? 
I don’t represent profanity
or content that I’m not comfortable having my name associated with. I’ve turned
down some projects that I could have made some substantial money on for just
this reason. It’s a decision I’m comfortable with as a Christian agent, but is
it a good business decision?
Better than 80% of my clients
have published or contracted since they signed with me, but after we exhausted the
more lucrative contacts we got some of them started by going to small publishers.
Chances are I won’t even recover expenses on many of these, particularly if we
count my time worth anything, but we’re building writing credits on them and I
hope they will pay off in the future. A good business decision?
I smile as my coffee cup is now
empty. Am I a poor businessman? Maybe so, but as I get up to come back in here
and get to work I smile . . . is it possible for that to be true and me still
be a good agent? My clients are happy that I’m doing my very best for them.
Maybe that’s the only measure that really matters.
What do you think?