In his resource guide on publishers, editors, and agents, Jeff Herman asks agents to describe their concept of the "dream client." I envision the dream client as one who has done his homework. This author has researched agencies that handle his genre, knows about query letters and how to write them, and has read sufficiently to determine which agents are best suited to handle his representation needs.
The best approach to my agency is through the query letter, preferably via email. The telephone call is the least effective method. A call to my office will only elicit my suggestion to write a query letter. I am sometimes surprised when an author making a cold call asks, "What's a query letter?" I can only suggest that he visit a library or book store to find the info he is seeking. Bottom line: forget about cold calls to agents.
On the other hand I find the telephone the most effective form of communication with my author/clients. Once representation is established I maintain close contact with each of my authors through telephone conversations. I work out of my home office in Florida and in NY and I'm generally available after normal office hours and on weekends. My authors are free to call at any time to discuss their concerns and questions. I will also call my authors when I have important news to share with them.
Close communication between author/agent is of paramount importance to the business relationship.
My authors ask: "How do you keep your clients informed of your activities on their behalf?" This is a legitimate and important question. To enter an agreement with an agent and then to be left in limbo is unfair. The author needs to be kept informed as to each and every submission. He needs to know which editor and publishing house has received his proposal and or manuscript. With today's technology many of the larger publishers accept electronic submissions from agents. I always copy my authors on these submissions and when a response is received, I forward the response to my author.
"Do you consult with your clients on any and all offers?"
Absolutely. When an offer is made I inform my client to let him know that I will negotiate a publishing contract on his behalf. Initially, the publisher's boilerplate is sent to me. From that I begin my negotiations to insure that each and every paragraph is in the best interests of the author. We discuss the advance, the time for final submission of an acceptable draft, the escalation scale for royalties, and all of the essential elements posed by the contract.
When I'm certain that the terms and conditions of the contract are in the best interests of the author, I advise that it be signed. Of course the author may consult with an attorney. The author is the bottom line and he makes the final decision to sign on with the publisher. Ordinarily the agent is not a signatory to the publishing agreement but the agreement will contain an agency clause which authorizes the publisher to conduct all business relating to the book, including the payment of royalties, directly to the agency.