Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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March 7, 2014

How to be an Agent's 'Dream Client'

By Chuck Sambuchino

medium_2581582826How does a literary agent define their “ideal client”? The question is extremely important because it’s one that factors into an agent’s mindset before and after they sign you.

If an agent has read your complete novel or book proposal and wants to sign you, the next step is almost always to arrange a telephone call where the two of you get to know one another. You ask the questions you want to ask about her and her style; she does the same regarding you and your style. During the phone conversation, the agent is trying to gauge whether you’re compatible enough with her to be signed as a new author in her stable. She’s already sizing up whether you can be a good, long-term client, or close to it.

Then after you sign with the agent, the two of you begin a long process of working with each other—and during this process, again, the agent wants to be working with a dream writer. So no matter if you’re an agented writer or one who might be seeking representation in the future, agents’ definition of “an ideal client” is something you should understand here and now.

Read on to learn what 10 different agents had to say.


“A mutual respect for one another's time and efforts always goes a long way. I always hate asking an author to drop everything and get me something ASAP, and feel similarly when the roles are reversed.”

- Elisabeth Weed (Weed Literary)


“A lasting relationship with an agent is not a guarantee. I have let go of clients and they have let go of me. For me, usually communication style is the issue or authors who push the boundaries of the relationship—i.e. try and tell me how to do my job, or when to do my job. I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from my relationships with my clients (more than they know). Life is too short to work with people you don’t like or can’t communicate with well. I value those authors of mine who are patient and understand that they are never far from my mind even if they don’t hear from me. And I adore those clients who make me laugh on a regular basis—you know who you are!”

- Elizabeth Kracht (Kimberley Cameron & Associates)


“My dream client is someone who believes strongly enough in the work not to be deterred, but who can also be flexible enough to take good editorial advice.”

- Michael Bourret (Dystel & Goderich)


(Hi, everyone. Chuck here chiming in for a second. I wanted to say I am now taking on clients as a freelance editor. So if your query or manuscript needs some love, please check out my editing services. Thanks!)


“A dream client is someone who writes wonderfully; understands promotion and knows how to build a tribe; always makes a deadline; is gracious with critique and direction; and is kind, grateful, smart and makes me laugh.”

- Rachelle Gardner (Books & Such Literary)


“Respect my time.  Don't expect me to constantly call if there's no news to report.  Trust that I know what I'm doing and don't take the advice of writers at conferences or in your writing groups over mine.  Have realistic expectations; don't expect me to drop everything and read your manuscript (a manuscript that took you a year or two to write) immediately.  Understand that publishing moves slowly at times, and I'm just as frustrated as you are if we have to wait for a check, a contract, or a response to a submitted manuscript.”

- Jennifer De Chiara (Jennifer De Chiara Literary)


“A dream client is one whose talent continually surprises me, and my belief in it is what keeps me on my toes to make sure I'm doing right by his or her work.”

- Brian DeFiore of DeFiore and Company


“The best writers I work with are flexible and adaptable."

- Carly Watters of P.S. Literary Agency


“Here are my dream client attributes: a natural ability to write—and well; a good idea of how to build a platform; a good attitude; and perseverance.”

- Dawn Michelle Frederick (Red Sofa Literary)


“1) Figure out what the best form of communication will be. If you are a person who needs to talk things out on the phone, let your agent know this so he or she can either: know to set time aside for you or let you know what to expect from them in terms of phone time. If you like to send e-mails: I suggest getting all of your questions queued up and sending one message instead of rapid-fire e-mails throughout the day. When you think about all of the back-and-forth that goes on between an agent and an author, it is so important you establish how/when you communicate so you can both be clear and efficient. This can take some practice so both sides need to exercise some patience.

2) Try not to take things personally. This is a tough one. Remember this is a business relationship and while there will certainly be room for creative and friendly conversations, at the end of the day, you are both in this for an end goal: to get published and make some money, yes? Keep an open mind when discussing everything such as ideas for future projects, edits, conversations with editors, and more.

3) Generate lots of ideas. And don't feel you need to execute each one before talking about it with your agent. Be inspired by the world around you and write about what excites you the most. But also be open and realistic about what ideas need to be fleshed out now as opposed to being shelved for later. Some agents like to be involved in this process—if you can get your agent's input, go for it.”

- J.L. Stermer (N.S. Bienstock)


“Be patient, flexible and let your agent help you navigate what can be a long and winding road to publication, and to future books. Try to remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint.”

- Stacey Glick (Dystel & Goderich)

About Chuck

Chuck FW head shotChuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest Books edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing.

His 2010 humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. Chuck has also written the writing guides FORMATTING & SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT and CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM.

Besides that, he is a freelance book & query editor, husband, sleep-deprived new father, and owner of a flabby-yet-lovable dog named Graham.

Find Chuck on Twitter and on Facebook.

photo credit: Mustafa Sayed via photopin cc

16 comments on “How to be an Agent's 'Dream Client'”

  1. I remember that call - I was so nervous, I don't know how my agent could hear through the shaky voice! But I was SO lucky - my agent and I clicked! I can't imagine navigating the cold waters of publishing without her help, steering my career.

  2. Thanks, Chuck. As you always do, here and on your own blog, you get to the heart of what this business of writing is about. Relationship ... with ourselves and our characters ... with those we trust to read our work ... and when so lucky ... with someone who believes in us enough to work for our benefit.

    Getting an agent is hard work and when (and if in my case) that happens, the magic can truly begin 🙂

  3. This is great. I hope I am a dream client 🙂 But it did take me and my agent a little while to find our way to communicating well. It is worth making the effort, though!

  4. Thank you Chuck. Yet another dose of highly valuable information that opens my eyes to the realities of today's publishing industry. I love seeing a bigger picture, and seeing what my strengths and weaknesses might be as an aspiring author.

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