Pub Rants

Wafer-Thin Mint?

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STATUS: I’ll be working late tonight to wrap some things up but come tomorrow morning, I’m officially on vacation until next Monday. No blogging until then. Happy Turkey Day!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MARGARITAVILLE by Jimmy Buffett

As y’all know, I’m not one to answer questions posted in the comment section as a general rule but for John, I’m willing to make an exception (we did dine together after all). It’s a great question and I haven’t tackled this topic so why not.

Is there such a thing as adding one more client to a roster and that addition tips the balance into the unworkable in terms of a client list being too full?

Boy this is a loaded question because it’s going to depend on the individual agent and extenuating circumstances. Let me see if I can explain.

If an agent works for a larger firm where all he/she has to do is work with the clients and find new ones (and not manage the company, oversee contracts, accounting and all that jazz), I can easily see an agent managing a 100 plus clients successfully without stuff falling through the cracks.

And I imagine the number of clients an agent has would also depend on that individual agent’s time management ability and organizational skills. Not all are created equal in that arena let me tell you.

For me, because I’m the CEO of the company and oversee everything as well as being the principle agent, I imagine my client roster would be full around 40 clients—maybe 50 depending on how many authors were under contract or actively looking to sell new projects. That feels like the tipping point between taking on too much (just a wafer-thin mint) and feeling sane and happy working with the clients I have.

But ultimately, that’s not a static number either. I may take on another agent at my agency. I might hire full-time person to oversee contracts or marketing or whatever and thus freeing me up to focus more on the client roster.

So in this sense, there is no magic number to determine capacity (although I’m sure an algorithm could be created to try and determine it!).

I’m out.

15 Responses

  1. r louis scott said:

    Enjoy your holiday! You deserve it!

    Has anyone thanked you for this blog in general lately? You do us a great service here and I am thankful for it. You would be at the top of my query list if only you handled my genre, but you still provide me with excellent information that I will be able to use when the time comes.

    Thanks again!

  2. Ian Thomas Healy said:

    Kristin – I’m thankful for your blog and your insight into the other side of the business. I’m also thankful you are a Monty Python fan because these kids today just don’t get it. I say this from my rarefied age of almost-36.

    Enjoy your holiday!


  3. Eileen said:

    Have a restful Thanksgiving and be sure to give Chutney some gravy on his kibble. Thank you for all the time you put into this blog it is a great source of advice, insight and entertainment.

  4. John Elder Robison said:

    That’s a thoughtful response, but 40-50 clients sounds like a heavy load – a huge amount of material to read, polish, submit and sell if each of those clients produces a work every 1-2 years. However, you are a bit younger than me, and working harder now will probably pay off for you later.

    I think if I were an agent, I might well do the same at first, in hopes one or two clients would hit it big, and if that happened, I’d perhaps scale back.

    I’d also probably hire 1 or 2 sub agents, and split commissions with them, and divide my own workload between direct agenting and managing agents.

    Both those things are essentially what I’ve done at my automobile business. For years I worked there 75 hours a week. Now, I am seldom there 10 hours a week.

    I am tempted to ask, “would you rather spend more time with fewer clients,” but in terms of your own success, I realize you can potentially do better with a large pool than a small one. Simply because most authors will not hit it big, and there’s probably not a lot you can do to change that. So bigger numbers increase your chance of signing a winner.

    Did you know Stanley talks about this very thing in the “Millionaire Next Door?” A skilled agent who takes on several hundred authors for 15% is much more likely to end up a millionaire than an individual author, who keeps 85% but whose odds of success are only 1, where the agent’s odds are several hundred times greater. So even at 15% the agent will have more winners.

    Many of the other comments on the blog make it clear that you’re seen as a desireable agent, and I’m sure that increases the number of “likely winners” you can sign up.

    Reflecting upon that thought, it seems like attracting good clients is the best thing an agent can do to ensure her success, much more than, say, polishing the work of less good clients.

    And finally, the ability to pick “good” . . . that is the million dollar question here, and in record production, and movie making too. How do you choose the next winner?

    I’m sorry to ramble on. It’s the Aspergian in me that make me ponder random questions like that. I gave my neighbor a ride home from Springfield today. He teaches here at the University and was encouraging me to write a business book soon. Maybe I will.

    Have a good holiday.


  5. Karen said:

    This is one of the first agent blogs that I have come across. It’s interesting seeing that side of publishing.

    Have an enjoyable holiday!

  6. Rebecca Burgess said:

    Dear Kristin and all her blog readers

    Have a great Thanksgiving. Eat too much turkey, drink too much wine (but don’t drive home), and definitely eat too much warm apple pie.

    All The Best,


  7. dawn said:

    I would think that it would also matter what type of client is involved. After all, a celebrity who
    ‘writes’ an autobiography will not need as much attention over time as the novelist who puts out a book a year.

    And let me add my thanks to Kristen for this wonderful blog.


  8. Linnea Sinclair said:

    I can vouch for the fact that Kristin’s extremely organized. That probably goes a long way in her handling the number of clients she does. As she said, that’s an individual thing. Not unlike parenting, I imagine. 😉 Of course, she also has the Divine Sara. And Miss Chutney the Wonderdog.

    My experience as one of Kristin’s clients is that, for the most part, being an author is not a crisis a day. Well, okay, maybe with me it is (or Kristin feels like it is). But for the most part, once the contract is settled and the author is happily typing away, there’s not a lot Kristin need do. Hours, uh, I mean WEEKS go by where I don’t need to cry on her shoulder. I mean, talk to her. Then we’ll hit a few days when we talk dang near hourly because of something the publisher is or is not doing.

    I would imagine that when I’m being quiet and well-behaved (a rarity, surely), some other client is having a crisis du jour. But it’s not as if she’s dealing with all of us at the same time, daily.

    I feel as if we’re her little flotilla and she give us our missions, launches us and we go merrily sailing across the seas of literary-dom, and only when we hit a rock do we grab the ship-to-shore and shout, “Kristin, help me! Mayday!”

    And she comes zooming in on her super-duper Kristin-copter and saves the day.

    Can you tell I’m deep in deadline hell and punchy? 😉 ~Linnea

  9. joanr16 said:

    I’m not sure I get the Python reference.

    “Wafer thin mint,” the last thing Mr. Creosote, an enormous glutton, ate before exploding. From the film Monty Python and the Meaning of Life.

  10. Anonymous said:

    I would imagine that taking on a hundred romance novelists would be more of a headache than a source of significant profit. Lots of whining and “shoulder-crying” and meltdowns, all for books that don’t make that much money.

  11. jerrygirl said:

    Christ, can’t anyone say anything positive about agents, publishing or writing in general? I’m so sick of hearing about the lousy money. Does anyone make a living at this nonsense?

  12. Linnea Sinclair said:

    Hmm, well obviously my attempt at humor fell flat with Anon11:19 and jerrygirl. Note to self: do not try to be funny with only four hours sleep.

    Anon11:19, I don’t imagine romance novelists have any lock on the whining market. I’ve been a private detective and a news reporter. I’ve seen lots of whining attorneys, editors, columinsts, paralegals and the like. My daughter’s in upper management IT. She regales me with stories of whining programmers. Now bloggers, well, for the most part they’re a cheerful, upbeat bunch but an occasional sniffler does break through.

    jerrygirl, money is nice when you’re an author (very nice) but most of us write because if we didn’t we’d explode. And I’d guess a significant number do make a living. And overall I think Kristin’s blog is extremely positive about agents and writing. But it’s also realistic. Writing may be an art but publishing is a business. When both those aspects are given attention, things just seem to work out better. ~Linnea, still in deadline hell, still working on four hours sleep but very aware that deadline hell is preferable to no deadline at all.