Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Customer is Always Right

So, as some of you might already know, (but most of you probably don't) I work part time in a real estate office. My mother works as one of the brokers and so all my life I've been surrounded by the lingo and the business, so working as a reception was really easy for me. But as a writer, I started to think about the difference between a real estate agent and a literary agent. When you break it down, it seems like they do similar things. They represent their clients to sell something on their behalf. They work with contracts and act as a go-between between the biz and their clients. They do everything you can imagine and only get paid when the job is done.

There are some similarities, but what I've noticed in the last year and a half that I've been working as a receptionist, is that literary agents and realtors are very different kinds of people (duh. I have a point, I promise.)

As a receptionist I hear my share of the gossip, and I deal with a lot of crap that comes through. And I see when clients get mad, and it's ugly. When something the realtor does or doesn't do angers their client, often we hear about it. Often I hear about it, and every time it happens I'm astounded at the rudeness of people. Of course they're not mad at me-- I'm merely a casualty-- but because I'm a part of the office the realtor works under, because I'm part of the company, I hear my share of crap too.

If something doesn't go a client's way, they're indignant. They're pissed. And suddenly they don't have to be nice to anyone. Suddenly it's their shit show and everyone has to be part of it.

Why does this happen? Simple. We've been ingrained all our lives with the rule: The customer is always right. And in a way, they are the customer, and they should get what they want. (within a limit. I'm not excusing anyone's rudeness here.)

But people seem to mistake literary agents for realtors. When (most of the time new, uneducated) writers think of literary agents, they immediately think something similar to a real estate agent. And in this respect they're very, very wrong.

Realtors and literary agents are very different when it comes to their clients. To a realtor, a client is a customer. To a literary agent, a client is a partner. When we hear horror stories from agents who talk about how badly some writers have treated them, I can only think that these writers are under the impression that they're customers, and therefore have a right to complain when they feel they didn't receive the service they wanted. But if writers were merely customers, agents would sign every writer that sent them a query.

Literary agents sign writers for careers. We brush ourselves up and put out our best work because we want to work with them, not hire them. The same goes for editors. They want to work with us, as partners. Yes, they're making money off our work, but we're all making money off the work. Just because the writer wrote it doesn't mean the agents or editors didn't work just as much, on edits or subbing it or going through contracts, ect. Every person works to make a finished product that will get everyone a nice meal at the end of the day.

Writers: stop and think. If you have contact with an agent or editor, at any time, anywhere, stop and ask yourself: would I behave this way at work? Would I talk to my boss like this? Am I talking like a customer, or as a partner? Acting like a customer can turn around and bite you in the ass. Not only will you end up rejected, but agents talk. Editors talk. And if you think they won't remember you, you are very, very wrong.

At the end of the day, if you're not sure, just be polite. Even if you are uncertain about things with the agent/editor, or you have a problem with their suggestions, talk to them about it, and be nice. Because at the end of the day, we're all people, and we all need to be treated with a little respect.



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