I am back from a week in Maine where I rent a cabin six steps away from the ocean. This year I brought both a Blackberry and my laptop with wi-fi and still there was no phone or Internet service, so I was forced to relax.
I did go into town twice to access my email from the pubic library, where I had more than 500 messages (and only about a fifth were for penis enlargement and transfer of funds from Nigeria). Part of the reason for the deluge was that my colleague, Jenny Rappaport, was getting married on August 19th and I had insisted that she take the week of the wedding and the two weeks following (when she will be on her honeymoon) off. She told her clients to get in touch with me if there was a crisis (in publishing in August - spare me!) and you can't imagine how may imaginary crisis emails I received. One of her clients was concerned that Jenny had said she would give her feedback on her next book (four already sold) and since Jenny was taking these three weeks off, Jenny would not get back to the author in time for her self-imposed deadline of beginning work on the next novel by September 1st. Jenny had said she would get back to her by Labor Day. What did she think I was going to do? Tell Jenny to read the book on her honeymoon? Please!!!!
It made me remember that when I was in labor (I had decided to have natural childbirth, so I was in labor for 3 days) one of my then-clients had called to ask when I was going to send out his $50 royalty check and when I explained that I was in active labor, he said "so what." Needless to say that was the last time we spoke and he is no longer my client.
Another client complained about her ex-agent whose wife was diagnosed and with breast cancer and underwent a double mascectomy. He was suddenly unable to move her to the top of his list. She was miffed that he didn't take the time to call and explain why he couldn't do what she expected him to do. Wasn't it obvious that he was having a crisis?
Agents and authors should work with each other for long periods of time, as your agent is your writing career manager. You are a team and she is your partner. There are times in everyone's life - agents are people too - when you should be given permission to slow down. Birth, death, marriage, illness, divorce are just a few that come to mind. I can't tell you the number of times I have had to call editors on clients behalf and explain that a deadline would be missed due to these circumstances and I have always received the common courtesy of understanding and extension of the deadlines. It always amazes me that some writers don't automatically extend that same courtesy to their agents.