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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Dear Abby ~ by Tamela Hancock Murray

Borrowed with permission from Steve Laube's Agency blog

In my current stage of life, I find it freeing not to feel compelled to share my opinion about every topic and to defend that opinion to the verbal death. I don’t feel the urge to prove my rightness through verbal sparring. Joy, indeed!

In everyday life, a friend may ask any number of questions. “What do you think of this dress?” means you should say, “Wow! You look great!”

“What do you think of my new boyfriend?” is meant to elicit, “He’s wonderful!”

“Do you like this paper I wrote?” means, “Yes!”

In other words, few friends really seek your advice on anything. They just want you to confirm they made the right decision about everything, and everything they say and do is perfect. They seek affirmation.
But there is one arena where I’m paid for my opinion, and that is as a literary agent. I take this responsibility seriously, because I understand the risks.

With writers, I’m the first to wave pom-poms and jump up and down and say, “You rock!” I love to encourage people, especially when they’ve worked long and hard to achieve goals.

But writers pay literary agents a commission for our opinions. These opinions can change the trajectory of their careers, especially in light of the current publishing climate.

No agent gets it right every time. We let good opportunities slip by, and take other projects that end up being time wasters for everyone.

But here’s what we as agents do: we keep up with the latest in publishing, ranging from which editors are moving to what houses (and there are many, many job transitions at any given time), to what type of books editors are seeking, and on and on.

You may say, “Well, Christian publishing houses are always going to be looking for good Christian books.” True. But the nuances and shifts are often, many, and varied. And consider the change involving e-books, indie publishing, mergers, and lines shutting down. As agents, we learn everything we can so we can give our clients advice based on education and knowledge, not emotion and fuzzy math.

My clients know I tailor my advice to each person. I work with writers to achieve their personal goals so they can enjoy their careers while being successful.

So while giving advice is always risky, we strive to give our clients the best advice we can. Good guidance, talent, and hard work are the keys to success.

Your turn:

What part of publishing gives you the most anxiety?

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given in regard to publishing? 

Tamela Hancock Murray has been an agent for over 12 years. A bestselling, award-winning author of twenty novels, novellas, and nonfiction books, Tamela brings the perspective of a working writer to her role as a literary agent. As an agent she represents many top authors and continues to develop new talent. She earned her BA with honors in Journalism from Lynchburg College in Virginia. Today she enjoys living in Northern Virginia with her family. She can often be found reading books on her Kindle.


  1. Never give up! That's the best there is, because you have no chance of succeeding if you give up. :)

  2. Biggest anxiety: not fitting in editing from the professional doesn't get my writing.

    Best advice: don't compare, write from your heart.

  3. as an Indie, the toughest is juggling it all and wondering if I've missed a key element.

    advice: [there's two] WRITE and KEEP WRITING, and as already stated, never give up, find your niche and give it everything

  4. Great post! Learning the ropes of the publishing industry is my greatest anxiety. Much like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to publish a book.

    The best advice I've been given is that it doesn't matter what others do, it only matters that you have a good fit with your agent and the two of you find what works best for you within the industry guidelines and standards.


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