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