Fortunately, none of my clients would qualify, which is perhaps why I'm writing this now.
Many agents have expressed frustration and we have all certainly experienced at one time or another the client we respect, the client we value, hell, the client we just plain adore... who sends us last night's napkin musings or the first chapter of an unrealized, but potential, but not really, but maybe next book.
I feel comfortable writing this because I can say that none of my clients do this. Brainstorming with my clients means I get to tell them what I want to see and when, and they're all pretty cool about that. So, when I want to see some early chapters because I'm interested, I just say that. When I want to wait for the whole manuscript to be complete and polished (as I most often do) I say that, too.
Folks, unless your agent has stated otherwise, we still want to see your best most complete work.
Agents are a delightful mixed breed professional. We're often brainstormers, editors, counselors, managers, bosses, salesmen, pitbulls, readers, professors, and partners. We are also often, your friends. I've always believed that it helps to plain old like your agent. The relationship is - with luck and sense - a long and fruitful one based off mutual respect, understanding, and confidence. There's plenty of laughter, long conversations, inside knowledge. And how good it is to have an agent who "gets you." Right?
Yes! Right! We love that, too. But take care that mutual fondness, however genuine it is and deep it runs, on both sides, 'cause Lordy knows I lurv my clients, doesn't supersede both our professional responsibilities.
Occasionally, agents and authors get so close that there's this almost imperceptible shift, and we start seeing sloppy first drafts. Try to resist that impulse. It's totally okay to say "Hey, I have the beginning of something here, like, 2 chapters, do you want to see?" and we might say "why don't you just tell me what the basic premise is?" or "sure! Send it" but, to be clear, Unless we state directly that we want to see samples, musings, early chapters, or un-read and un-critiqued first drafts... we probably don't.
It's not that we don't have faith in you. Rather, it's that we do have faith in you. So when that next book you send in is littered with undeveloped back-story, plot holes, disappearing secondary characters, lost narrative threads, and it's clear that your critique partners haven't read it and maybe even you haven't read it... that makes us sad and frustrated. You're better than this. What happened? Does this mean we're going to have to read this 6 more times?
You may think "well, no, because the point is you're going to give notes and edits and work with us on making it better." Yes, absolutely. We want to work hard for you. But we're going to do that with your best work anyway. I love editing and brainstorming, but it goes much better when we're both making our best efforts. No agent wants to read something 6 times when they could have read it twice. Do you want to revise 6 times when you could have done it twice? Probably not.
That's why you have crit partners. That's why we all talk about how valuable and necessary beta-readers are to aspiring authors, right? They don't become any less necessary to represented authors and even published authors.
Wanting and waiting to see your best work isn't about working less hard or less often. It's about working efficiently. And it works out for you too. I know it seems counter-intuitive to still go through the whole process of beta-readers and crit-partners and revisions and second reads, all before you send it to your agent, but ultimately it's going to save you a lot of time and energy.
And don't forget, sending your agent a sloppy version of a good idea can color our judgement negatively.
The point is we love our clients. We're happy to work our butts off for you because we believe in you and your work. We probably like you as people and would be delighted to share a bottle of wine and some embarrassing stories, but when it comes to sharing your writing, we still want you to put your best foot forward unless we say differently.
And, as always, if you're confused or you're not sure... just ask! One of the great things about having an agent in your corner is that we have no problem saying exactly what we think.