Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What Is an Agent?

Okay, first things first.  What is an agent?  According to Wikipedia, a literary agent  “is an agent who represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers and film producers and assists in the sale and deal negotiation of the same.”  Too often, when people ask what I do for a living, I get blank stares at my response.  My mother has started telling people that I’m like Sandra Bullock in THE PROPOSAL, which is not true!

The movie my life is apparently based on.

There are, however, a lot of similarities between what an editor does and what an agent does.  One big difference though is that agenting is usually described as the more business-y end of the industry.  For instance, agents are directly involved in contract negotiation (although some huge agencies, like Writers House, where I used to work as an assistant, can have their own contracts department), whereas editors are not usually the ones responsible for negotiating contract details for their imprint.

Another big difference (and this is my favorite one) is that as an agent, we get to be involved with the client and their manuscript from the very beginning.  I find it incredibly rewarding to work closely with my authors to help them shape and refine their book and then get to see it all the way through to the final stages when it becomes a finished product.

Being a new agent can be a bit of a challenge, though.  When I say that I make my living working as one, what I mean is that I partially make my living. My colleague, Teresa, sent me this link to an interview, which I loved because it perfectly describes my life right now.  New agents are just beginning to build their client list, so while they are busy reading, editing, and trying to sell manuscripts, paying rent and bills can be a tricky subject. 

I actually work a few days a week as a reservationist at a great Upper East Side restaurant, where I answer phones, make reservations, and do some data entry.  I love it because everyone there is so friendly and they feed me!  My friend, Naerim, who is a pastry sous chef there, made crème brulees for family meal dessert the other day and I was in heavennnn.

Although I don’t mind working at the restaurant, I am obviously looking forward to a time when my sole job is to do what I love: work with authors and their books!  I am lucky to have several amazing authors whose manuscripts are out on submission right now, so I am hoping that my sales will build and that eventually I will join the ranks of the one-job-only agents in New York.  Stay tuned to find out!