I’m lucky enough to have recently joined the San Diego RWA (thank you Lisa!). This week-end we had two wonderful ladies come down and talk- agent Laura Bradford and author extraordinaire, Nancy Holder. Both were amazing, warm, funny, and really reminded me why I’m in the RWA (For those of you not paying attention- I am a fantasy/SF novelist- if you write YOU should be in the RWA too- just sayin’).
First, the gift of Laura Bradford. Laura came in to really let us know what it’s like being an agent, who they are, why they do what they do. She gave us a lot of inside secrets that you rarely, if ever, hear from agents. But I’m not going to post them here; they aren’t my tale to tell.
Today I’m using Laura’s talk to springboard into how we as writers view agents. Laura’s workshop was eye opening in the sense that it pointed out agents are human.
Yes, I hear the gasp of shock coming through time and the computer even as I write these words. So shocking, I will say it again- agents are people. (and no, not in the way Soylent Green was people…).
What Laura gave me (and probably everyone lucky enough to be in that room) was an ability to see her and her fellow agents as business people. Business people with hearts and a serious hardcore addiction to books. They all got into their business because they love books. They love authors. They love being part of that world. I can’t think of anyone in their right mind, saying, “I hate books and I hate writers. I think I’ll be an agent.” Yet many times on the submissions boards and various writers groups, that what it sounds like authors believe.
Ok, you writer folks- how many of you are in this for the money? (If so, I’m sure I can find some lovely swamp land to sell you.) Writers write because we love it. We love telling stories, creating people and new worlds. Would the vast majority like to get paid? Heck yeah! Getting paid to do your dream job is the dream for everyone.
Agents are doing their dream job.
And, if successful, making a living at it.
Also, if successful, they are helping their clients make a living (eventually ;)) at it.
But let’s face it, agents are slammed. There are lots of folks who “think they have a book in them”. Some do, some don’t. Some don’t yet, but will at some point.
Agents have to deal with all of these folks, finding the gems, pulling them out, and trying to find the right setting for them. At the same time they are looking for the gems in raw piles of slushy goodness, they are dealing with their clients. Some are still awaiting a sale, some are coping with contract issues, some are editing books, others have blipped off the radar. The agent is multitasking so quickly it’s amazing we don’t hear of more of them spontaneously combusting.
And for all this effort, agents often get bad mouthed by writers.
Think of your job (that mundane day job), how would you feel if instead of a 40 hour week, you now had a 70,80, or 90 hour week. And a bunch of that time was spent doing things you directly aren’t getting paid for. How would you feel about that? Knowing that all of that unpaid work adds to your already long day?
It’s not that agents don’t like authors; it’s that they are running a business. We want to be part of that business. Therefore, we’d best do our best to act professional, make sure our “gems” our sparkling when we send them, and don’t get pissy when the gem gets a pass. We buck up and send that gem to the next agent on our list.
I guess the points are that 1)writers need to think of ourselves as creative business people and treat our work as such. 2) Agents are very human. 3)And that I’d go see Laura Bradford or Nancy Holder speak any day. If you get a chance sometime- take it.