Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Agent = My Hero

"Changing literary agents is like changing deck chairs on the Titanic." - Unknown

This quote made me laugh out loud, although I think it's open to interpretation. I read it as: "What's the point?" Someone else might think it means, "They're all the same."

Of course, I couldn't disagree more, with either reading of the quote. My literary agent (Edite Kroll, of Edite Kroll Literary Agency) has done such a wonderful job for me that I can't imagine being represented by anyone else.

It sounds so Hollywood, doesn't it? "My agent." Like I'm someone important. Ha. The fact is, an agent is a middle man, an industry insider who knows editors and publishing houses and understands the book market and knows what sells and what doesn't. An agent knows all the things a writer doesn't necessarily know, or want to know. And an agent does all the things ... like attend book fairs and schmooze and pitch and promote ... that a person like me would rather not do. I prefer to stay home and write about imaginary people.

But my agent is more than just a deal maker. She's a former editor herself, and, I suspect, was a hair dresser or lumberjack in a previous life because she's that fond of cutting. She has no qualms telling me, "Well, I like it [it meaning the draft manuscript] but it's a little long. Cut a third."

howl howl howl

Which leads me to another hat she wears: amateur shrink. Because sometimes I need the professional who can talk me down from the ledge. ("Don't jump, Maria. Just cut a third.") She puts up with my pouty-verging-on-pugnacious responses to her excellent suggestions, and even when I walk around my office fussing and fuming and INSISTING to myself that I can't POSSIBLY cut a third ... she's always right and the book is better once I've calmed down and done the work.

Which leads me to another hat she wears: wise counselor. Because even though my editor is a goddess and my publisher is terrific sometimes the sales department is ... okay, I won't write that bad word. Let's just say negotiations about the cover for my first book didn't go very well, and after Edite listened patiently to me rant over the phone, she said, "Now. Let's think about how you can convey those opinions in a professional way that they will listen to."

Ah. Yes. Professionalism. Forgot about that. Because when we write a book, it's our baby, and we think it's perfect and we love it. But if this is a job and a living we have to understand that it's not a baby. It's a piece of intellectual property we hope to sell, and we need to be professionals about marketing it and negotiating a price for it. We need a contract, we need ironclad agreements and clear deadlines. We need a savvy agent to pull that all together.

Which leads me to the most important thing about my editor: she's good. She took the first novel I've ever written and sold it to a major publishing house in three weeks. After we closed the deal, I remarked to my new editor that I felt so grateful, not only that they read it so quickly but that they read it at all. She looked shocked.

"Well, Edite sent it. Of course we read it right away."

I have friends who published their first books some 20 years ago and didn't have agents. They tell me things have changed and everyone needs an agent these days. I can't speak for everyone; but I sure needed, and need, mine.

2 comments:

  1. Love that post! I couldn't agree more, all agents are definitely not the same. I have changed agents and it was the best decision I ever made. My first agent sent my book to two editors, TWO! Now I have a new series and a new agent. People know and respect him and I LOVE him. He's sent it out to eleven and counting. He meets them in person and pitches. Agents are individuals, thanks for throwing that reminder out there to those who are looking. ;)

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  2. Edite tells it like it is, yes?

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