A Day in the Life
People are always telling me they’d like to hear about a typical day for an agent. But I have yet to experience a typical day. When you have a large number of clients, working on a wide variety of projects, which are all in various stages of writing or publication, the days provide endlessly changing entertainment.
Of course, I’m sure there are many agents who aren’t as A.D.D. as I am, and some of them probably have routines to which they adhere. However “they” are not “me.”
I organize my days according to my priority list. My tasks for the day depend on what needs to be done, and I stay very clear on what’s important, what’s urgent, what’s both and what’s neither.
I also (very Jerry-Maguire or Ari-Gold-like) have a penchant for pacing around my office wearing my phone headset. I don’t scream things like “Lloyd, get me Vinnie Chase!” and I rarely say “Show me da money,” but I have been known to politely inquire, “Could we go any higher?” with quite satisfactory results.
When I’m not pacing around acting like a movie version of myself, here’s how I prioritize my daily work:
1. Contracts and Payments.
Fielding offers, negotiating deals, scrutinizing contracts, discussing clauses and terms with publishers, walking clients through their contracts, making sure the contract gets executed properly. Following up on advance and royalty payments, making sure publishers pay clients in a timely manner, examining royalty statements for accuracy.
2. Submitting projects to publishers.
Working with authors to prepare their proposals and manuscripts; preparing lists of editors to whom we’ll submit; getting projects out to publishers; following up appropriately.
3. All other client-related work.
Answering random questions; reading their latest work and offering feedback; coaching on marketing, promotion, career planning; brainstorming ideas for future projects; handling interaction with their publishers on everything from titles to book covers to extended deadlines and more; being a listening ear whenever necessary.
4. Finding new clients.
This includes careful consideration of all incoming queries, reading requested partials and full manuscripts, sometimes offering detailed feedback whether or not I’m saying yes to representation. It also includes proactively pursuing authors I’d like to represent.
As you can see, there’s a wide variety of tasks that might come up on any given day. I’d go crazy if I didn’t have my priority list! I tend to handle tasks in categories 1, 2, and 3 during business hours. Nights and weekends are for incoming queries, reading manuscripts (clients and potential clients), and blogging.
If you’re an unpubbed writer, you might be dismayed that reading incoming queries is the bottom of the priority list. I do need to keep up with them because I don’t want to miss a potentially great writer sitting in my slush pile. And yet, if I’m swamped with current clients, I’m less able to pay attention to all those potential new clients.
So when you’re seeking representation, you’re not top priority. However, that’s actually great news. It means that once you become a client, you are now the agent’s top priority.
While there’s no such thing as “typical” and it often feels more like a circus complete with juggling and high-flying trapeze acts, one thing is consistent: The needs of my clients determine the trajectory of each day.
Q4U: Do you have some kind of vision or stereotype of what you think an agent’s day is like? Tell us!
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent