Last week, my friend Wendy Lawton, an agent at Books & Such, wrote a series of posts that took a great deal of courage. She said a lot of things I’ve been trying to figure out how to say here on my own blog, but she did it first and said it better than I ever could have, so I’m going to do something unusual today and send you over there.
Wendy’s topic for the week was #AgentFail – basically, looking at all the ways we agents don’t live up to our own expectations and hopes, not to mention those of all the writers out there.
On Monday the topic was the idea that as agents, we’d love to be talent scouts and talent developers, but rarely have the time to function this way.
On Tuesday, Wendy addressed Requested Material Limbo. You all know what that is – when an agent requests a partial or full, and then it’s months until you hear from them again, if ever. We hear you complaining about this, and the truth is, we’re very aware of it even without your telling us about it.
On Wednesday, Wendy’s topic was the Logjam – the fact that it takes agents time to read manuscripts and proposals, not just from potential clients but even from current clients. She writes, “I’m guessing that some writers who are not yet agented think that signing with an agent means all the roadblocks are magically gone. Not true.” It’s a harsh reality that we all face.
Thursday the blog addressed Hitting the Brick Wall – when agents love a writer or a project, but can’t sell it. The truth is that a percentage of represented projects go unsold.
On Friday Wendy talked about how to spot a bad agent – not an agent who simply deals with all of the challenges above, but one who is unethical.
I recommend reading Wendy’s posts because the overall message is so important: we agents are aware of all the ways this business is challenging for you, and we’re aware of the ways we contribute to that. All the good agents I know are constantly doing their best to overcome these challenges and serve authors and publishing in the best ways we can.
Several of the problems agents deal with stem from a lack of TIME to get it all done. The one thing I’d like to add to Wendy’s ideas is a bit of pondering on why agents are so busy. Most people in the modern working world are somewhat overwhelmed – companies are trying to do more with fewer employees. It’s similar for agents: our core challenges stem from the economy. Since it’s more difficult to sell an individual project to a publisher, and the average advance for a mid-list title going down, we need to have more clients on our roster to ensure a viable business. More clients means less time for each one, and even less time for all the potential clients out there.
Our challenge is still to serve each individual client as well and fully as possible; while also doing our best to serve the publishing industry and the world at large by bringing worthy titles to fruition.
I just wanted to let you know that agents are aware of the ways we fail to live up to hopes and expectations; and I hope you click over and read Wendy’s posts. It’s safe to say, she’s speaking for most, if not all of us.
(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent