Sunday, August 21, 2011

What Exactly...Does an Agent DO?

I recently took a research survey in which I had to reflect on just that question.

I found myself feeling as if I was writing a “help wanted” ad for Craigslist as I described the job skills:

An eye for good writing, an eye for marketability, current market knowledge, editorial skills, personal connections to editors and other industry professionals, ability to negotiate and read a contract, multi-tasking skills, self-driven and motivated, a thick skin, perseverance, an excellent memory, speed-reading, and a sugar daddy or three jobs for the first 3-5 years.

But what it all boiled down to was: an agent…is our clients’ best advocate.

Publishing is changing. The duties that agents are taking on are changing. But the role of the Literary Agent will never change; we will always be our clients’ best advocate.

I think all writers should mull over what that really means. Because it does not mean that we should be limited to certain duties; and it does not mean that all we need to do it pitch and sell a book. We have to be our clients’ best advocate – we have to believe in that client, period, and do whatever is necessary to aid their career…traditional or otherwise.

It may be the case that some agents have lost sight of this. It may also be the case that authors are misinterpreting recent moves and decisions that some agents take as selfish instead of client-friendly.

But in this agent’s eyes, that’s all anyone needs to know about me: that I adhere to this standard.

Regardless of the fact that sadly, I do not have a sugar daddy.


  1. I feel like I should bookmark this post for when I need to explain to non-writing friends why exactly I'm sending queries to agents instead of publishers first.

    By the way, thank you for your helpful replies to my questions in your post about self-publishing. :)

  2. Boo for no sugar daddies. :( What's up with that anyway? I thought that was standard issue for agents. Was I wrong? ;) LOL.

  3. How's yo sugar daddy? You! You're obviously a great agent and lucky the author who you represent.

  4. Oops, meant, Who's you sugar daddy.

  5. That's the one thing that makes me feel better about getting rejections from agents. I want someone who believes in me and my work, and eventually I'll find that somebody. Thanks for the post :)

  6. When I was in my 20s, someone told me it's harder to land an agent than a publisher, as an agent has to believe in your work enough to go to bat for you over and over again. I definitely can see that. (Although landing a publisher certainly is no picnic itself!) I think any of us who have a passion and pursue it end up having to struggle financially while in pursuit of that dream. I look around at my fellow state employees, many of whom have no passion or dream at all and STILL need a sugar daddy and/or 3 jobs to make ends meet, and I realize the pursuit of my passion is definitely worth the sacrifice! In fact, now that I think about it, it seems the only people I know who are making any real money are people who don't really enjoy what they're doing in life. Hmmm...

  7. These two items you wrote speak volumes about an agent's integrity:

    1) We will always be our clients’ best advocate.

    2) We have to believe in that client, period, and do whatever is necessary to aid their career…traditional or otherwise.

    It's refreshing to see an agent/writer model that operates like an equal partnership, with both sides working together, devoid of game-playing ... the worst is to enter into an agent relationship only to find out you've been played or the agent has misrepresented herself.

  8. Thank you for clairifying something so simple and yet something we as writers are being forced to question as self-publishing is making such a surge.I have four novels ready to go but now must decide which way to go, traditional or self. God knows there doesn't seem to be a sugar daddy in self!

  9. Great post, truly. It's really that simple. People ask me all the time why I want an agent--why I don't just go straight to a publisher. You've just summed it up quite nicely.

    Out of curiosity what do you think of agents (or agency departments) taking on the role of publicity for clients?

  10. Agents are also much easier to deal with for us publishers.

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