STATUS: Concluded a deal today that I’m pretty excited about. Look for the announcement tomorrow on Deal Lunch.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE by Queen
I got an email a couple of weeks ago from a guy who wrote to me to say that he was pretty business savvy, liked to read, had good taste, so might want to become a literary agent since it might be a lucrative venture and could I tell him if his yearly income estimates were accurate.
Which he then listed in a little chart.
His email was actually rather thought out and savvy (unlike other inquiries I’ve received) so I did send a nice general this-is-like-starting-any-new-business reply but I’m sure you could hear my mental sigh out there in blog world. I don’t think, with zero background or experience, that I would email, let’s say a mortgage broker, about becoming one because hey, I’m good at numbers.
What is it about this job that there is a perception that hey, any Yahoo could do it? All you got to do is be a good reader, pick some winners, and boom you’re on easy street. The money just rolls in.
Folks, I’m here to tell you that agenting is not a good, get-rich-quick scheme. It’s years of careful business management, budgeting, planning, great contacts, having solid sales, excellent royalties on the back list to really make it viable. Not to mention there is such a thing called talent in this biz. Some agents have it (I’d like to consider myself in that group) and lots of people have good intentions but not the T (hence, marginal agents with tiny sales records over many, many years not to mention folks who turn to just outright scamming or charging fees to make money). There are also a whole slew of people who actually had the background, started or worked for an agency, and then backed out after less than five years because it was just too tough. They couldn’t go the distance.
And there is so much more to this job then simply being a good reader who can spot a marketable project and sell it. In fact, that’s only 10% of what we actually do. What about author career planning? Negotiation? The deal as well as the contract. Cover issues. Tracking payments. Legal issues. And the list goes on.
You don’t want an “agent” who became one because gee, I’m a good reader. If there truly is an interest in this job, go and get some valuable experience by either working at an agency or at a publishing house to see if you do, indeed, have what it takes to handle all facets of this job because maybe you do. Lots of current, really terrific agents came to this career from different, interesting paths, and they have varied educational backgrounds as well as varied prior experience.
But ultimately, like any job, the talent aspect can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t.
That’s my soapbox for the day.