STATUS: Downtown Denver is a zoo with the Democratic National Convention starting today. On the walk this morning to my office, I counted at least 10 people standing on the street with at least 5 cameras strapped to their persons.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? (DARLIN’) YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU by Tina Turner
I’m just a baby in this industry if you think about it. I worked for another agency before going out on my own in 2002 but even if I count up all the years, it’s certainly under 10. So just imagine what an agent who has been doing this biz for thirty years might know.
Well, you don’t have to imagine as editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler from Grove has been doing a series of interviews for Poets&Writers and this month he interviewed Molly Friedrich—who started agenting back in 1977 when I was all of 9 years old.
I took a lot of good things away from this interview but here are some points that stand out in my mind:
1. Credibility and respect are built over time. Honesty and integrity, for agents, may very well be our greatest asset.
2. That writing is often about original voice rather than labels. (Amen!)
3. That loyalty can mean a lot in this biz—loyalty to an agent, loyalty to a publishing house, loyalty to an author’s vision and career.
4. Selling a novel for a ton of money may not necessarily be the best thing that could happen to the book or to the author. And it’s a myth that all writers will be seduced by the big money. Some don’t necessarily want lots of dollar signs if it ends up being a detriment to a long term career.
5. As publishing gets reduced to fewer houses, there’s a sameness to the type of books that get published and become popular. Could an Annie Proulx be published today as a debut? (There’s a frightening thought!)
6. Some authors, no matter how much they are earning, aren’t worth keeping if they drain your energy as an agent.
7. Whining. There’s too much of it. From authors, from agents, from editors.
8. That we, as agents, know when we’ve done well by a book (and she’s not talking about large advance) and when we’ve messed up. (yep.)
And to me, these seem like good words for agents to live by: “If you’re just going along like a hamster in a wheel, then you’ve lost the pure white heat that makes this business so much fun. And it should be challenging. That’s what separates the great agents from the good agents.”