STATUS: I’m feeling this strange desire to belt out Men At Work songs. Wait, that’s because I’m jet lagged and actually in Australia!
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK by Sting
Last Thursday, Angie and I got a chance to do informational interviews at the Denver Publishing Institute. As 2002 grads (and I can’t believe it’s been that long!), we were happy to give back by chatting with the graduating students looking for careers in publishing and specifically those who were interested in agenting.
I did about 15 interviews and during the day, I have to say that something completely crystalized for me.
Q: What does it take to be a good literary agent?
A: The ability to handle conflict.
Q: What does it take be a happy literary agent?
A: The ability to be sanguine about all the conflict you deal with on a daily basis.
I know. This should have been obvious but I had never boiled it down to the above. Ninety percent of agenting is troubleshooting and doing conflict resolution.
And I’m not exaggerating.
An agent’s job is to be the author’s advocate. Plain and simple. And that means it’s the agent’s job to sometimes be the “bad guy” so the author can have a warm and fuzzy relationship with his/her editor and publisher.
The agent is the person who says the tough things when they need to be said.
So if you are by nature, a conflict avoider, then being a literary agent is not going to be a happy job for you. It’s not like anyone loves conflict (or maybe some folks do!) but some folks are more hard wired to deal with it with equanimity.
Definitely something to keep in mind if you want to pursue this particular career.