OMG--Two posts in one day? Yep. Our reader "Reason Reanimator" just posted the following questions. Because we are unique, bi-tasking agents and because others ask us how it works, I felt it was important to answer RR's questions for all to see.
Reason Reanimator: Hi. I've always been a fan of Rodale's books and information. Years ago I found an old copy of Make Compost In 14 Days squeezed in among my husband's grandparents' books--I immediately asked if I could have it. And I've still got it! I think that you worked there for years is very cool.
New Literary Agents: I'm glad you like Rodale books. I think it's cool I worked there too. It was better than going to grad school and I still have dreams about Bob Rodale--he was the genuine article!
RR: I'm confused over how you can wear both agent hats and publicist hats; they seem conflicting roles in at least one way. Publicists tend to take on works easier than agents could because publicists are typically paid ahead of time.
NLA: We operate our two businesses in parallel fashion. Publishers and published authors hire us after a book is published to work on the publicity campaign for the book. They pay us to do that work. We sometimes are hired to work on retainer for publishers.
As literary agents we take on authors whose books we think we can sell to publishers. Like all ethical agents, we take NO MONEY from our literary agency authors. If we sell a client's work we take the standard 15% cut of the advances and royalties paid by the publisher. We DO NOT take money to publicize our literary agency client's work. We do, however, talk up the books after they are published and try to get a good publicity clause in the contract with the publisher.
RR: So, theoretically at least, as an agent you could reject representing a manuscript but as a publicist wind up representing that finished book in future.
NLA: Possible, but hasn't happened yet. If it does, you'll be the first to hear about it!
RR: I should say that I'm down on agents (sorry about that), but I'm not down on publicists; especially because of the increased "noise" in society, good publicists are probably needed now more than ever. But simply put: someday you could find yourself publicizing a book you'd previously rejected as a manuscript. Wouldn't that be a little like, well, eating crow (so maybe you ultimately wouldn't publicize a book like that then lol)? ...Hmmm, maybe more agents should become publicists too. Maybe they'd learn more humility about what "quality writing" is, how well they know publishers--and especially how well they "know the reading public"! Everyone probably wishes they crystal-ball knew what would sell, but I think comparatively few people even come close to guessing with high accuracy.
NLA: I'm sorry you're down on agents too, but glad you like publicists. (By the way, did I mention I'm a Gemini?) But let's talk about why we reject so many projects. Sometimes the book is just not good enough. Or, the book may be fine but it just doesn't resonate with us. We have to be PASSIONATE about a book to sell it to an editor. And quite often we pass because we simply don't think we have the contacts necessary to sell the book. It just happened this morning. I rejected a potentially winning book on weight-loss, not because it wasn't good, but because I don't have a clue how I could sell it. I'm thrilled when a book we reject gets snapped up by someone else. It means the system is still working. And, BTW, there are other agent/publicists out there!
RR: Your blog seems low-key, personal and more writer friendly; I cannot say the same for most others. I'm curious if your place will remain the same the longer you're at the agenting role. I do think that the nicest agents tend to be the newest ones. In general, publishing burns out most people pretty fast. WHY has always been beyond me. Publishing's hardly air-traffic controlling! I worked in and for a large nonfiction house myself--quite a tiring job at the quarter ends, but other than that, not much stress.Anyway, good luck to you!
NLA: Thank you for the compliment! I guess you'll just have to keep reading to see if I turn into the wicked witch of Fogelsville. If you have other questions about the way we work, we'd love to hear them. Jon just said that he when he's in the midst of logging in and reading partials and manuscripts, answering queries and keeping it all organized, he feels he IS an (air) traffic controller! But, meanwhile it's a beautiul day in the neighborhood and we love our jobs!