A Day in the Life of an Agent
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Some jobs look pretty much the same one day as they do the next. That’s seldom true for a literary agent. One day can be all about phone calls. Another day I might not speak on the phone once. One day might be focused on negotiating a contract or readying a proposal. Another could consist of a single emergency that derails the day as I look for a fix.
For this post, I’ve arbitrarily picked a day from last week to give you a glimpse into a typical day in the life of an agent.
7:00 am–Rise and bleary-eyed feed the dog, eat breakfast, dress and take a quick walk. (Confession: Not every day starts with exercise. That depends on how early I start phone calls, the weather, and, well, my inclination.)
9:00 am–At my desk and implementing my new discipline of spending no more than 30 minutes on social media. I check to make sure our blog has posted, read the blog and comments; zip over to Facebook and catch up on the latest news on my feed, adding a post of my own; move on to Twitter where I read any direct messages, glimpse at my Twitter feed and do a bit of tweeting and retweeting.
9:30 am–Read priority emails from clients, editors and other agents. Mark those that will require considerable time (attached proposal, contract to negotiate, or complex situation with a client). Respond to all priority emails that can be answered fairly quickly. (Since more than a hundred emails that require responses await me each morning, even a quick pass through them can take several hours.)
11:00 am–Call a client for a “catch-up” conversation. We haven’t talked in several months and have on our agenda:
- Update each other on developments on a film option for a series.
- Strategize upcoming meetings with film producers for a movie that will go into production later in the year.
- Look over list of possible book projects for the client to develop. Prioritize the list and brainstorm strong hooks for each.
12:00 pm–Work on emails that had required careful consideration before responding.
12:50 pm–Wendy Lawton, who is at a conference, calls to ask me the title of a book she wants to talk about during her workshop but can’t recall the exact wording.
1:00 pm–Reschedule weekly phone call with Mary Keeley because she is at the computer store, trying to get her laptop to function correctly. Take the unexpected break in my day to work on a publisher’s contract. I’ve already spent an hour on it the day before and had marked clauses that I wanted to suggest changes on. Work hard on alternate wording and what I want to delete, along with providing the contracts administrator with my rationale for the changes. Don’t make it through the process before my next scheduled call…
2:00 pm–An executive editor calls me to explain a legal complication he’s encountered regarding a project he made an offer on a week ago. He tells me his idea for a solution, and I respond with why I think the solution has its own problems. We agree that he’ll return to his legal department to express my concerns.
2:15 pm–I take a quick break to make a pot of tea, which is an afternoon office tradition. Often the mail has arrived at this point. I look over any payments for our clients to be sure they’re correct and to mark the monies on our payment tracking sheet. If royalty statements had been in the mail, I would set those aside to study and to make sure all titles had been reported when I had time to concentrate.
2:30 pm–I look over the proposal and sample chapters for a potential new client for one of our agency’s agents. I see several pluses but also have some concerns about whether the writer is ready for representation. I create an email and send it to the agent for us to discuss later.
3:00 pm–Time for my weekly call with Rachelle Gardner. We discuss some of the challenges we’ve each been facing (including my concerns about the contract I’m working on) and brainstorm ways to deal with them. Being part of a team is an important aspect of how our agency functions; none of us has to face complex situations alone.
4:00 pm–Read a client’s fiction synopsis to determine if the idea is strong enough for the client to move on to sample chapters. Thumbs up on this one!
5:00 pm–Back to emails, checking on new ones and reading lower priority ones from earlier in the day.
6:00 pm–Take a dinner break for the dog and me.
7:00 pm–Back to work on the contract, finishing my suggested changes and emailing it to the publisher’s contracts administrator.
8:00 pm–Quit work and watch a recording of The Good Wife, one of my favorite TV shows.
9:00 pm–Read a few chapters in a quirky book a friend recommended, American Hippopotamus.
10:00 pm–Head for bed.
What stands out to you about my day?
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