Come Alongside

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Janet and I are getting ready to head down to Scripps College in Southern Californian the next couple days to talk to the students about writing and publishing. Six sessions over two days. I have to admit, we love talking about books and publishing. And what fun to come alongside these cream-of-the-crop students.

If you read many agent blogs, you’ve probably been treated to an overload of complaints. Sometimes the frustration with the day-to-day avalanche of work overflows onto agents’ posts. Yes, there are too many queries to be able to handle them helpfully.  Yes, publishers sometimes care more about the platform of an author than about his ideas. And yes, writer-hopefuls do send us the strangest queries, but, press any of us agents, and we’ll admit there’s nothing we’d rather be doing.  So as I spend the next few days doing what I do best, let me tell you a few of the reasons I love my job.

A little background: For thirty years I’ve been considered one of the world’s leading sculptors and doll designers. I had my own company for a quarter century and won every top award in the industry, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. I also wrote books at the same time. I have more than a dozen titles in print. All that to say that I have had my turn in the spotlight. When I began itching for a new challenge, my own agent, Janet Kobobel Grant, asked if I’d be interested in joining the agency almost twelve years ago. It didn’t take me long to decide. I knew that all my experience in marketing, product development and the toy industry (a parallel world to publishing) would translate to a perfect arsenal of skills for literary representation. I said yes and began to build my client list and learn the business under Janet’s mentorship.

It wasn’t long until I discovered that I had chosen the perfect third career. The first (and best) thing an agent learns is that “it’s not about me.” After two careers in which I was the “brand” or the personality, I would now be behind the scenes. It’s a healthy change. Recently I was looking back in my prayer journal and found an entry where I prayed that the Lord would help me develop a servant’s heart. Bingo! This new career provided that opportunity.

My philosophy as an agent is lifted from Henry Blackaby’s wonderful book, Experiencing God. To paraphrase, he says that God is already at work. Our job is to see where he’s at work and come alongside. That’s exactly what I’ve done. When I’m evaluating potential clients, I get most excited when I can see that God is already at work in their lives and their careers. All I’m called to do is come alongside and work with them.

For me, some of the unforeseen benefits have been a delight. I’ve found that I love getting my fingers into so many different projects, different careers and different ministries. This job is never dull. And when you get to handpick the people you work with, well it just doesn’t get any better than that. Just think, I get to be involved in books that touch millions of readers.  I celebrate every victory with my authors–bestseller lists, awards, starred reviews and lives changed. I also get to be part of the disappointments that only make the later victories all the sweeter.

Agents don’t have to hog all the fun, however. You don’t have to be an agent to get your fingers into lots of projects and come alongside fellow writers. I did it long before I was an agent. I’ve been critique partners with six other writers for more than twenty years. I’ve been on writers’ prayer teams. That made me part of their projects and allowed me to come alongside them.

So tell us–how have you come alongside other writers? How has it enriched your writing and your own walk? Ideas? Comments?