I’ve Looked at Agent Life from Both Sides Now

Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti


Ten years ago, I thought I knew what an agent did with his or her time.

As an aspiring writer, I sat through every agent panel at conferences and soaked up their wisdom (most of it coming from Books & Such agents, of course).

I followed this and other agent blogs, made appointments with various agents at conferences, and observed until I’d determined what agent qualities most appealed to me.

Then I prayed and worked toward becoming the kind of author God and my dream agent would want to champion.

I thought I knew what an agent did.


But I’ve looked at life from both sides now.

Agent wears many hatsI’ve worn—and am still wearing—the hats of author, industry advocate, freelance editor, and now literary agent.

Within this first month as a Books & Such agent, I’ve seen the 4D High Definition sonogram of agenting, compared to the simple black-and-white version I knew before.



2D 3D 4D HD sonograms of agent life

image courtesy of Clearview Ultrasound

Here’s what I now know:

  • The behind-the-scenes hours that agents work on behalf of their clients and prospective clients—whether clients hear from them or not—is astronomical.
  • The decision to represent a client is more layered than:
Agent layers

(calories removed as a public service)

  • And almost all of those layers relate to what’s best for the client.
  • An agent sings your book’s praises long before it becomes a book.
  • Good agents sometimes have to disappoint their friends.
  • A good agent is a missionary raising his/her own support, serving before being compensated for the investment of time, serving for the love of books and their authors, and the power of story.
  • Agents don’t say “no” lightly.
  • Agents don’t say “yes” lightly. So much is at stake.
  • The agents I know care more deeply than an author imagines.
  • Good agents never unplug from learning mode.

As an author, I have an even greater respect for agents than I did before.

Stepping into an agent’s shoes, I have even more reason to trust my agent’s career counsel. It’s hard-fought wisdom sifted from tailings other miners abandoned.

And at least at this agency–Books & Such, God is consulted at every juncture and honored above all.

I will wait more patiently when waiting is the prescribed course of action. There’s always a reason.

What’s the “both sides” connection?

If a month in this role has taught me so much, moved me, granted me a 4D view of what I’d only known in 2D before, what would happen if each of us—published or unpublished, on the office chair side of the desk or the visitor’s chair, serving any role in the industry—considered our every action and attitude from a 4D perspective, not merely black-and-white?

What if we saw our projects from an agent’s perspective, knowing his or her career depended on its quality?

And what if we viewed our quick online purchase from the perspective of a retailer who had to let his favorite staff member go for lack of store traffic?

Or what if we thought like a publisher or a marketing manager when creating our masterpieces?

What if we remembered that behind every rejection is careful consideration from a person who takes no pleasure in saying no?

Whose role in the industry would you like to understand better? What would help you see their concerns in higher definition?


Compassion grows when we pay attention to the needs, skillset, and concerns of the #agent on the other side of the desk, email, discussion. http://bit.ly/2rOgfGH

Agents and #agenting. How hard could that be? http://bit.ly/2rOgfGH

44 Responses

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  1. Welcome, Cynthia! We look forward to more of your 4D wisdom.
    * A few days ago, at work, I politely suggested to my boss how the guys on the other side of our sticky issue might feel. “I love the way you do that,” she said, “but . . . ”
    * I don’t want to be the “but” to your “other side of the story.” I want to be a “Wow, I never looked at it that way.”
    * Wow! I never looked at agents as missionaries raising their own support. Bless you for your love of God’s story.

  2. Daphne Woodall says:

    Cynthia besides the fact I have Joan Collin’s song “Both Sides Now” in my head I appreciated your words.

    I haven’t had much opportunity to be rejected but I’d much rather it be rejected if my book isn’t good enough to make it through all the steps. Good story, well written, marketable and profitable is essential for the team.

    It’s easy to promote or sell a product if you believe in it. And you apparently accomplished that as an author yourself.

    My dad always said “if a job is worth doing it’s worth doing right”. Sometimes he also had to tell me no even when I didn’t like it. But in the end he was right.

  3. This reminds me of when God first pushed us into sending our kids to public school. I wasn’t sure why He chose this thing to be so insistent on, so many times I think God just wants us to use our heads and make good choices. But it was very very clear, doing anything less than public school would have been disobedience on our part. And so I dried my tears and shrugged and sent my first baby off to our local school, with the determination to volunteer to keep an eye on him. Well, yes I got to keep an eye on him, but almost seven years later, now that I volunteer in three different classes every week and have been asked to do my own flex class on creative writing at the Jr. High for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders I know a little tiny bit about all that those teachers do for our kids. Holy smokes, public school teachers are amazing! Something I would have never known if I’d stayed up on my safe little mountain (we literally live on a mountain out of town). Now, I’m not sure if this is why God was so insistent or what, but it is so amazing to see the hard work that someone does for you behind the scenes. Thank you for giving us a glimpse at what agents are doing for authors everywhere and if I could volunteer in your office, I totally would.Well …actually I’m just a little busy with all the school classes I’ve signed up to help out with so perhaps that would be over industrious. But I’m so glad that I can read this and find out the behind the scenes stuff that way. Thank you!

  4. NLB Horton says:

    Wonderful perspective, Cynthia, and so appreciated. As a SPed author I’ve worn many hats: writer, editor, analyst, marketer, publisher. It’s good to see the multi-faceted “wardrobe” from an agent’s point of view. I look forward to your weekly blogs.

  5. Carol Ashby says:

    Cynthia, I LOVE the analogy to 4D sonograms since the time dimension is so important in publishing. Many of us are eagerly looking forward to what you’ll post here. I certainly am!

  6. I’d really love to sit in on a few pub board meetings, and see and hear them pitch what they’ve brought to the table.

  7. I’ve often wondered what thenlife of an agent was like and imagined it was somewhat like a midwife – crazy schedule, hard work, lots of minutiae and monotony and a few moments of sheer terror and then exhilaration. So I love your sonogram analogy!

    Thank you for this behind the scenes look!

  8. I love the thought of Christian agents as missionaries. Beautiful. Recently, a contact who represents my book’s location began going through my work and helping me to get it as close to reality as possible. That’s a good feeling. It’s a few small changes, but I want to represent all well … for the location, for me, for a possible agent, for all involved. And I’m thankful for the reminder to see through another’s perspective.

  9. Cynthia, the 4D analogy is perfect. From my side of the desk, I only know what I know. Which is definitely black and white compared to the layers of detail you’ve discovered on the agenting side of the desk. 🙂
    *I loved the perspective you share about agents raising their own support, so to speak. Believing in a project enough to risk time and income on it, to pitch it and pray and do what they can to help it find a home. You’ve given me a lot to think about and to sift the good and hard information I hear from others on my side of the desk. 🙂

  10. Carol Ashby says:

    Off topic: Andrew is having a truly horrible day and would appreciate prayers.

  11. Deb Gruelle says:

    Great post, Cynthia! I’ve always thought agents were heros, but now I’ll see them as missionaries too. Praying for the right connections and open doors for all in publishing.

  12. Welcome, my friend. This is a brilliant post with much to consider. Well done!

  13. So wonderful to see you here. My heart is overflowing for you, for Books & Such, and for the authors you are/will be representing. Your post has challenged me to dig deeper, watch closer, and consider more than I have before. As things are changing within my own career, this is a perfect time to start looking at the 4D images much closer. Blessings on you, Cynthia.

  14. Wow, what a wonderful perspective, Cynthia. I’ve long been impressed and amazed by all our agents do, but you bring so much of an even fuller picture! Humbling and inspiring. So glad you are on the team, and thank you for sharing this “inside scoop” with us!

    Blessings to you and all the Books & Such “missionaries”…

  15. Mary Kay Moody says:

    Welcome, Cynthia. I appreciate learning more of the various perspectives in publishing ~ especially from the agent quarter. Your comparison of agents with missionaries is powerful. You’ve definitely broadened my perspective there. Thanks. Hope you enjoy your days as an agent!

  16. Cynthia, so excited to see you share your experiences with us! Best wishes on this new part of your journey, friend.

  17. Wow! You agents are amazing! You work so hard and don’t get fame and fortune as a result, but you’ll never know this side of Heaven how many lives are touched by reading books that wouldn’t have been published without you.

  18. Jerusha Agen says:

    What a great first blog post for B&S, Cynthia! Very thought-provoking. I like the encouraging picture you paint of the 4D image of an agent’s POV. I need to work at seeing things through the eyes of others in the industry. There’s a tendency to think of people in decision-making positions as callous and cold, but your invitation to think of them as reluctant to say no is much more positive!

  19. Welcome, Cynthia, and a fantastic first post. Thanks for sharing these insights.

    Perhaps you should write a novel about an agent to help us authors understand that 4D picture better. 😉

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Amber, there was an agent character in my recent novel–A Fragile Hope. But that agent was the polar opposite of a Books & Such agent! He was crass, crude, thoughtless, inconsiderate, sharp-tongued, unfeeling, ungodly, and money-grubbing. 🙂

  20. Traci says:

    Congratulations on your new role! I’ve often thought that agenting would be the ideal role in the literary world, and I have a strong feeling you are perfect for it! *I’m an extrovert, obviously, lol.

    I can’t wait to hear lots of authors thanking you as their dreams come true. 😀 😀

  21. Margo Hansen says:

    Congratulations on your new role! I met you at our book signings at Bethany Book & Gift in Baxter, MN, and bought one of your books, which I am enjoying. My thanks to both you and Gabrielle Meyer for your advice.

  22. Nancy Bennett says:

    First, thank you for removing the calories from the piece of layered cake.

    I have not contacted an agent before, but I did have a two-dimensional perception of that role. Thanks for the enlightenment.