Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: 33,00 feet– flying Across the United States
We’ve looked at the head, eyes, nose and mouth so far. Today is our pragmatic day—the hands-on part of the job. John Q. Agent will be called upon to juggle mountains of information. Pitch paragraphs, proposals, manuscripts, marketing plans, royalty statements, contracts, cover comps, schedules, deadlines and correspondence will pass through his hands on each book he offers. Looking at an average for each of those documents I figure that amounts to about 430 pages of crucial data per book. If the agent has, say, fifty clients (some have fewer, most have more) and let’s say that each of those clients have contracts for one and a half books each year. (Of course, some have more, some have less– but that’s an average.) That would add up to 32,700 pages of crucial information per year that our John Q has to manage, digest and recall at a moment’s notice.
And don’t forget that each contracted book may have been shopped to half a dozen editors. Add all the back and forth correspondence that goes with that process. All of that needs to be logged as well to keep track of where the books been shopped and what kind of responses we’ve received.
And we’re just talking clients here, not those writers seeking representation.
That’s a lot of information passing through his hands. He also needs to offer serious input on much of it—commenting, editing, refining, brainstorming and at the very least, replying. It requires a lot more than dexterity. It requires discipline, productivity and most of all, effective systems to deal with the data. I happen to love efficiency systems and productivity and I’m constantly tinkering. I can’t imagine how I could do this job without these tools I’m constantly developing and refining.
John Q. Agent must be able to keep his hand to the plow, so to speak, to stay on top of the data that comes into the office capturing it in easily-retrievable systems. If he slacks off for any reason he will never catch up.
So in a nutshell, here’s what an agent needs to have at hand:
- The discipline to manage mountains of data, day in and day out
- The sheer number of hours required to process data, read manuscripts and respond
- Effective systems in place to capture information in an easily retrievable form
- Space for data storage, both physical and electronic.
- The ability to prioritize. Without this skill, an agent could spend ten hours a day on email alone.
John Q. Agent will find that nothing will challenge him in this job like handling the paperwork but once he’s got his systems in place he’ll look like a genius with all the answers at his fingertips.
Let’s turn this around and apply it to you. Writers have their own mountains, right? What kinds of systems do you use to store and retrieve research? How about your reader lists? Do you have any good hints for the rest of us?