When you imagine a literary agent behind his or her desk, what kind of expression do you see on their face? Depending on how you feel about your recent interactions with a literary agent, you may imagine a grumpy face, like that “No soup for you!” guy who used to yell at customers on Seinfeld.
Believe or not, literary agents do smile. In fact, today, I’m sharing three situations that light up a literary agent’s face up like a kitten in a warm pile of socks.
As a point of clarification, by “our,” I mean literary agents who care about people as well as doing their job well. Yes, I’ve heard sad stories of people who’ve had less than pleasant interactions with literary agents. For that I am sorry. This is why I’m grateful for Books & Such Literary Management. We care about careers AND people! While that doesn’t always mean that we can meet everyone’s expectations or make their publishing dreams come true, we are committed to treating clients and non-clients with dignity and respect.
- Literary agents light up with joy when writers pitch fresh, new ideas.
Does anyone remember that vintage commercial with the slogan, “Time to make the donuts.” That phrase became a pop culture slang for doing the same thing day in and day out with no joy or excitement. As literary agents, we look at a lot of queries and according to Writer’s Digest, approximately 85% are “derivative” or in polite terms, not unique and only 10% are unique, while 5% are unusable. This means that we see a lot of the same ideas, so when someone presents a fresh, new angle on a popular topic, we’re likely to skip around the room (maybe not skip, but there may be a fist pump or two.)
Since our job is to match writers with publishers, we want to see as much of that 10% as possible! When a writer takes the time to research to see what’s already been done successfully and then adds a fresh perspective, that makes us excited about seeing a proposal or asking to set up a phone call.
- Literary agents are over the moon happy when their clients succeed.
When a client completes a proposal, gets a contract or releases a book, a good literary agent cheers harder than a sports coach on the sidelines. YES!!! All smiles!
As a newer agent, I have a lot of new clients, so most are working on their first proposals or growing their platform. I love cheering every step they take. One of my clients has grown her mailing list by over 2000+ subscribers in the past three months. Does that make me thrilled for my client? You bet
Literary agents love it when their clients take small steps, big steps or are flat-out sprinting toward their publishing goals. That’s the kind of stuff that gets us going in the morning without needing coffee.
Wait…who am I kidding? There better be coffee.*
- Literary agents celebrate when their clients and prospective clients push through adversity.
There’s no writing without struggle. Whether the adversity is personal or professional, struggle is bound to happen. Whatever the situation, a good literary agent doesn’t want his or her client to give up the fight!
An agent can step into some adversities with a client, such as acting as a liaison with an editor or marketing department. However, most of the time, a writer’s journey includes emotional, mental or spiritual battles that must be fought or persevered through on his or her own.
Recently, I spoke with a client nearing deadline who needed some encouragement. As an agent, it’s a privilege for me to pray with and for my clients as they persevere in their careers through health crises, career changes, grief and more. Tears collect in the corner of my eyes as I think of all of the times that my clients have clung to their keyboards in pure faith and grit to finish a proposal or manuscript. I couldn’t be prouder in those moments!
I’ve also been in touch with prospective clients who aren’t quite ready for representation for one reason or another. I’m cheering them on as well, whether they’re writing their proposal or building their platform. They know there are no guarantees for all of their hard work, so I acknowledge and applaud their perseverance.
JOIN IN THE CONVERSATION: First, do you remember the commercial, “Time to make the donuts”? Next, if you could ask a literary agent a question (other than asking to read your project or represent you), what would you ask?