Blogger: Wendy Lawton
When I opened Facebook this morning, the first entry in my newsfeed was a congratulatory anniversary message. Facebook remembered that this month marked my 11th year with Books & Such Literary Management. Eleven years! Where does the time go?
Each week as I sit down to write a blog I ask myself, what can I address that will help our blog community? I hope you’ll forgive me for straying from that goal today. Rather than talking about writing or about the industry or about the writer’s life, please indulge me while I tell you why I love this job and can’t imagine doing anything else.
I never set out to become a literary agent. I ran a successful business for some thirty years. I was an artist who had built a workshop of some twenty artisans to create our original porcelain artist dolls. Our work regularly sold for the high three figures and even four figures. I had one piece that went for $11,000 at a Walt Disney World auction. We served dealers all across the country. I received the Lifetime Achievement award from Dolls magazine and an honorary PhD from Wilmington University. Doesn’t sound like a person looking for a new career, does it?
I also wrote books. I think by eleven years ago I had written eleven of my thirteen books. My agent was Janet Grant. Janet has always been interested in business so we often talked about the parallels in my business and hers. She listened to me worry about the future of collecting. Millennials had shown no interest in collecting. Our collectors were aging and talking about thinning their collections. I could see the future and it was not encouraging.
At the same time the Christian publishing industry was growing. Janet was considering taking on another agent and had been talking to few applicants. She tells the story that she just didn’t feel a peace about them. She was talking about it to Robin Jones Gunn one day. Robin just cut to the chase. “If you could have anyone you know, who would you like to work with?” Janet says that she answered without hesitation, “Wendy Lawton.” Robin asked her why she hadn’t called me.
Janet picked up the phone on a Friday in May and asked me if I’d ever consider becoming an literary agent. I remember it was a Friday because we had just sweated payroll once again for our staff. After getting over the shock, I told her I would think about it. And think about it, I did. I called her back and said yes. I continued to work part time as a dollmaker and part time as an agent for a couple of years as we phased out our business.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I love my job. Let me tell you why.
Books & Such is a pioneer in literary representation. Our agency believes there is strength in numbers. We are collaborative both as agents and with our clients. From our weekly agent meetings (thanks to video conferencing– see meeting photo below) to our client webinars, from our biennial retreat to our online gatherings, we find that working together spawns success. Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Yes! Our writers help each other. It’s a powerful strategy.
Janet Kobobel Grant. The best thing about Books & Such is our founder. I knew Janet first as my agent but when I began to work alongside her is when I realized how blessed I was. Janet is a natural mentor. From the beginning she was there for every question. We could discuss the big stuff like negotiating contracts and strategies for career guidance right down to the minutiae of reading royalty reports. Janet has infinite patience. She has assembled a powerful team and I doubt that any one of us feels comfortable referring to her as our boss because she always emphasizes that we are colleagues. She is a gifted businesswoman and has built a solid base for the agency. She’s not afraid to spend money to make things happen. You could not find a better leader.
My Colleagues. My fellow agents are the best! Rachel started as an intern fresh out of a prestigious college. Janet spotted her abilities early on and it wasn’t long until she became an agent with her own impressive list. Etta Wilson, the much-loved children’s agent came next. How we miss her now that she has retired. I can’t remember who came next but Rachelle was already a successful agent when she made the move to our team. We’ve learned so much from Rachelle– nobody understands social media and platform better than Rachelle. When she came, her blog was already recognized as one of the top literary agent blogs in the nation. We knew Mary Keeley long before she joined our team. We used to pitch to her when she was an editor at Tyndale. Just to let you know how gracious Mary is, I represented her own daughter, the very prolific Erin Keeley Marshall, long before Mary became an agent and she never once tried to poach Erin. 🙂
Our office. The Books & Such office is one of the reasons we can be so productive. The systems that have been set up were carefully crafted to follow money trails, keep track of client sales, go over royalty statements with a fine-tooth comb, keep the website humming, manage our online “selling site,” edit and create quarterly newsletters to editors and on and on. The office receives checks, does the work needed to make sure everything is correct and manages to get client checks in the mail within hours. It’s a team effort for sure but don’t think we could operate without our brilliant office manager, Michelle Ule. I believe she was with Janet long before any of the rest of us.
Our clients. I could write another thousand word blog about my clients. They are the best thing about my job, hands down. I wish I had time to introduce each client to you and tell you what makes them distinctive, what makes them the best. If you could see the awards, the sales numbers, the ideas, the creativity, the ministry. I am honored to be part of their teams.
Our industry. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the toy and collectible industry all those years, going to Nuremberg for trade shows and Toy Fair in New York every year but it is nothing compared to this industry. If you could meet the editors we work with– see their love of books and their hearts for ministry. . . It is a privilege to work with them. A privilege.
So I’m celebrating eleven wonderful years this month. Thank you for indulging me. And for reading this over-long missive. All of that to say, I love my job.
How about you? What do you love about being a writer?