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?
As I read this, I see God in heaven smiling and saying, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
Thank you, Shirlee. Don’t you think everyone should be required to share how God called them to write?
James Scott Bell
I can’t believe it’s been 11 years, Wendy. I remember when you started this journey. I thought then that you and Janet were a perfect match, class acts. And so you have proven to be. Congrats!
Thank you, Jim. We were all just kids then, right?
So lovely! I love being a writer because it’s allowed me to join the Books & Such family! 🙂 I had heard so many great things about Books & Such long before Rachelle came on board. And I’m so grateful that she followed God’s lead in joining the team, and offered her clients the opportunity to come along too! It’s hard to describe to those who don’t have the first hand experience, but this agency really IS a family! The support I have been given over the last few years, not only by all the wonderful authors, but all the other agents as well, has been incredible. We can share our highs and lows, prayer for each other and get some of the best writing advice available . . . it’s an enormous privilege to be part of all that. And not to mention this blog and how helpful it is to writers at every stage of the game. I do love writing, but it is hard, whether you are just starting out or writing for a big publisher – being a part of a community who knows the pressures and understands the struggle makes it all a little easier. Congratulations Wendy, on your 11 years, and to the B&S team on their 20 year anniversary! A great milestone to celebrate and we are grateful for each of you.
Thanks, Cathy. You said, “this agency really IS a family.” That’s the nicest compliment of all. We feel that way.
Congratulations, Wendy. You made me think of Henry Blackaby … “Look to see where God is working and join in.” What do I love about writing? The challenge to myself … to see where my work is lacking and be able to say to myself, “You need to step that up” … and do my best to rise to the challenge. I guess with anything, it’s great to see where you started and how far you’ve come, even when you still have many miles to travel. 🙂 Again, congratulations. You are so loving and kind … I’m so proud for you.
Thank you, Shelli.
Congratulations on this anniversary!
I don’t know if I really love writing – isn’t that a terrible thing to admit? I really enjoy the actual putting words together part and the excitement of the story threads coming together, but the solidtude is just about killing me. And I am an introvert by nature!
Hence, I like the community here!
That’s an honest thing to say! I’m often the same. I love to have written, it’s that project ahead of me. . .
Not overlong at all, Wendy. Your enthusiasm and joy come through in every word, bright rays of sunlight illuminating the thousands of hearts which your words have touched.
* The love of being a writer can, for me, be broken down into three categories – professional ambience, interaction with readers, and the craft itself.
1) Professional ambience is, for me, community, and I’ve said before that this one has been a literal lifesaver (as has Five Minute Friday). Histrionics aside, I’ve learned a lot about both the mechanics of publishing and the nuances of craft.
2) Interaction with readers has been sometimes surprising; recently I was trying to track down some blueprints for an old aeroplane, and emailed a chap in Australia who was said to know someone who’s brother-in-law’s gamekeeper’s second wife had them. When the reply came back, it included the question, “Are you the same bloke who wrote ‘Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart’?” Wow. Unexpected, and fun.
3) Love of craft is the hardest to pin down, but I’d say it’s perhaps the love of a parent for a good but wayward child, as I watch my characters grow and do things that I never would have expected (and make decisions of which I often do NOT approve). They have the obnoxious habit of taking over scenes; knocking over my inkwell, making paper aeroplanes of foolscap, and generally indulging their senses of humour at my expense. But I miss them when it comes time to say goodbye.
Andrew, what a fun story about the airplane blueprints (I tried to spell this word your way, and my autocorrect kept changing it. 😉 ). How touching to know your story made an impact in Australia.
*Your descriptions of your characters’ behavior made me smile.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Well? Did you get the blueprints???
I was actually doing the search for a friend whose internet skills weren’t up to it – and yes, they were acquired.
Perfectly expressed, Andrew. And when you say we’ve been a literal lifesaver for you, that’s true. Though you couldn’t see it, more than once on our client online group we’ve gone to prayer for you. You are loved, friend.
Wendy, what a lovely post. It’s fun to hear a bit more of your history and how you came to Books and Such. I love everything I know about this agency. Truly a class act with gracious agents.
*What I love about being a writer is multi-faceted. I love the creating and fast drafting of my stories. Watching characters come alive as I type their stories is plain fun. But I’m beyond grateful for the people this journey has allowed me to meet. And, God has used this journey to teach me so much about Himself, to bring healing to wounds in my life and to help me depend on Him for everything. So much to love about this life. 🙂
Creating stories is heavenly, Jeanne. xo
We ought to talk about “fast-drafting” sometime, Jeanne. The practice intrigues me. I labor over my writing, even first drafts.
Thank you for your comments.
I’d love to chat about it.
Congratulations, Wendy. Such positive energy! What a lovely tribute to the people you work with and what they bring to the table. I’m glad your transition from one career to another was satisfying and that B&S is a fulfilling and great place to work. It was nice to read your story. You make a great addition to the team and are such an asset. Why do I love to write? It’s sort of like making music. I like the sound of words, they are melodic to me
and, when sublimely written, offer a musicality of expression. Words that sing/ to the heart they bring/ love, joy, and peace. . .
I love that you connected writing to composing music. I’ll bet your writing is lyrical.
Wendy, heartfelt congratulations!
Thank you, Cynthia.
Laura C. Brandenburg
Congrats, Wendy! It’s encouraging to know how much you love your job and your team. 🙂
I think you’d find that all of us on our team share the feeling.
Congratulations on eleven years! I’m thankful you’re part of the Books and Such team, which has become an integral tool for my learning the industry.
What a nice compliment. Thank you, Teresa.
When I think of my blessings in homeschooling my big family, I realize I’m living the dream I didn’t know I had. That seems to be the same for you. Congratulations, Wendy, on eleven years! May God continue to bless your work and Books & Such!
Thanks, Meghan. When I look at pictures of your “school children” and your students’ accomplishments, I think you need a congratulations as well.
Wendy, I love getting to know other writers at this blog site. I love the sense of community here. Thanks for asking this question.
*There’s a long list of reasons why I love writing historical fiction. I love doing the research to get every detail of setting and culture correct. It’s prepared me to create my author’s website on the Roman Empire that should also be useful for teachers and homeschoolers looking for more than the history of the emperors and their military campaigns. I’m enjoying writing postings for that site, too.
* I love living in the parallel world of my characters as they pass through difficult times and pivotal choices to reach a satisfying ending. I love writing each scene, but I enjoy even more rereading and refining each section until virtually every word and phrase feels right. I love how a minor character in one novel suddenly generates the plot for the next novel even before I’ve finished the first. I love creating the web in time and space that connects all 4 completed and 3 in-progress novels through minor and major characters and specific events (It gives me another excuse to revisit and edit completed stories).
*I’m writing romantic historicals that are also stories of the spiritual transformation of one character because of the faithfulness of another. I love the anticipation of hearing someday from someone who read one of my novels and was inspired to seek a deeper relationship with God or, even better, that they shared my novel with someone who decided they wanted to learn more about Jesus after reading it.
Yes, Carol. As a lover of historical fiction, I understand exactly what you are saying.
Happy agentiversary, Wendy! Books & Such is richer for having you as one of the team.
This post made me smile, Wendy! I spent years envying my friends who were represented by Books & Such. When God finally answered my prayer for an agent by fulfilling this heart-desire, I felt like I’d joined an extension of my family. One thing that set you apart is the sense of community. I truly believe your clients thrive because of it!
I feel so honored to have you as my agent!
Not as honored as I am to have the clients I have. I get to be part of so many amazing books.
Happy Anniversary, Wendy! I too am very grateful for the Books & Such family…and for you. 🙂
As I’m starting to finally get back in the groove of writing in working on this WIP, I’m reminded how much I love getting to really know a character, get inside his or her head, and live the story through his or her eyes. Frustrating as it can be at times to accomplish, it is a joy and one of the gifts of getting to be a writer.
When I think of you I think of so many of the joys an agent has, like being able to share a celebratory lifting of the glass with you after a Genesis win. I’m so glad you are back writing. I don’t understand why a wedding and a brand new husband should have derailed you for several months. 😉
Happy Anniversary, Wendy! What a lovely post. It’s always great to read the stories of how Books & Such came to be. I feel very blessed to have found this blog.
And we’re thankful that you bless this community with your participation.
Wendy L Macdonald
Happy 11th anniversary as an agent, Wendy. Your post was anything but “over-long”. You touched our hearts, and that’s exactly why I love to write–to create a response in the reader’s mind, heart, and soul.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
Thank you for those words, Wendy Mac.
As a previous member of the “Bookies,” I want to second much of what you wrote. The agency is supportive, with great clients. Classy, knowledgeable, courageous–that is Books and Such. Hope you enjoy another amazing eleven years.
You know the loss of our beloved Etta Wilson stronger than anyone, don’t you? I had an email from Etta this morning. She said in part: “Thanks for sharing the story of how you and Janet teamed up which I had never heard before. You are so right about Janet. Such a marvelous combination of shrewd business sense and warmhearted caring. Knowing you two was a marvelous culmination to my years in publishing.”
I would miss her even more if I didn’t know they are serving others, traveling and enjoying retirement– like Ireland in September.
Thanks for your words, Barbara.
Awwwwe, so much heart in this post!
I loved reading the backstory and the present story!
Blessings to you all~~~
Congratulations Wendy. Blessed results from a timely and heavenly decision. Thanks for sharing a bit of your back story!
You are welcome Davalynn.
What do I love about writing?
*Words! I love words. I am endlessly fascinated by the way words flow, how they come together and paint pictures in my head, the infinite options for stringing them together to let others see the pictures in my head, how the delivery conveys emotion, how they look marching across the page, how they sound–soothing, abrasive, repetitious, rhyming, marching. Need I go on?
Even your comments are filled with wonderful words marching across the screen. Thank you, Shirlee.
I’m SO glad you became an agent, Wendy. I’m so thankful to be your client and have you with me on my writing journey. I’d hate to be stumbling around out there without a guide, especially one as great as you.
Thank you and congratulations and many blessings!
Thanks, DeAnna. Or Julianna Deering, which I too often call you In my mind. (Oh the fun of pen names.) I’m thankful that you have brought one suave, sophisticated character in Drew Farthering onto the literary landscape. That’s what makes being an agent so fun. We get to see these characters at their inception.
Robin Lee Hatcher
Congrats on eleven years, Wendy.
What do I love about being a writer? Hmm. Working in pajama bottoms all winter long. Typing “The End” on another novel. Getting to spend time with truly creative people. And just for you, I will add that I love doing all of my work on a Mac.
Oh Robin Lee, my Mac Guru. Thank you. There is no one who is a more gracious tech wizard than you. We love you!
Kristen Joy Wilks
I love hearing about all the reasons you love your job, Wendy! Sure sounds like a perfect fit. Your post wasn’t too long, we can see your heart for your job so clearly. I love that. And I love writing, there are moments, when you make someone laugh, when your Mom’s best friend sends you a card “Your story made me cry” or you hear your ten-year-old reading your very own story and jumping up and down on his bed shouting “No, Chobo, no! Run, run from the wolves, Yes, yeah Chobo!” When your doggy character finally conquers her fear and comes through for the heroine and your son, your very own son, shouts at that spot in the book. Those moments are what makes you sing inside. Writing is creating and sometimes it actually works. I Love it!
Linda J. White
Congratulations, Wendy! I love your heart.
Back atcha, friend.
Congratulations, Wendy! Your post confirms what a special agency Books & Such must be. I’ve learned so much from your and the other agents’ posts here. Thank you, and may you have many more successful years with Books & Such!
Congratulations, Wendy, on your anniversary with Books & Such! Your contribution to our industry is wonderful. Here’s to the next 11 years!
Thanks. I’ll be happy if they are as good as the last eleven.
I knew I knew your name from somewhere!
LOL, it’s been bugging me since I followed Jessica R. Patch over here.
Thank you for sharing.
🙂 Undercover agent!
Yowzah, Wendy! 11 years! It seems just yesterday you and Janet partnered up, and what a wonderful partnership it’s been. Congratulations!
I know. Where does the time go?
Kathy Boyd Fellure
Happy anniversary dear Wendy! What an amazing agency and women of God. The verse ~ Well done good and faithful servant describes Books & Such.
I love my job too, and am grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn and grow in my writing, and give back to the writing community.
I don’t know how not to write. It is a creative passion and gift, I have the responsibility to be a good steward and discipline my time wisely.
I think through the dark days and hard times I may have quit had you not been such an encourager, Wendy. Your prayers are cherished.
Blessings in your continuing journey that I and so many others are blessed to be a part of.
Thank you, Kathy. I think it is those hard times and dark days that make our writing real, don’t you?
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Thank you, friend and fellow Bookie.
I love that it’s not about business as much as relationships. Here is to another eleven years!
See? You could have said it in one sentence, Kendy. It’s all about relationships.
Thanks, friend! You are part of the reason I love my job.
I love hearing how my writing has changed people’s lives. A weekend ago I spoke at a conference in Seattle and one of the leaders of the conference said she read PrayerWalk when it first came out (2001) and that it changed her life. Hearing that sort of thing still stuns me. Such a privilege it is to be published.
Nothing sweeter. That’s why we do what we do.
Wendy, I can see your love for what you do in your classes I’ve attended and in the too-brief discussions we’ve had re some piece of my writing. Thanks again.
Rachael O. Phillips
And we love you, Wendy! Where would I be without your encouragement, your excellent expertise, and your prayers?
My clients are the very best.
Congratulations on eleven years, Wendy! This was a treat to see into the past and hear about your journey to Books & Such. When I first started pursuing publication, yours was the first name I heard for respectable, hard-working, successful agents. Books & Such has an amazing reputation for excellence, and you’re one of the reasons why. Praying a blessing on your anniversary!
Thank you, Gabrielle.
Wendy and Janet–and all your team: Major blessings to you all. You are a wonderful asset to the publishing world. I respect you highly and always love seeing you. That doesn’t happen often enough. :]
Thanks, Brandilyn. I passed your comments on to Janet as well.
Congratulations on eleven years, Wendy! how wonderful.
I love the web chat shot. Rachel, your baby is ADORABLE! 😀
Thanks for sharing. Such a fun post.
Just to show how old that picture is, Rachel’s “baby” is now three, I believe. 🙂 And cuter than ever!
Yes, the baby in this picture is my 3.5-year-old daughter! It’s not such a flattering picture of me, but everyone else looks amazing. 🙂
New baby boy is expected at the end of June.
Congrats on this milestone, Wendy. God bless as you continue to walk in His plan for you.
Thank you, Susan. He HAS blessed me.
Mary Kay Moody
What a lovely testimony to read. So happy for you, Wendy. And for all those blessed by your work and the great team at Books and Such. May you have many, many more years.
I appreciate your words, Mary Kay.
Ann H Gabhart
I love my job too, Wendy, Most of the time. No, I am blessed to be able to write stories that I love just as I believed I could do way back when I was a ten year old and first wrote those beginning words “Chapter 1.” At ten, I already knew words were a gift and I was glad to be able to unwrap those gifts to tell a story. I’m very happy that our jobs brought us together with a writing connection. You are an amazing woman and an inspiration to all who know you. Love the beautiful community of Books and Such.
And when I think how long you’ve been publishing, Ann, eleven years must sound like a pittance. You’ve been creating amazing stories for decades. (And you’re still 39, right?)
I’m late to the party, Wendy, but I still want to offer my warmest congrats! There are some people in the industry that you just hear nothing but glowing comments about. That’s you. I so enjoy the times we get to visit at conferences. Wishing you many more years of doing what you love!
Any party Deb Raney is at is the party I want to attend. Thank you, friend.