Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
I wrote this blog three years ago. It was well-received then, so I’m re-posting it during the holidays, when our offices are closed. Enjoy chatting amongst yourselves, and Merry Christmas!
Last week I was interviewed for a radio program, and the interviewer asked me what I liked best and what I liked least about being a literary agent. I didn’t have time to give a full answer, but if I did, here’s what I would have said:
What I like most
Introducing a new writer to the reading world is at the top of a very long list of “likes.”
Most agents pursue this line of work because we like the challenge of finding a writer whose words sing, someone who writes with clarity and power. When I start to read a submission, and the writing just keeps getting better as I read along, I want to shout, “Eureka!” because I’ve found it, that gem in a heap of, well, non-gems. I have to proclaim my find to someone–if not everyone–in the office, read passages to them, and enter into serious celebration.
Then I have the delicious job of telling the person I not only get his or her writing but am infatuated with it. And then I have the joy of trotting out my find to editors. I’m like a new parent, grinning ridiculously, as if I were the writer rather than the finder of the writer.
It’s all good.
What I like least
I could pass up having to convey bad news to clients. Bad news can take, among others, the following forms:
- I can’t seem to generate any enthusiasm among editors for a project
- My client’s latest list of possible book ideas holds nothing with a strong enough hook
- The publisher isn’t going to offer a contract for my client’s next book
- The sales on that debut novel weren’t what we had hoped
- An editor my client worked well with is leaving the publishing house
- The publisher has decided to close the imprint my client was writing for
- A publishing contract is being cancelled.
Sometimes I “get” to deliver bad news over and over again. If a publishing line is being closed, I’ll have to contact every client involved. While I know I’m delivering what could be devastating news to each client, with each phone call I make, I feel the weight of the bad news all over again. By the end of one of those days, the heaviness is palpable.
The good news is that I get to work with each author to figure out how to turn the bad news into good. I believe that, out of every bad situation, good can come. And that brings me to another thing I love about my job: I get to help solve problems!
Last week one of my clients discovered her latest novel had a section of another book substituted into it during the binding process. That sent the publisher skittering off to find out what went wrong and if it affected the entire print run. And the news sent my client into a tizzy of trying to figure out how to handle a PR problem. As the agent, I worked with my client to mitigate the fallout.
That situation reminds me of something else I appreciate about my job: It’s never boring. Almost every week, I can say, “Hm, I’ve never encountered that problem before. Let’s see, how can we solve this one…”
What do you like most about the writing life? What do you like least?
A literary agent talks about the ups and downs of the job. Click to tweet.
An insider view of a literary agent’s job. Click to tweet.
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Well, compared to what seems to be happening in the other parts of my life now – looks like metastasis to the bone, I’ll know next week for sure, and I’m terrified – I like EVERYTHING about writing.
* Seriously…I’ve chosen a writing avocation which has subtly become a vocation. I have been told that there is a gift; while it’s not mine to see, I won’t go into the rote denials demanded by false modesty. Maybe the gift is there. I don’t know.
* I do know this; to actively dislike any part of this freighted life, which I can put down as freely as I have picked it up, seems rank ingratitude. The bits that are sometimes onerous are learning experiences, and those that are filled with delight are, well…filled with delight.
* To set my face against a selected and highlighted discomfort will merely make it less bearable, for as we regard our circumstances, so do THEY regard US.
Bless you, Andrew, for your attitude and your honesty. Thank you for sharing your gift here with us.
My prayer for you can no longer be contained with words. Thankfully, God hears what I can’t say. Amen and amen.
Shirlee, thank you so much. Truly.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Hang in there, Andrew. You are in my thoughts and prayers this Christmas. Psalm 63:8–“My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”
Kristen, thank you so much…I sure need a Hand upholding me, as my right leg won’t bear weight. I can get around with the use of a cane and the assistance of a helpful (albeit puzzled) Rottweiler.
* Fortunately, I’m good to go, as I don’t write with my feet…which comment leaves a BIG .opening for anyone who’d care to pick it up.
* Funny thing, though. The worse things get, the more I enjoy writing…and life. Up to a point, at least, liking what you do is a matter of deciding that you will.
Continuing to pray …
Shelli, thank you! Tennyson (in “The Death of Arthur”, the last poem in his Arthurian poetic cycle) said about prayer, that thus is the whole world bound ’round the feet of God with golden chains. I really love that image.
* And I really need the prayers. Today is awful, but also an object lesson for all how very much a community like this means…it’s not all binary code and hypertext translation protocols. This is flesh and blood. This is real.
Oh, Andrew. You are an amazing hero who continues to shine for God. I’m praying.
Jackie, thank you…but the real hero of the day is Survivor the Rottweiler, who saw me fall, and opened the door on his run to come to the rescue, and help me to my feet. With balance help from a cane, he is my legs today…and perhaps for the days to come. No one taught him this…but I expect God was whispering in his ear.
Andrew, first off, I’m continuing to pray for you, that God will be your strength and fill you with His peace in the midst of the possible worst situation in your life.
*Your words have me thinking about my I own view on writing, which is a good thing. Thanks for sharing in such a real way.
Jeanne, thank you so much! The situation is terribly painful, and in many way humiliating…but I would never trade this perspective. Life is still worthwhile, and I love it all the more…and I’ve both seen and had the opportunity to be part of the Body of Christ in action. It’s all beyond price, because I’ve learned that this life really, REALLY means something. It’s not a random dance of molecules in the dark. This is Grace.
* And I thank you, Jeanne, for your wonderful, graceful blog. You have such a skill with words and pictures, and you’ve been my go-to place when the walls closed in. Your words matter, and YOU matter.
I dropped in just to take a quick peek at the comments and am glad I did. Prayers redoubling for you, Andrew. Thank you for letting us know about your condition. Thankfully, we can travel far and wide in our hearts and minds even when our feet no longer obey us.
Thank you Janet, and I love the way you said this – “…we can travel far and wide in our hearts and minds even when our feet no longer obey us.”
What do I like most? This world of writer friends and learning from them (reading their works).
What do I like least? Trying to make my life appear “normal” to those not in the writer world. 🙂
I love brainstorming a story and the delight when the story turns in a different direction than I expected. I love creating characters and writing the story. And I love the friends I’ve made on my journey.
What I like the least is the uncertainty.
“When the story turns in a different direction” … yes! 🙂
What do I like most about the writing life? Lots of things. 🙂 I LOVE the people I have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know. I being a part of a new story coming to life at my fingertips. I like how this journey has forced me to depend on God and to relearn how HE defines me.
*What I like least? Um, waiting. 🙂 I don’t like rejection, but I know it’s a tool God uses to make me more like Him, and to improve my writing.
Have a merry Christmas, Janet!
Thank you, Jeanne. Merry Christmas to you.
Janet, I hope your best days out weigh your worst!
Bless you Andrew. You are such an inspiration to this group. I’m praying for you to have a peaceful and pain free Christmas.
Lara, thank you so much…and I hope that in your Christmas, you find there will be a knock on the door come dinnertime, and that you have to set three extra places for the Holy Family (well, two places and a high-chair).
Janet Ann Collins
What I love best is when I find out reading something I wrote has made a difference in someone’s life.
You do that for me often, Jan, both here, and in the comments you leave on my blog.
Janet Ann Collins
Well, you just did it for me with your nice comment about mine. 🙂