Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
What does an agent mean when she says career planning is a big part of what she does with her clients? Isn’t that a bit like saying you paddled your boat through the Colorado River white water rapids? I mean, doesn’t the river ultimately have the real grip on your boat, and doesn’t the publishing industry ultimately determine the course of your career?
I’d like to spend the next few days taking a peek at ways in which an agent can help to determine an author’s career path.One of the key ways an agent directs a writing career is helping the writer though the rough places. And there will be rough places.
One of my clients, we’ll call her Sarah, sent in her third manuscript to complete her three-book contract with a publisher. All had gone swimmingly with the first two novels, and so far the publisher-author relationship was pure honeymoon. But, to my client’s dismay, her third novel was rejected when the editor read it. What!?
Turns out the storyline developed in ways the editor hadn’t projected, even though Sarah had consulted the editor and was directed to emphasize a specific setting that pretty much meant the story would have a gritty edge to it. But once the editor read the manuscript, she realized she had misdirected the author. Big oops.
So Sarah was asked to revamp the novel in major ways, making it a different story altogether.
This is where career guidance comes into the picture. Sarah and I talked long and hard about how to respond to this rejection. Finally I told her I didn’t think she should do the rewrite. The novel she had created was powerful and had a compelling voice. To change it would be to compromise the creativity Sarah had poured into the manuscript.
So Sarah wrote a different novel for the publisher, one that suited its more conservative tastes.
Who but your agent will give you permission not to murder your baby manuscript? Certainly not the editor or the publisher. Together, Sarah and I determined that later in her career, when she was more established, the initial manuscript would find a new home. In the meantime, she would continue to build her reputation as a fine novelist.
Other rough spots that were career-defining moments for clients have included, what to do when:
- you think the publisher’s cover design will kill your book’s sales.
- your publisher has chosen not to offer marketing/publicity support.
- no one wants to buy your latest great book idea.
- your muse has disappeared but your deadline has not.
Smooth sailing in publishing? Nah, it’s not going to last. But hopefully you’ll have an agent on your team ready to put his paddle in the water and work like crazy to escort you through the rough waters and on your way to a productive career.
What rough waters have you encountered? How did they affect your writing career?