People frequently ask me about a typical day for an agent. I think most agents will tell you — there are no typical days! With a large number of clients, working on a variety of projects, all in various stages of writing or publication, the days provide endlessly changing excitement.
Of course, I’m sure there are some agents who aren’t as A.D.D. as I am, and some of them probably have routines to which they adhere. However “they” are not “me.”
While agents always have a long to-do list, our most important job is to be responsive to our clients’ needs. The email box is always full, and fires erupt and need dousing with alarming regularity. So we begin each day with a “plan” and an awareness that we could end the day having not accomplished anything we’d planned. Such is the life of an agent.
Whenever possible, I organize my days according to my priority list. My tasks for the day depend on what needs to be done, and I try to be aware of what’s important, what’s urgent, what’s both and what’s neither. (Remember those categories when you email your agent. Your situation will be prioritized along with everything else on her desk!)
When I’m not handling crises and talking writers off ledges, here’s how I prioritize my daily work:
1. Contracts and Payments.
Fielding offers, negotiating deals, scrutinizing contracts, discussing clauses and terms with publishers, walking clients through their contracts, making sure the contract gets executed properly. Following up on advance and royalty payments, making sure publishers pay clients in a timely manner, examining royalty statements for accuracy.
2. Submitting projects to publishers.
Working with authors to prepare their proposals and manuscripts; preparing lists of editors to whom we’ll submit; getting projects out to publishers; following up appropriately.
3. All other client-related work.
Answering random questions; reading their latest work and offering feedback; coaching on marketing, promotion, career planning; brainstorming ideas for future projects; handling interaction with their publishers on everything from titles to book covers to extended deadlines and more; being a listening ear whenever necessary.
4. Finding new clients.
Reading incoming queries, reading requested partials and full manuscripts, sometimes offering feedback whether or not I’m saying yes to representation. It also includes proactively pursuing authors I’d like to represent.
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As you can see, there’s a wide variety of tasks that might come up on any given day. I’d go crazy if I didn’t have my priority list! I tend to handle tasks in categories 1, 2, and 3 during business hours. Nights and weekends are for incoming queries, reading manuscripts (clients and potential clients), and blogging. (Although during certain times of the year, I cease considering new clients.)
If you’re an unpubbed writer, you might be dismayed that reading incoming queries is the bottom of the priority list. I don’t want to miss a potentially great writer sitting in my slush pile, and yet, if I’m swamped with current clients, I’m less able to pay attention to all those potential new clients.
However, that’s actually great news. It means that once you become a client, you are now the agent’s top priority.
While there’s no such thing as “typical” and it often feels more like a circus complete with juggling and high-flying trapeze acts, one thing is consistent: The needs of my clients determine the trajectory of each day.
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