9.16.2005

Qualifications: Certifiable

A Snarkling who clearly needs professional help inquires:



This is way off topic, but how does one go about breaking into the lit agency field? Would one need to return to school and obtain a specific degree (English, JD, ?) or does one just need to apply like the dickens and hope that an agency takes pity on them? Just curious...


There are two things you need to be a successful agent.
Ready? Taking notes?
All ears?

1. A rolodex stuffed with the names of editors who buy manuscripts.
2. Quality manuscripts.

Now if you can figure out how to get those, nothing else matters. Not your degrees. Not your personal hygiene. Not even your ability to spell.

You can contract out your legal work.
You can do almost all your work on the phone or via email.
You can hire a whip smart grammarian to do your mail.

If you have projects that are good, and know who's buying you're in.

Obviously of course, that's like saying if you can run the 100 in less than 8 seconds you can have the world record. You can. There's a tad more involved than appears on the surface.

Many agents begin as editors. Not all.
Almost ALL agents had some sort of career in publishing before they hung out their shingle.

If you asked me for career advice, I'd say get some experience in as many areas of publishing as you can, particularly sales, and sub rights. Meet everyone you can, and be nice to everyone.
You might need to intern to get your foot in the door but there are entry level paying jobs.

When you get hired, be extremely good at the job you were hired to do. If you're an assistant, be a kick ass assistant. Don't think you're marking time till you get promoted. One thing I see over and over again are people who think they're so over qualified for their entry level job that they can't be bothered to do it. Those people get fired. I refuse to work with them and if an editor has a lousy assistant, it means I'm MUCH less likely to call him/her first with a hot deal.

So, spruce up your rezooom. Dust your shoes, file your claws and spit shine your incisors. Publisher's Marketplace is probably the best job board in the biz now, and I think there's one at Media Bistro too.

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