Miss Snark, role model. That other noise is hell freezing.

Dear Miss Snark,

I want to be a literary agent. I believe I have the people skills, the capability to discern quality, the necessary passion for literature, and the public relations experience.

However, I have no clue how to break into this business! How did you begin on this righteous and most excellent career path?
More specifically, would you recommend working up through a firm like William Morris (and subsequently signing 5 years of my twenties to them), or completing a certification program like the one at NYU?

I would greatly value your response, as there is no one in my life or family that has had similar experience.

Please, please Miss Snark, help me make the post-graduation leap of faith a hopeful and educated one...!

Wait...you need people skills to be an agent? Dang, back to school for Miss Snark.

There are lots of ways to start out. Being an agent is not an entry level job. You want a job with a publisher first. And you want to be in New York. And, I hate to say this,but you also do the certificate program while you're employed, not in lieu of a job. IF you play your cards right, your employer will pay some or all of the tuition.

First step: subscribe to Publishers Marketplace ($20/month). The job board there is what we all use.

Apply for every job you can.
Also apply for internships. Some are paid, most not but people hire their interns more often than they hire others so it's an investment.
Once you get a job or an internship THEN plan your trajectory.
Make friends with solo agents. Lots of us look for young whippersnappers to help cause someone helped us back in the puppy days.


incognito agent said...

Are you really sure you want to be an agent?

While internships and certificate programs are great ways to immerse yourself in the field, they're a serious investment in time and money. If you're uncertain, try reading the following to get a feel for things:

>Literary Agents: What They Do, How They Do It, and How to Find and Work with the Right One for You -- Michael Larsen

>How To Be Your Own Literary Agent: An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book Published -- Richard Curtis

>Be Your Own Literary Agent: The Ultimate Insider's Guide To Getting Published -- Martin P. Levin

Although these books are directed at writers, they all provide a look at the agenting side of the business.

Good luck!

SAND STORM said...

Practice by putting a stone in your shoe and walk around all day. When you have that grimace down pat and are thoroughly pissed off at everything start saying "NO" to everyone, when you have done that enough so that it is second nature start reading really crappy books for 12 to 16 hours everyday for a week. (you will need to upgrade your glasses) At the end of the week say goodbye to all your free time and most of your friends. Cut your current income(student right?)in half and get some good eye drops. Now only 51 weeks left of your first year. You are going to luv it.

E. Dashwood said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AzGhostWriter said...

LOL - Thanks sand, now I know what hell must be like.

Sponge Girl said...

Speaking or role models - I think you're needed, Miss Snark:


Have fun!

Marisa said...

Well Miss Snark, you have garnered another fan with your witty and prompt reply to my plea!

I'd hoped I could avoid paying such dues (that's my youthful bravado talking). Thanks for the concrete suggestion in Pub Marketplace.

Sandy: On second thought, perhaps I should've replaced "capability to discern quality" with "ingrained snobbery and cynical tendencies." I'm not too worried about the scanty income. It's NY right? I should be able to pick up any # of high-dollar-ho jobs while pursuing my delusional desire to be the next in a long line of Snarks (except that I definitely prefer whiskey to gin).

**Regarding moving to NYC - Is there a west coast hub for publishing? San Fran? Oregon?! I love NYC but I'm not sure I want to live there (and have my soul sucked out of my orifices) and was thinking it might be less competitive on the west side.

Miss Snark said...

San Francisco.
but you still need to start in NYC.
and good luck on that high paying job.
take a look at Craigslist apt rental shares for an idea of what it costs to live here.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Miss Snark, you are probably a good choice for me to use in making a comparison being that your agency consists of just you.

Another "agency", actually a scam, claims the following which I'm cutting and pasting from URL http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=428525#post428525 should you wish to read it in context.

"Q) Tell me more about your company.
A) We are bigger than a small agency and smaller than a large agency. We
have about 15 people total and as of 2nd quarter, 2005 we have over 60
active conversations ongoing with buyers and 3 option agreements in
negotiations in our screenplay division. We just sold our 4th book deal (to
a publisher in England) and we are confident of more success later this
year. (A 5th deal is being signed as we speak). We market to the larger and
medium sized publishers and producers. We have had 5 successes now in the
last 2 years (fyi: most agencies only have 1 or 2 deals every couple of
years, if that.). We've been around the block enough to have people that
love us, and people that hate us. We will never ask you for money, so
that's one way to judge for yourself. Our commitment to you is that we
believe that we should get paid only if we sell your work. Your commitment
to us is that you will do what it takes to make sure your manuscript is the
best it can be and that it meets or exceeds industry quality standards"

Could you please comment, Miss Snark, on how many sales you make in a single year? I do not need the publishers, authors, ISBNs, or titles. Only a count.

Obviously, you're at a disadvantage just like the Beatles were when they went head to head with the Dave Clark 5 in Tiger Beat many years ago. However, I'm betting that you can beat them with one hand holding a gin pail and the other reaching for George Clooney.