Dear Miss Snark,
I am currently a buyer and events coordinator at a beautiful independent bookstore. I adore my job, and I am good at it. However... well, the fact is, someday I want to be a literary agent.
The good: I'm mad about books, I am a born schmoozer, and I know about a million authors and illustrators. I love to champion a small book and get people to buy it and be as passionate about it as I am. While I know that it won't happen anytime soon, I am willing to put a tremendous amount of time and energy into becoming a great agent.
The bad: I'm woefully ignorant about the details of agenting. I don't know anything about things like contracts or negotiating. I don't even know how an agent who doesn't live in NYC sees the publishers - do they fly to NYC constantly, or is it all via email, or what? Whenever I read about "auctions" or "pre-empts" in Publishers Lunch, I imagine a gaggle of suits shouting at each other over a large burled-mahogany conference table and then knocking back martinis - but it is probably nothing like that. (Or is it?!)
I know that agents come from all sorts of different backgrounds and that there is no one formula for success. Still, is there any advice you would give to an aspiring Snarkling?
Agenting, good agenting anyway, is not an entry level job. I know one person who started out as an agent but that was 16 years ago and I don't know you could actually do that now.
Plus, agenting is hardly ever about the books and authors. It's about contracts, rights, sales and selling. If you love books and want to talk about books, you've got the ideal job right now.
However, if you are bound and determined to come over to the Dark Side, don't quit your job. Take a leave of absence and come work in an agency here in NYC as an intern. Get a sense of what it's like.
Outside NYC agents come to NYC regularly to meet with editors and publishers. They pack in more lunches in a week than I do in a month.
Preempts and auctions are conducted by phone. You don't have to be in NYC to do it.
Very very good agents live outside NYC but there's a lot to be said for being HERE and being able to take advantage of all the stuff that goes on here.
Remember too, agents are on commission. You don't sell, you don't get paid.
But the first thing is to find out if you really do want to do this. Come work here for a summer or a season and you'll have a much better sense of how it goes.