This gun for hire, ok, but not this agent

Dear Miss Snark,

Can I buy a verb?

There is a thread on the comments about the use of the word "hire" when talking about agents. Thank you for the smack with the clue-by-four because now I know that word is not acceptable, indeed is somehow offensive to agents.

What is the proper verb the writer uses when an agent has agreed to represent the writer's work? I have signed with an agent? I have contracted with an agent? I take it one does not "have" an agent, either. I suppose I can not say, "I now have an agent..."

I need a shot from the cluegun so I don't seem like a nitwit for using the wrong verb.

Thanks, and hello to Killer Yapp.

Killer Yapp does have an agent...on a leash no less.

You are represented by an agent. You have an agent. An agent represents your book. You seek an agent. An agent takes you on. You signed with an agent. An agent signed you up.

All those are fine. "Hiring" implies an employee/employer relationship. You don't hire an agent any more than I hire you as a client.

Killer Yapp regularly offers to hire Mr. Clooney as his perambulator supervisor, but no dice...so far.


Anonymous said...

How about: I have adopted an agent?

Dave said...

I think I started this while vennting my spleen on the post about a writer turning down an offer recommended by an agent. It's a couple posts back. Sorry about that.

"Represent" is a more appropriate word for the type of contract between an agent and a writer.

Khazar-khum said...

"Landed" sounds like you've dragged a giant marlin into a boat.

"Retained" suggests a lawyer who is paid to keep your worthless rear out of court.

"Found" isn't bad, but does give the impression of woebegone agents wandering around the countryside, shivering & drenched.

How about "signed with"?

alternatefish said...

"Adopting" is something Angelina Jolie does. I'm imagining a writer holding the hand of a little tiny agent person.

I personally have a happy agent dance all ready so I don't even have to bother with words. I'll just start dancing and people will know what I mean...

bran fan said...

Perhaps legit agents dislike the word "hire" because they want to distinguish themselves from the bottom-feeding, fee-charging agents who collect a fee from the writer upfront. Since the writer is paying that "agent" (and I use the term loosely) directly, then the writer could say to be hiring that agent. However, since legitimate agents collect a commission on the books they sell, and that check is written by the publisher, not the writer, then they are a sales rep for the book, but not an empolyee of the writer.

A subtle difference, but a difference nevertheless. In that case, I can kind of see why an agent would object to the word "hire."

From now on, I will say, "An agent represents my novel." That is accurate, not offensive to anyone, and not awkward to say.

Janny said...

Actually, since the author pays the agent out of the monies for the book...and since people who are HIRED are generally paid by those who HIRE them...what in dog's name is wrong with saying you "hired" an agent? There's nothing punitive or subservient in being hired...it merely describes, in very concise and precise terms, who's paying whom. Anything more cumbersome (politically correct?) than that not only clouds the nature of the relationship, but wastes words.

I hire a person to do handyman-chores around my house; that person's skills outstrip my own in that department, but I still pay for the work, and it still has to be done to specifications. So it's still a "hired" relationship. Likewise, I "hire" a piano tuner, or a plumber, or a cat-sitter. They don't have problems with that word. Why would an agent?

If an agent is offended by my "hiring" him or her, when it's my 15% that's paying him or her, maybe the agent would rather do it on a volunteer basis?

I will treasure any agent with whom I sign for representation; I will collaborate, cooperate, and otherwise work nicely with you. I will value your services immensely. But if I'm paying you, I'm hiring you. It's the easiest word, it's the clearest word, and there's nothing wrong with it.


wonderer said...

"I hired an agent" implies that you were the one in control of the process, not the one hoping desperately for The Call.