Thoughts on agents and agenting

About a week and a half ago, I read this post by literary agent Molly Jaffa about selling a book to foreign publishers. It wasn’t the journey she made to get this book translated and sold worldwide that made me sigh wistfully. It was the passion that she obviously felt for this title that made me want so badly to write something that an agent would love.

And I think that’s why I’m not so upset about being rejected. I mean, I want my agent to be passionate about my book. She (or he) would be the one who has to sell it to editors, anyway, and I know from my years in sales that it’s far easier to sell something that you love than something that you think is just okay.

So, if an agent doesn’t wax poetical about what I’ve written, I’m okay with getting passed over for something s/he does love. (I’m a bit jealous, but okay.)

Writing is such a hard business because everything is so subjective. As a writer, I’m asking people – total strangers, in fact – to leave their realities for a few hours so that I can tell them a story. Moreover, I’m asking people to pay me so that they can immerse themselves in whatever world I’ve created. That’s kind of a bold request, you know?

But I think that’s where having an agent almost validates my work as a writer. She (or he) reads a lot. A lot. Some of it is good, most of it is terrible, a bit of it is great. So getting that nod from an agent in the form of representation means that someone out there is pulling for your success not because s/he likes you but because s/he has just placed a bet on you. More than that, it means s/he’s out there hawking your words because s/he truly believes the rest of the world would love the story, too.

Of course, there are many agented authors out there who remain unknown, too. So it’s just as important to have the right agent who loves your work as it is to have written something the world would love.

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