December 8, 2009

My First Client

This week I’ve started a new stage in something I’ve been working on since I started at Astle & Associates—I finally began calling editors and submitting the work of my very own client for consideration. While this isn’t the first time I’ve called editors about a project, it’s the one that’s been closest to my heart and certainly the only one I’ve picked out from the slush and followed from start to finish, wherever 'finish' ends up being.

Robert has been really great about helping me learn by doing, which is something that you just never get at school. While Robert’s offered me essential guidance for this project and the client officially signed with him as the agent, I’ve been the one doing all the agent-ing. There hasn’t been anyone looking over my shoulder.

Finding the project was exhilarating—I knew it was special from the first time I read it. It just wasn’t like the others I was reading—I couldn’t put it down. The decision to sign them was all mine and I jumped on it. I had no idea what it was going to entail but it wouldn’t have made any difference. I love this whole process and I love being a part of it.

The author and I have gone through draft after draft of edits together—I’ve started to think of us like a team. Now it’s time I pulled my weight. When the author worries that no one will like the book, I do my best to reassure them: I promise, I know what I’m talking about and I like it. And the agency wouldn’t have signed you if we didn’t think you were worth the effort.

It’s a tough balance between giving helpful criticism and destroying a writer’s confidence, but I’m trying to be both a sympathetic support as well as an editorial sounding board. I know I can’t be everything at all times, but I think it’s important to tell the author that every criticism I give is because I think their work is great, that it can get even better than it is already. That all this effort is going to pay off.

But it would really help if I had someone telling ME that everything was going to be great and that they were sure that someone wanted to buy this book. I just keep thinking: but what if NONE of this pays off? What if I’ve made the author go through all these changes, rip their story apart at the seams and restructure it so many times that they don’t even recognize it, and no one wants it? Will it be my fault if they don’t want it because I suggested bad changes? Or theirs, because the story wasn’t good enough? I think the hardest part is that since I need to be strong for the author, I don’t have anyone to be strong for me! I don’t think of it as much about the money, probably because this isn’t my livelihood yet. I just couldn’t stand putting an author through all this just to have nothing come of it.

My biggest fear was really that today, when I started calling editors, NO ONE would let me send it to them. I know it doesn’t make sense—it doesn’t work that way. Of course there would be at least someone who would give it a read. But this is how my mind works. And I felt so much better when every single editor I got on the phone today agreed to read it. And, they were all very nice! I always feel terrible when calling, since so many editors complain on twitter about being bothered by phone calls from agents. (If there’s a better way, let me know and I’ll use it!)

Now it’s time for me to be an agent. As much as it’s unofficial, I’m BEING an agent to this author, so there’s really no difference. For this manuscript, I get to be Rayna the Agent. Not play, but actually Be.

The author has done a great job. Now it’s my turn. Did I pick the right editors? At the right publishing houses? Can I pitch the right angles? I guess, the overall question is: CAN I DO IT? And the answer is a wholehearted yes—I know I can. But it’s still nice to hear it once it a while, and while I can certainly tell the author that they can do it, I can’t ask them to say it back. I guess this is a little piece of how authors feel the whole time they’re writing: am I doing it right? Is anyone going to like this?

Every time I pick up the phone and talk to an editor about it, I get a rush. I’m terrified but I’m also excited. I want to make this author’s dream come true, because now their dream has become my dream and I feel incredibly lucky. I guess I’m about as insecure as any person who’s new in their field, but I’m also confident that I was made to be around books and I’m ready to have my chance to prove it. I can’t wait to get this book published!


  1. Reading this makes me feel better as a writer. I feel now, that if I'm with the right agent and that we become a team, is something I want. I love to work in teams like that. I was a little afraid of agents, wondering how they think, since I have no idea how they operate and what not. I'm glad I decided to follow your blog. It's quite uplifting and makes me want to finish writing my own story before I even bother anyone else with it.

  2. Your internship sounds like it's such a fantastic experience! I'm so excited to follow you as you start your author off and see where this journey takes the two of you as a team =)

    And, coming from the publishing-house side of the internship world, it's also so, so interesting to read about your perspective as an intern on the agency side. I love the way that agents get to be wholehearted champions for their clients.

  3. Wow - this was such an interesting read! I of course think about things from a writer's perspective, but it was GREAT to hear about the thought process on one of the other sides! :-)

  4. @Rini--
    When you work with an agent, they should absolutely explain how everything works--what they're doing, what you should be doing, and what expectations there are on both sides. When you let someone work with you, there definitely shouldn't be some mysterious voice on the other end of the phone doing who-knows-what with your story!