Tell me…

So….out of curiousity….what do you (whether you’re an author, friend, both or casual reader or whatever) think is the most appealing thing about being a literary agent? If you were going to be one, what would be your motivation? If you were going to tell me what you most envy about what I do, what would it be? I really want to know.

(And no fair to matociquala answering first based on that conversation we had Sunday night — was it only Sunday? It seems like a lifetime ago.)

21 responses to “Tell me…

  1. most appealing thing about being a literary agent?
    Much the same thing that appeals about being an editor, actually. Having a hand in getting good reads to market.

  2. You’d better love the thrill of the hunt, ’cause you’ll be wading through a ton of pulp forests to find your prey… er… well. You know what I mean.
    I couldn’t do it.
    I get cranky at my own game writing. I can’t imagine wading through slush piles…
    But I do love a good book.

  3. Probably the feeling of being the human connection, the person who helps connect other people who need to be together to do something great.

  4. Growf. Having done my editorial stint, you couldn’t pay me to do what you do. *g*
    But if *I* were an agent, I think it would be the phone call to tell somebody that something has sold–both your faiths rewarded, so to speak.

  5. Getting gems out of the slush pile. Getting to read a new book before ANYBODY else gets to. Getting to say, “That’s my author,” when somebody’s book hits the shelf, and knowing that you helped them get there.

  6. Maybe I’m just a negative person…
    But I imagine I’d have great fun in shooting people down. πŸ˜‰
    NO!
    YOUR ENTRY IS JUST WRONG!
    PASSIVE SENTENCE! PASSIVE SENTENCE!
    Bad author!
    Things like that. πŸ™‚ But then again, I’m a sick woman. πŸ™‚

  7. I think the most appealing thing would be finding the one gem in a thousand stones (or maybe it’s a hundred thousand stones)–the same reason my dad will stand in a freezing cold stream for 8 hours, bent over with a strainer in hand, panning for gold–and getting someone else to recognize its worth.
    And you get paid to read! To use your intelligence. To discover.
    On the other hand, I could never ever do it. I don’t like negotiating or saying “no” to people πŸ™‚

  8. The chance to find something that’s inventive and really well-written, and know that you helped get it published.

  9. To drive your enemies before you, and hear….oh wait, wrong career.
    I’d say it’d be the ability to work with authors whose work you respect, to give them feedback that helps them make their books better, and to get those books sold so everyone else can share in the goodness.
    The finding the gems among the dross part would probably seem more appealing if there was less dross, and the dross was less drossy.

  10. I’m afraid I’m echoing the others. The one overwhelming reason I’d want to be a literary agent would indeed be the thrill of the hunt. It’s the same dream I had when reading slush for an SF magazine: wading through hundreds of manuscripts, praying I’d find The Next Good One worthy of being passed up, worthy of being published, so I too could someday say “Yeah, I found him…” And in this case, it would hopefully be the ongoing relationship with authors, helping them to succeed, watching them grow.
    Though I suspect the realities are more like: dredge through thousands of manuscripts and proposals, weep at the end of the day at the sheer amount of idiots in the world, get drunk, pray for death, contemplate the monastary or maybe the Army, never get any glory, haggle with greedy/cheap publishers…
    Hmmm. It still sounds like a pretty cool part of the equation though, ideally. :>
    Currently, I occupy a different part of the food chain: reviewer. I see things after they’ve been accepted for publication, often before they hit the shelves.

  11. Getting to see new books BEFORE ANYONE ELSE– and more, getting to help make those books BETTER.
    And then, of course, seeing them on the shelf in the bookstore. πŸ™‚
    But we can’t forget the getting to know cool people part of the equation either. πŸ™‚

  12. I would love being able to read new manuscripts; more than that, I would love being able to be part of the joy an author experiences when the sale is made.
    Couldn’t handle the contact/networking aspects of the job, though. I admire you so much for that.

  13. Honest-if-probably-not-helpful answer: I wouldn’t have your job for…pretty much anything. *wry g*
    I am very, very glad to know you and have evidence that there is at least one smart person with taste doing your job. So I hope it’s still making you happy. But I can’t think of a single aspect of what you do (with the exception of working at home) that wouldn’t make me miserable most of the time.

  14. I am a sheep. I follow the herd. Baaaaaa.
    Ahem.
    I mean, if I were an agent, I think it’d be the joy of finding something that I just *knew* needed to be published because it was that good. Staying up all night reading something I wasn’t expecting to be That Damned Good. And, like Bear said, getting to call and tell people that they’d just gotten representation/sold a book.
    I’ve read lots and lots of workshop submissions and actually ran my own ezine for a while. I know wading through the slush can be painful, but *sometimes*, there’s a gem among the turds.

  15. I think what I enjoy most about it (I sell foreign rights for a few feminist or queer presses, mostly) is the satisfaction of matchmaking. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big deal (which, most queer books into other languages–or even in English–aren’t) but I enjoy finding a home for the books I represent, especially books that I think are meaningful or important but which would get lost or overlooked in a bigger agency. I guess, basically, it satisfies my inner Jewish mother in a literary way. πŸ™‚

  16. 1) Having a real excuse to read and talk on the phone a lot and all of those FAHHHHbulous lunches…
    2) The matchmaker thing.
    3) Getting to go to the Frankfurt book fair.
    4) Getting to have lots and lots of people basically suck up to me, just in case they can figure out how to send a query.
    5) Getting to work in my p.j.s if I feel like it some days.
    6) Having people value my opinion.
    7) Having a posse of possibly the greatest living authors.
    8) Being able to say, “No, don’t send me anything with unicorns or serial killers.”
    9) Being able to chortle gleefully as I shred the submissions with unicorns and serial killers.
    10) Having a life of the mind instead of the soul-numbing drudgery of work-for-hire.
    11) Getting to thumb through the pages that have been touched by the next Heinlein or Nabokov or Murphy…

  17. I would say that the thing I would find most appealing is the thing that would make it a giant drag: reading manuscripts. I’ve been on the retail end for more than 15 years and anytime I tried reading bestsellers to be more up on what folks are going to want, it began to suck the joy out of something that I truly loved. Of course I always fell back on my skill of just being able to talk books with others to learn if they are worth recommending. You probably don’t have that luxury.

  18. Well, you know that I could never do your job in a million years but, if I were forced to, I would probably take pleasure in both the good parts (finding new gems, giving good news, etc.) and the nasty parts (no-holds barred rejection letters, the shredding of manuscripts and crushing of egos).

  19. But your job is just heaped with glamour…isn’t it?
    I think probably the same thing that I like to do for my friends when I’m reading a short story of theirs – getting that feeling that I know which market it will fit and matching it up successfully.
    I think I’d also like the traveling and being able to write off going to conventions as an expense. Whoot!
    then of course there’s the fun of being able to crash all those SFWA members only parties…(cough)
    I’m pretty sure the pile of manuscripts would daunt me on a lot of days, though.

  20. The idea of discovering gems is appealing, although I’m pretty sure that bubble is burst fairly quickly.
    For me it would be on a more microscopic level. Seeing a first line that made me say, “Ah. Interesting opener. I’m hooked. This guy/gal has obviously studied the Turkey City Lexicon and learned something.”
    Seeing a few opening paragraphs that did nothing expected. Wanting to read more.
    Coming across a subtle and extraordinarily simple play of language that nonetheless moves mountains in terms of plot, character, and genre in general.
    And finding, at the end, that it was carefully intentional and extremely well-thought out, and except for those coupla comma glitches (because c’mon, who *really* knows where they all go? πŸ™‚ ), it’s imminently sellable, and I know exactly who’s going to want it. That’s what would appeal to me about being an agent. Now, if I could only accomplish that with my writing…

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