Life and Times of an Associate Agent Part I

Have you wondered what the difference is between ‘associate agents’ and ‘agents’–well I’m sure you can guess. Associates are newbie agents that benefit from the mentorship of principal agents at their agency.

Associate agents are more actively building a list a looking for new clients.

Associate agents are more often working with debut writers.

Agenting, like most of publishing, is an apprenticeship career. Agents either come from a background in publishing houses (often in the editorial or rights departments), come up through the agent ranks as interns, are readers for agents (who read slush and give reports on mss that agents need a second read on), or are agency assistants. My foray into agenting was the latter: agency assistant at Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency in London from a connection through my masters degree program.

Starting my career on the agenting side of the industry (with a brief stint at a large independent publisher, Bloomsbury UK) has given me the framework to always think in ‘agent’ terms:

  • Best interests of the author
  • Commercial success
  • Familiarity with contracts and contract negotiation
  • Talent spotting
  • Always being able to question procedures and processes with hopes to improve them, which is a benefit of working for smaller companies
  • Agency/client relationships and communication
  • Constantly reading industry news, blog posts and Twitter feeds
  • Benefit of professional international networks

I might make my transition from masters student to agency assistant to associate agent sound easy, but it is a lot of luck (these jobs don’t come up frequently and often aren’t posted), hard work (when you are learning you have to put in the evening and weekend hours reading and critiquing mss, just like you will when you are an agent), and having someone take a chance on you which I was lucky to have in both of my agent mentors Madeleine Buston and Curtis Russell.

Monday I’ll post Part II about what I have learned as an associate agent thus far. Stay tuned!

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