Life and Times of an Associate Agent Part II

On Friday I posted Part I of this series on the role of an associate agent featuring how I came to my current role as Associate Agent at the P.S. Literary Agency. Today I want to write about what I have learned in my role thus far.

  • The P.S. Literary Agency at Book Expo, NYC May 2011.

    Value of international conferences and book fairs. If you work in the business or know a bit about how it works, you’ll know that senior members of the industry and rights personnel attend international book fairs and many members of the industry as a whole attend conferences. While you need to be comfortable via email and phone there is no comparison to meeting your colleagues face to face to chat about catalogues and what they’re acquiring. This week I’m at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto speaking with industry professionals from Brazil, China, French Canada, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.

  • There are no guarantees. What you think might be a hit, might surprise you and vice versa. It’s a subjective industry that deals with changing interests and trends. That’s what makes it fun, a challenge, and exciting all at the same time.
  • Trends are not enough. Agents cannot follow each trend as it ebbs and flows, we have to love the work and clients we represent. A longterm relationship like representation is not a flash in the pan while trends are hot. We ride out trends, try to create new ones, but have to believe in the merits of our authors whether they are ‘on trend’ or bordering the cusp of one.
  • Get comfortable with the phone. Agenting does not exist in a bubble. There are so many relationships to manage and email is not enough.
  • Your time is not your own. When I was an assistant I read everything I could get my hands on. Now, I have to be selective with my time and what material I can invest in. My time is my client’s time and I am not able to offer feedback and critiques on every query, partial or full manuscript I look at.
  • You can’t wait for quality work to come to you. While I love the slush pile and take great pleasure when great material flows in through it, it isn’t the only way to find authors. I reach out to writers I see on Twitter, personalities I see on TV, and journalists whose work I enjoy.
  • The industry is full of smart and interesting people. If you want to be in a business where you’ll meet fascinating people with varied backgrounds, have lasting personal and professional relationships, be challenged and excited by the subject matter, feel so passionate about what you do, and be part of a (digital) revolution…look no further.
  • This job is about problem solving and project management. Agenting is one part editorial, one part licensing rights, one part managing expectations, one part problem solving, one part negotiation, and wholly an exercise in project management. There are so many aspects of each clients’ career and current projects to organize and execute at once. Without efficient planning I’d be lost. Thank goodness for the iCal syncing feature…

That’s all I can think of for today! I’m sure there’s more and it will warrant another post.

When you are motivated and moved by the quality of the work you do, you don’t work a day in your life. I love my clients and am proud to represent their work. My job is fun, meaningful and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

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