Rants, Raves, & Random Thoughts

Shameless self-promotion of my writing skills or lack there of.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Agents On The Move

I read Publisher’s Lunch the other day (ok, I read it every day, but this particular day is what I want to talk about) and one of the announcements put the ol’ wheels a’ turning.

Jeff Kellogg left The Stuart Agency to start his own agency, Pavilion: Literary Management. There are others, to be sure, but his announcement is the one that prompted this line of thought.

Now, if you’re a writer, I’m sure you’ve heard about the horrible state of the publishing industry. Fewer readers, lower sales numbers, and a never ending stream of aspiring writers, make this industry a tough nut to crack for masochists folks who want to make a living telling lies entertaining others with their words.

With the current state of the publishing industry and an uncertain future to boot, what kind of brass does it take to set out on your own? What makes the risk worthwhile?

I feel it necessary to tell you that the following paragraphs are from my own rambling thoughts and in no way related to the circumstances that led Mr. Kellogg to found his own agency.

Does an agent just reach a point where their client list is so large (and lucrative) that the temptation to keep them all to themselves becomes too great? I’m not sure what the breakdown is, but of the 15% that goes to the agent X amount must surely go back to the agency. If one strikes out on their own, surely the ration of what actually makes it to the pocket goes up. But then, how do you know your clients will come with you. In most cases, they signed on with an established agency, what is the motivation for the writer to jump ship with the agent? How does that conversation even begin? Does the agent call up everyone on his client list, tell them he’s starting his own agency and wants them to come with him? Wouldn’t there be a high risk that one of them would let the cat out of the bag before he was ready?

Does something happen at the agency to make the thought of spending one more day with his co-workers unbearable? Did something happen to suck the passion out of the job? Did the focus of the agency change? Did the range of books they represent become too narrow? Have they become too broad?

Maybe, it has nothing to do with the old agency at all. It could be that it was one of his favorite places to work, but they were still working for someone else. If you’ve made all the right contacts and you have enough clients, why not have your name on the letterhead?

These are just some of the things I wondered about. Perhaps some of you could shed some more light. What are your thoughts on the subject?

9 Comments:

At 10:26 AM, Blogger lime said...

all good questions whether it's publishing or any other business. i am amazed by the people who have the gumption to do it and then do it well.

 
At 11:42 AM, Blogger Breazy said...

HEY JAMES!!! I have finally returned from vacation and wanted to stop by and wave at you . Anyways, I will be doing a post sometime this week with pics and all !

 
At 7:50 PM, Blogger Southern Writer said...

Interesting post. One of my crit buddies mentioned a few things about his agent the other day. Apparently the person is a relatively new agent with more than seventy-five authors signed. I wondered how one person could work effectively for that many people.

I also wondered with so many agents starting up, and so many others failing, how publishers even know if one is a legitimate agent, or not? Can anyone have "literary agent" put on their stationary and start shopping books to publishers? Sure, there's Lunch, but is there a constantly updated list somewhere of who's in and who's out?

 
At 9:53 PM, Anonymous mtreiten said...

Um, sadists want to inflict pain. I think you mean "masochists". =) Don't you feel the pain?

 
At 4:59 AM, Blogger James Goodman said...

Exactly, Lime.

Hey, Breazy! Welcome back.

Southern, sadly they can have it put on their stationary, they can even build a client list, but unless they've already established at least some relationships with editors (working for an agency, a publisher, attending tons of conferences), then their submissions go into the slush pile and are no better off than the ones without representation.

Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors both keep comprehensive lists. If you know of an agent you would like to check out, check their lists, if you don't see them, shoot Dave, Ann, or Vic an e-mail and they'll be more than happy to help.

Doh! You're right, Matt. That's about right, I left it up there all day and it generated more first time hits on my PM blog than any other one I've posted and I had a giant error in there. Thanks for the catch, though. At least it didn't stay there for eternity.

 
At 11:17 AM, Blogger M.E Ellis said...

It's all a bit boggling for a writer to know who is genuine, who can help, who can't.

Not surprising so many give up.

:o)

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger James Goodman said...

Indeed, it can be quite disheartening, especially if you fall victim to a scammer or worse a legit agent that just doesn't have the right connections to do anything but tie up your manuscript.

 
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