Statement the First: Agenting is a way more than full time job, and I’m far more than a full time agent.
Statement the Second: Writing is not something for which you find time, it’s something for which you make time.
The math: As an agent, I work with over forty authors of fantasy, science fiction, romance, mystery and young adult fiction (full list here). As an author, I work with one person: me. (Okay, and all the voices in my head, but they don’t eat much and they never call, they never write.)
Impetus for this post: I get asked all the time, “What do you do more of these days, agent or author?” So, you know that math above…
Conundrum: I’m a hyper-responsible workaholic. Just ask my poor, long-suffering family. This means that I attack everything full-on. As an agent, I work 9:30-5:30 at my desk—providing editorial and other feedback to my writers, sending out submissions, working on subsidiary rights, reaching out to editors, negotiating contracts, chasing down payments, reviewing royalty statements, putting out fires, which can cover such a wide range of issues it would take another entire blog post to cover, doing promo work, etc. In the evenings and on weekends, I’m reading partials by queriers or by clients to prep them for submission, or reading full manuscripts that have been turned in, or doing market research… I’d say that all told, my agenting takes at least a sixty hour week.
Finding time to write? Not going to happen. I make myself write every single morning, before my agenting day starts, before my critical self has woken up—which helps me get out of my own way and not second guess myself all the way down the line. It lets the words flow. I only get an hour for it, which helps me fight dithering and writer’s block. When I only have an hour, I use it. It doesn’t mean I’ll keep what I’ve written, but it means that I don’t dare stare at a blank page. Those few hours I have are too precious. On weekends, if I’m not traveling like crazy, usually as an agent, networking and promoting my authors’ works, I might find two whole hours on Saturday or Sunday to write. Maybe. But I’m also a mom and a wife, and I take those jobs pretty seriously as well.
So I get a little frustrated when I get that question over and over. I want to think that if I’m being asked whether I’m doing more agenting or writing, that means I’m doing both so aggressively that people can’t tell. But I hear it as, “So, you’re writing. Does that mean you’re less committed to agenting.”
The answer is such a resounding “no” that I think I’ve just set off all the dogs in the neighborhood. I love agenting. I love writing. If I could choose one over the other, well, I would have. There are so many amazing highs as an agent—when you read something that just blows you away and you feel amazing by association, when an offer comes in (even better if there are multiple offers and the book goes to auction), great reviews, bestseller lists, award recognition for those books you love… As an author there are huge highs as well—offers, foreign rights sales, the first time you see your new cover art, hearing from readers, great reviews… There’s also, certainly in my case, neuroses. I can promote my authors all day long and tell you how fabulous they are. As an author, I feel a little like Oliver Twist asking the Beadle, “Please, sir, can I have some more?” Only it goes, “Please, good people, won’t you buy my books? And maybe love them just a little, flaws and all. Oh, I know they’re not perfect. By the time they hit the proof stage, I kind of hate them myself, but I thought there was something good there once, so just maybe…” (Ahem, sorry about that. I got carried away. You can read all about my neuroses in my article Self-Doubt and Perspective for Magical Words.)
You can probably guess which I’d rather be full time—calm, cool and collected vs. a bundle of nerves.
It’s not that simple of course. I couldn’t stop writing if I tried. I’ll never forget in Robert Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walked Through Walls his hero, who’s a writer, trying to explain it to the heroine. She asks, “If it hurts so much, why do you do it?” To which he responds, “It hurts more not to.” And that’s exactly it.
I’ve been writing since I was eleven years old. Any day that I don’t write feels like a day without the warmth of the sun. It feels pointless. I feel pointless. No matter what else I do that day, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything. I need to write. These characters and stories that pile up…if I don’t get them out of my system, I sometimes think I might explode. Sound crazy? Well, you have talked to writers before, haven’t you?
But that’s not the problem. I need to write, so I make the time.
The problem comes from people’s perceptions, which is why when my first short stories and novel came out, I used a pseudonym. I didn’t want anyone to question my commitment. But it didn’t feel right. It felt a little cagey. I didn’t want to be on an author loop as “Kit Daniels” and have someone find out that I was an agent and feel I’d been lurking or there under false pretenses or anything of the sort. And so, largely, I wasn’t very present. It’s a terrible way to promote. With the Vamped and Latter-Day Olympians series, I went to using my own name. So now whenever I promote, people think I’ve gone over to the authorial side of the force.
You see my conundrum. As mentioned, I’m hyper-responsible. Even if radio silence wasn’t a piss poor way to sell books, I couldn’t do it because a) that’s not who I am, and b) I’d be falling down on my responsibility to my publisher, who showed faith and put resources into my work, and to myself. Do I sometimes tweet my books during the day when there’s the most volume on social media. You bet. Do I even more often tweet about my authors at odd hours of the day and night, on weekends, holidays, etc. Absolutely.
I understand the question coming, particularly right now when I’ve had two new books out within the last couple of months and one special price promotion to crow about. (New books: RISE OF THE BLOOD in print, BATTLE FOR THE BLOOD in digital; promotion: BAD BLOOD, the first in the series, for only 99¢.) But rest assured, I’m still a more than full time agent and a part time writer, though I’m good if it comes across as though I can do it all.
For the record, I have looked into cloning, but it’s not really an option just yet and, anyway, I know me. I’d be all competitive with myself and I’d end up more crazy rather than less.
9 thoughts on “The Curse of the Agent-Writer”
Vicky, that’s how I feel about you! And really, how could I not love a job that means I get to belong among my heroes?
Anyone who writes kickass characters like Gina and Tori has to be a force of nature, passion and inspiration! I think this Heinlein quote applies to the Agent-Writer:
‘Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.’
LOL, I love that Heinlein quote!
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I get asked about what I do more of: write or my other work, as if doing one makes the other somehow lesser. Even though I’m not an agent, it hits the same. Yes. I write. No. I don’t have a life. Thanks for the interest.
Yes! Exactly. I can write or have a life. Still working on managing both.
I think you’re spectacular at what you do! All of it!
Aw, you all are the best! Maria, I love the idea of being a force of nature!
Wow! I love this glimpse into the behind the scenes of being an author + agent. It is impressive how you keep all the balls in motion!