helping profession (plural helping professions)
- A profession that nurtures the growth of or addresses the problems of a person’s physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional or spiritual well-being, including medicine, nursing, psychotherapy, psychological counseling, social work, education, life coaching and ministry.
Did you notice that literary agent isn’t listed? Newsflash! That’s because those who work in publishing are not in the helping professions.
I recently got a query that said, “I have no idea what to do next! Help!” I wish I had a rational response to that. I wish I could brush it off, knowing the writer is just naive and ignorant as to how the publishing industry works. I wish I was a kinder, more patient reader of queries. I could, and did, delete the email.
I’m sure most of you who are reading this blog post commiserate with me, and are shaking your heads and tsking appropriately. Because obviously none of you would ever put something like that in your query letter. You are all educating yourselves about the industry, as evidenced by doing things like reading blogs about writing and publishing. Nevertheless, I’d like to give you some information about literary agents and the procuring of one:
- The job of a literary agent is to sell manuscripts to editors, as well as broker sub rights deals (e.g. rights for foreign, dramatic, audio, merchandise, etc.)
- Agents get paid when they sell something; some agents also have a salary from their place of employment; most don’t.
- Some agents give editorial input to their clients; some don’t. It’s not required.
- Agents are regular people, so they can fall anywhere on the “nice” spectrum, from kind and nurturing to nasty and awful.
- You might become friends with an agent, but that’s separate and different from the agent/author relationship
- If you are un-agented and looking, don’t take it for granted when you have an agent’s attention and interest.
- Most agents aren’t all full of themselves and hoity toity, we’re just super busy (and perhaps, like myself, lacking patience).
- Most agents are book people who may or may not have the best social skills (see numbers 4 & 7, above)
- The primary job of a literary agent is to take care of the clients they already have. As such, responding to queries often isn’t on the top of the priority list.
- When interacting with literary agents be professional and keep your fingers away from the bars of the cage.
I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments section below. Here on the blog I am available to help people who are just learning the do’s and don’ts of the industry. I would say that there are no stupid questions, but I’m just not so sure about that any more. (Just kidding. Ask anything.)