Monday, August 13, 2012
The Fortunate Days
I had my suspicions when I received the e-mail but I didn't want to read too much into it.
"Thanks, BB!" Queen Agent gushed. "This is so helpful! I really appreciate you! Hey, do you have a Facebook page or a blog?"
Now why would she want that? I wondered, but I sent the link along anyway.
"Thanks!" she responded. "The Agentess and I have been discussing your talents. She's going to call you."
It seemed, I suppose, an appropriate enough time for them to be having such a conversation; August marked my eighth month interning at Sentinel of the West Literary Agency, and I'd essentially just given notice of my intent to jump ship by asking the Agentess to write me a letter of recommendation. I was even, through grumbles and moans, preparing to spend the Fall in the City of Fate.
Apparently, though, it was not to be.
"So, BB," the Agentess said by way of greeting when she called me that evening. "You have quite impressed Ms. Queen Agent."
"And she'd be willing to have you come on."
"Come on. Like, be an agent. With us."
Cue the shock.
"That's why she wanted a link to your Facebook page. So we could have a picture for our website."
I was surprised to the point that I said almost nothing, which she may have mistaken for a lack of enthusiasm. While I wasn't unhappy, I was definitely conflicted. Being a literary agent you see, is not your typical nine-to-five gig; your primary job function is to read books, you will never have to put any work into soliciting clients (they flock to you), and there's no particular reason to go into an office unless you just want to.
All of that is great. But some of the industry's quirks, such as the fact that most agents don't receive salaries but instead make commission on the books they've sold, aren't so awesome. The knowledge that I could go more than a year without my first paycheck was really daunting--and made me a whole lot more grateful for that trust fund.
"I understand that it can be rough," the Agentess said. "A lot of agents really struggle at first. But here's my advice: if you don't have anything better going on, take this opportunity. Queen Agent is really highly regarded in the industry and this is an amazing chance for you."
And that's honestly what decided me. Most of this job will consist of my doing what I've been doing already for the last eight months, with the sole differences that I'll now negotiate with publishing houses and be able to get paid for my finished projects. So what's there to lose? My modest trust fund affords me the unique opportunity to pour myself into this work, live without a paycheck for some time if need be, and spend less money than I would have as a Fall intern in the City of Fate. To me, it's a worthwhile investment. One that could yield huge dividends, by the way.
For while it may sound charmingly bohemian that I'm willing to live on pennies pursuing my love of literature, the reality of publishing contracts is not quite so artistic: 15% of a book's royalties go to the agent who represented the manuscript. In many cases a single bestseller is all it takes to fill an agent's bank account for a very long time.
So I'm excited to start my career in earnest. A week from today I will board a plane, likely in Native City, and fly across a continent to Sentinel of the West, the great lighthouse of the Pacific and now an open door to my future. I'm not moving just yet--that will come after I've made some money--but Queen Agent wants to meet me in person before I actually start.
And when I embark on the flight headed home, I will leave the West Coast as a literary agent. It's incredible to believe.