by Karen Ball
Last week I let you in on a few of the things I learned from editors and writers at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference in Dallas. This week I want to share what I heard from my fellow agents.
One of the silver linings of writers conferences is getting to spend time with folks who not only understand what you do, but who do it! As you all know, writing is a solitary endeavor. Well, so is agenting. We spend a lot of time talking with editors and clients on the phone, but we don’t often get the chance to talk with other agents. So it was great to do just that at ACFW. And here are a few of the things we discussed:
- Publishing contracts are more complex than ever. Not only are there new tidbits being added to contracts, but things that agents worked hard to get taken out of contracts, because they weren’t in the author’s best interest, are suddenly showing up again. Which means we have to be more vigilant than ever to protect our clients. Makes me so grateful I work with Steve and Tamela. I’ve had a lot of experience with contracts, but there’s just no substitute for having a knowledgeable team to give contracts a second and third look.
- Editors are looking to agents more for specific help in meeting their needs. As I mentioned last week, our agency was able to help an editor who had a sudden need due to an author dropping out of a project. It’s exciting to know that we’re building a level of trust with editors such that they can come to us, let us know what they need, and trust us to deliver. We’ve come a long way since editors cringed at the mere mention of agents!
- The agent’s role is changing right along with the publishing landscape. The kinds of things agents do for their clients just keep expanding. We have to be more purposeful than ever about staying current with the newest and best opportunities, and about publishing house changes and how they affect our clients. Which leads me to the last thought…
- Agents are spending more time lately talking with clients whose careers have been turned upside down by the changes going on all around us in publishing. Writers who seemed settled with a publishing house suddenly find themselves cut loose when their “publishing home” is bought out by another house. Editors who acquired manuscripts fall victim to layoffs and cutbacks, and clients’ books end up orphaned in a publishing house in transition. Book sales that have been steady or even growing plummet when sales teams go through leadership and sales force changes. More than ever before, agents need to know how to help keep writers grounded and calm as they navigate the rapids of publishing.
As I watched and listened to all that was going on at ACFW–to all that editors, writers, and agents had to say–a couple of things hit me hard:
We’ve got some amazing folks in our industry. I mean…amazing! Writers, editors, agents…there are so many of them who are doing this for one reason: to bring glory to God. They want to serve their readers, authors, and clients. They want to work together to craft the best, strongest, truest books on the shelves. And that’s exactly what a lot of them—of you—are doing. Friends, God is at work!
We’ve got some hurting folks in our industry. People who’ve been at this forever and find themselves wondering if they’ve been wasting their—and God’s—time. People who have seen their books launch to much critical acclaim—and dismal sales. Professionals who’ve been tossed back and forth by buyouts, mergers, and changes in leadership. Friends, we need to be praying for one another!
Most of all, though, I came away more convinced than ever that being in publishing, and specifically in Christian publishing, is, as dear ol’ Steve has said to me all these years, the best gig in town. In the world, even. There’s nothing I’d rather do than travel this publishing journey with all of you.
May God use us well.