Variety is the Spice in an Agent’s Inbox

The other day a writer asked me, “Describe a typical work day for you.” I choked back a laugh and said, “There is no such thing as ‘typical’ in the day of a literary agent.”

There are many things that repeat. Royalty statements, new deal negotiations, contract evaluations, reviewing client proposals, and the unsolicited inquiries. But within those is a constant variety.

I wrote down a sample of “some of the things I did” during a recent week. Maybe it will paint an Impressionistic picture of a Week in the Life of a Literary Agent.


Helped a number of clients with their new proposals. Kicked them back to the client with revisions so we can make the pitch stronger.

Sent a non-fiction proposal to multiple publishers for their consideration. Then answered questions from two editors who asked for further information right away. This means it got those editor’s attention immediately, which is a good thing.

A fiction editor asked some questions about a full manuscript they are reviewing and wanted to hear the author’s vision for the cover.

Discussed the translation rights for multiple projects with a publisher in Europe.

Email from client mentioned a new ministry opportunity, then discussed two ideas that could be developed into books that fit that new platform.

A number of clients called to ask some business questions and touch base.

Received a half dozen calls from local (Phoenix area) unpublished writers who googled “literary agent” and called the first number they saw in the search engine results. Each had to be asked to please visit the agency’s web site first. No, we can’t have coffee and explain how the whole publishing “thing” works. No, we don’t represent movie scripts or stage plays. No, we do not have a “package price” for the cost to publish your book. No, we are not an agency to book actors. All were innocent inquiries but much could have been answered by reviewing our site.

Reviewed the artwork/portfolio from a possible illustrator for a client’s children’s contracted picture/devotional book.

Answered interview questions from a journalist writing for an industry periodical.

Had to declare a publisher in breach of contract for failing to publish a contracted book in the agreed upon period of time (18 months). Publisher agreed to the conditions. Author keeps the advance monies and all rights have reverted. (If you are wondering, this rarely happens.)

Accounting: Reviewed the royalty statements from multiple publishers. Made sure everything lined up correctly with the royalty checks included. Received advance payments on many projects. Made sure the monies lined up with the contractually agreed amounts. Approved the deposits for each and made sure each agent in our firm was properly credited for their work.

Wrote a bunch of rejection letters…Talk about variety.
Everything from fiction genres as diverse as dystopian, romance, thriller, historical, fantasy, contemporary women’s, literary, business parables, and science fiction proposals to non-fiction on topics as varied as: The tension between Arminianism and Calvinism; Pregnancy loss; Loss of Spouse; Breast cancer; Alzheimer’s; How to Follow Jesus when you don’t know how; Naval history; Nine volumes on a self-improvement project; How “Truth” is an evolution like magnetism between cells… etc.

Signed agency agreements for three new clients.  And finalized contract negotiations on five new projects. Tamela, Dan, and Bob are busy too!

Helped client navigate a conversation with the editor and the editorial director in relation to the direction of a book currently being written.

Counseled a client who had to pull the plug on a potential collaboration project. Fortunately, all that was lost was some time.


Believe it or not, it was a relatively quiet week.

Therefore my point about there not being a “typical” day holds true. But variety is an apt description. I suspect this week will hold many of the same, but different, things. I look forward to the tasks at hand!




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