Nearly the end of week 2 and I feel like I’ve been there forever! Most of my job has been more of the same, though I’ve had less time just to read – I’ve been compiling a list of all the UK TV and Film Production companies and what type of programmes they produce for one of the agents. It’s part of the agent’s job to also try and sell the rights to a book or its idea/plot (called ‘optioning’) to be made into a film or TV series, so of course it’s useful to know exactly which production companies would be most suitable for a particular project. It was a slightly frustrating task today though, because I did the classic thing of not saving my work often enough, so when my document froze on me, I lost the past 2 hours of work and had to start again! In the end I took a break from it by starting to look through the latest pile of submissions selected by their reader and sent back for further consideration. 

I’ve also been gaining (or rather gleaning) an understanding of the financial/business side of an agency, which is incredibly useful and interesting for me, too. I think a lot of people tend to think of publishers, editors and agents only in the glamourous sense of reading books all day and occasionally gracing a book launch party with your presence, but it’s clear that to succeed in this industry you need to always have it in the front of your mind that publishing IS a business, and ultimately, although you may be doing it because you are passionate about reading and books, your goal is to sell books to make money. This always therefore has to play a role in decision-making at the earliest stage. An agent can often literally only afford to take a risk on a very skilled new writer if they already have several successful commercial authors earning them money already. A lot, if not most, of an agent’s work is done before a book is sold, and therefore before there is any guarantee that the book is going to sell – and you could put twice the amount of work into one book than into another and yet earn half the amount the second book earns you. It therefore does sometimes happen that an agent might really enjoy a book they get submitted to them, but if the editors won’t buy it, then the booksellers won’t buy it, and the general public won’t buy it. Perhaps it’s a harsh reality but I believe in going into things with my eyes open!

I don’t want to give the impression, however, that all agents are hard-hearted money-greedy limpets clinging to authors – when you are working in such a competitive market, you have to be incredibly, genuinely passionate about the product to want to do it. And that means loving books!

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