Authors and agents

If you’ve ever wondered how authors and agents work together, I contributed the following piece on this subject to my agent’s website. You can find it and about 40 similar pieces from other authors on his website here.

When I was a magazine journalist in London a lifetime ago, I remember someone who held a senior position in the publishing company I worked for telling me he assumed that I wanted his job. He was visibly shocked when I told him I didn’t. It was seen as a criminal lack of ambition. But I didn’t aspire to be a manager, dividing my time between budgets, meetings and business lunches. I wanted to write and that was all. I wanted to write in the same way that someone might want to breathe.

The desire to write is a simple itch to scratch, because anyone can write. However, writing with the expectation of being published is an entirely different challenge. The business aspects of writing and publishing require a set of skills and knowledge that many writers don’t possess, or don’t care to possess. Creating ‘the product’ is just one part of the process. The product has to be commercially attractive, and writers often need advice on that. To sell it, publishers have to be approached by someone whose judgement they trust. Then there are contracts to be negotiated and percentages to be haggled over. There may be extraordinary people out there whose abilities stretch all the way from the solitude of the writing room to courting publishers and dealing with the small print on contracts, but I’m not one of them.

Literary agents free writers from the parts of the publishing business that get in the way of writing. My agent, Andrew Lownie, has given me invaluable advice on producing book proposals and making my books more commercial. He presents and promotes my work to publishers and deals with contracts. And every morning I say a little prayer that he will look both ways before he crosses the road!

© Ian Graham 2018