Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why I Am an Agent (Stacey)

by Stacey

I think it's so interesting to learn how people got to where they are. I guess everyone has a story to tell. It might be a stretch, but I'll start at the beginning by saying that my agenting career, or at least the path there, began when I was a professional child actor starting back in the early 80s. I worked with an agent then and got to understand a bit about what they did, and I was also faced with an enormous amount of rejection! During college, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, having spent so much of my childhood in front of the camera, so I studied film, and psychology. Upon graduation, I felt a little lost, like most post-grads do, and found a couple of internships in NY in film development, essentially looking for books to be adapted into movies. I eventually landed jobs at PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and Hearst Entertainment, where I scouted for books-to-film, and got to knows agents, editors, and the book biz in general. I realized pretty quickly that trying to pursue a career in film in New York was an almost insurmountable challenge. I knew it couldn't last because of how dispensable these New York film offices were, and so I planned to move to LA to infiltrate myself deeper into the world of film. With one foot practically out the door, I met my now-husband on a blind date and decided the west coast move was out, and I took a long look at what I wanted to do and realized that an agenting career, or at least a job at an agency, was the right direction for me to take.

When the opportunity to work with the esteemed Jane Dystel came up, my then-boss and mentor at Hearst recommended I jump on it. In February, 1999, a new and exciting chapter in my life began. I have to admit the first year or so was rocky, trying to learn my way around with no clients, lots of admin to handle (a highlight of which was hiring Jim and Michael, and I'm sticking to my story about Michael's blue hair!), and little understanding of what this side of the business was really all about. I remember hearing Jane and Miriam talk so fast about so many things in our morning meetings and wondered if I'd ever really get the language of book publishing. But I was intrigued and up to the challenge, and before long, Jane started passing projects my way. I eventually started coming up with my own book ideas, signed up my first client, and submitted my first project to editors. The moment when I got the call that an editor was "running numbers" on a proposal I'd submitted, I thought I was having a heart attack my heart was beating so fast. I was hooked. One project led to another, and before long, I was selling lots of books in all kinds of different categories. And I was loving every minute of it. I think that being an agent is a little like being a drug or a gambling addict (in a healthy way)--you are always on the prowl for that high you get from selling books, and you never know when that big hit is going to come your way. And of course, once you start, it's hard to stop.

Now almost eleven years later, I can say without pause that I am doing what I love, and feel rewarded in big and small ways with the work that I do. I am very grateful for the opportunities that Jane and Miriam have given me here over the years, and that they believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself. I feel truly lucky that I have found a career that is satisfying and fulfilling in ways I didn't think possible when my journey began so long ago. I have four kids at home now, and I love them enormously, but my extended publishing family of clients, colleagues, and friends is just as important to me, and I cherish each and every one of them. I am looking forward to a big and bright future for all of us in this wonderful and wacky world of words we inhabit.

6 comments:

  1. What an inspiring post, Stacey! It's nice to hear about an agent's road to the present moment, and your enthusiasm for what you do is encouraging. I'd love to hear more of these "how I got here" stories from agents, personally.
    :-)

    Nicole M.

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  2. Thanks for your your insights on becoming a literary agent. Going from child-actor to author representative is not a very different vocation, in my view, as the written word is the root of film and television. Many manuscripts are judged on how they may be turned into movies. Your expertise in front of the camera may have an effect on how you choose a novel.

    My own entry into the literary world was unorthodox. From young writer, to college student, to police officer, to information technology manager, I now have the position of editor for a literary magazine, "The View From Here." While my police experience has little to do with how I choose a story, my writing experience does. Still, cops and bad guys find their way into my novels.

    Working with the many folks who approach our magazine with proposals and books to review is also a rewarding experience, as well as giving both new and established writers a space to tell their stories.

    Thanks again for sharing your experiences, and for and for allowing comments to this post. -Mike Kannengieser.

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  3. What a wonderful journey! Sounds like you found a great mentor who guided you in the best way possible. Thanks for sharing your story! I love hearing how people find their way.

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  4. Thanks for your comments. Nicole, if you click on the tag under my post "Why I Am an Agent", you'll see the other staffers who have posted essays about their paths to becoming an agent. Enjoy!

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  5. I think it's great you guys have such a passion for this career. Your clients are blessed to have agents with such enthusiasm for the business. Great story, thanks for sharing!

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  6. Thanks for sharing how you came to this business. I always enjoy learning why people choose the careers they do. I think you're really lucky that you're able to pursue the work you have a passion for.

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