Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why I Love My Job by Jane Dystel

Actually for the last over twenty years, my “job” hasn’t been a job at all. Before I became an agent, I was an editorial assistant, a managing editor, an editor and then a publisher. All of those positions were jobs – work, sometimes enjoyable, sometimes not.

Then in 1986, I bit the bullet so to speak, took a huge pay cut and a huger risk and joined a small but successful agency where I learned the ropes from a master. I was once again able to work with creative people who were putting together book proposals and writing novels. I learned how to negotiate contracts from the seller’s side and how to map out a strategy for a writer’s career; I was able to attend writers conferences and find new talent that way. And I met an entirely new group of people – writers and editors, most of them wonderful, honest, and full of creative and exciting ideas.

Now, I have been living life as an agent in my own company for a long time and loving (almost) every minute of it.

Sure there are the heartbreaks: losing an unhappy author, after we have put in years of hard work on their behalf because s/he blames us for his/her lack of success; failing to sell a book you love; watching publishers make wrongheaded decisions that affect your clients and colleagues… But those instances, fortunately for us, are few and far between.

I love meeting with our staff in the morning and trying to help them deal with their frustrations and issues; I also love celebrating their successes. I love discussing various negotiating strategies with our senior management. I love reading an article that I think might become a book, contacting the writer and seeing that idea develop that I can then sell to a publisher. I love the serendipity of sending out a proposal and though I am usually fairly sure of whether it will sell, often I am surprised at the way it sells, to whom and for how much. That surprise is great fun – (almost) all the time.

I love meeting with editors and finding out what they are interested in and going out and developing ideas for them. I love meeting new writers – ones already published but new to me like our dear David Morrell – or first timers whose careers we are helping to launch – like Chris Campion or Dwayne Betts.

And finally, I absolutely love seeing that final book and the thrill of the author as he or she holds it in his or her hand. Just the other night, Mark Rudd whom I have known and worked with since the mid ‘80s celebrated the publication of UNDERGROUND and I was able to see his joy and feel the thrill of being a part of this achievement.

Even in this very challenging publishing climate I am not dissuaded from feeling positive most days. We are helping the creators and no matter what form their work is published in, we will continue to be part of that process.

Yes, I love my “job.” Being an agent is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done (next to being a wife and a mother, of course).


  1. Good to hear that the seasoned pros can stay upbeat like this! As a new author, I'm constantly getting fingers wagged at me by the more established authors--"you won't be so chipper after you've been around the publishing block a time or two!" they always say. So thank you--I needed to hear your more positive perspective! :)

  2. Loved your post. The passion you have for your work affects your clients and, ultimately, readers. How might one person's life, or our modern culture, be different without those books you helped bring into the world?

    Thanks for sharing this happy thought today.

  3. I read your note with a smile on my face. With every word you could see the love for what you do shining through.

    And isn't that just grand?

  4. It's nice to read a positive view from an industry insider right now. Maybe I'm not crazy to have written my first novel.

  5. And your love for your work shows. Thanks for writing this.

  6. Hats down for you, I really cant work the same thing more then 2-3yrs at the most!