Friday, December 04, 2009

Why I Am an Agent (Lauren)

by Lauren

Since JaneChasya, and Rachel have already weighed in on why they are agents, I thought I’d take my turn.

I came to agenting as many people do in publishing, somewhat by accident. When I finished grad school I moved home: jobless, apartment-less, and broke. I'd worked in bookstores in college and grad school and at a non-profit between, so I was pretty confident that I'd be happy in either field. As with many of the uninitiated, the only real jobs in publishing I could think of were editorial, marketing, and publicity, and I didn't think the latter two were for me. Neither the editorial job I wanted nor a position at a non-profit were especially easy to find. Out for dinner with friends one evening, having borrowed money from my mother to come into the city from the suburbs, I whined as usual that I wasn't finding a job and was going a little stir crazy. My friend Beth, fortunately, threw me a lifeline: two of her college friends, Michael and Jim, worked at an agency, and she knew they sometimes hired freelance readers. It'd be a foot in the door, an excuse to come into the city, and a bit of money to make it happen. The next day she put me in touch with Michael, and I luckily applied for a reader position just as Jane's assistant Leslie was moving off to Peru. Michael asked me if I was looking for a full-time position and wanted him to pass on my resume, and the rest is history!

So that's how I got to DGLM, but 4 1/2 years later, why am I still here when my plan had been to work in editorial? Because it turned out to be a perfect fit. Not only did Jane encourage me to take on my first client as soon as she felt I was ready while still assisting her, but working for her that first year gave me invaluable experience in just how agenting works. Most of us at DGLM started in our first job in publishing as an intern or as Jane's assistant, and it has made a tremendous difference. Jane knows the business inside and out having worked on both sides of the desk, and while the office is run on a complex set of systems (and anyone who has seen me work knows I love systems more than almost anything in the world), once you have a hang of them you have a real leg up on managing your time and serving your clients' best interests. And even though Jane’s constantly busy, her door is literally always open--we don’t even have to knock.  Jane makes a point of explaining how things work and why.  Just before my anniversary with the company, I was offered the chance to move up--take on more clients and work junior to Michael in our rights department. I was able to continue learning, not just from Michael, who taught me the ins and outs of subrights and patiently gave me advice and answers probably more often than he had time to do. I also got to move desks to sit just below the loft Miriam works from, and just from hearing her do her thing I've learned a great deal in the last few years about how to put out fires, give editorial feedback, and make sure clients are on the right track and feel supported. When another year or so later the time came for Michael to give up rights selling to focus on his ever expanding client list, Jane and Miriam once again trusted me to climb another rung of the ladder.  Jim might've regretted being so easily accessible at the next desk when I couldn't wrap my mind around a contract clause or royalty statement—or when my job, regrettably, called for me to use numbers. As an agent, my list overlaps slightly with just about every other agent’s, so there’s always someone to give me an informed second opinion, to suggest an editor who’d be perfect for my submission list, and to give me feedback on my pitches.

As the agency’s Subsidiary Rights Director and an agent, I still learn new things all the time, but I’ve also had the pleasure of being the one who sometimes knows the answers. It means a lot to me that others ask my advice now, even if it’s perhaps just rightful payback for the time spent at their desks with a confused look on my face. And I’ve gotten to see Chasya, who started as an intern back when I was Jane’s assistant and then took over the front desk from me, make a similar journey within the agency, even joining me in the back room at Jim’s old desk now that he’s got his own office.

So I’m an agent because I found myself in a supportive environment where I could grow, learn, and thrive, and where my obsession for detail and order would come in handy.  And yes, like everyone else really, I’m an agent because I love to read!


  1. Great story, thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for sharing a little about your career,Lauren. I always enjoy learning how people get where they are in this business. It gives me hope. :)