Wanna know one reason it’s tricky being a young agent on the block?
Although I don’t have precise statistics, the industry seems to be in contraction mode from an editorial standpoint as companies merge (i.e. Avalon into Perseus, Harcourt and Houghton), others downsize (i.e Thomas Nelson), and as editors are simply let go. This is all happening amid overall growth within the industry, which is just another sign that the industry is moving in the direction of a blockbuster model built around fewer, bigger books.
Meanwhile self-publishing is getting bigger and bigger and growing at a brisk pace as the mainstream publishing game is open to fewer authors, creating a long tail situation where a bazillion books are selling two copies. But hey, a bazillion times two equals two bazillion!
So what happens to those editors? Well, many of them are becoming agents. Whether a result of downsizing or simply because they feel it’s more lucrative, there have been a number of very-experienced high profile editors who have left the editorial side recently to become agents. But meanwhile you almost never see any agents leave to become editors (I think it’s because we have better coffee).
Now we have a situation in the industry where there are more and more agents competing for fewer and fewer big book projects. I feel very fortunate to be at Curtis Brown, where we have very experienced film and foreign rights departments that help me make the case that we can offer an author a high level of service and attention to subrights, and of course I’m trying to get the word out on the blog so that hopefully people will want to work with me. Query me, for the love of Tyra!
But it’s an interesting time to be a young agent building a list. Think about how many of the blockbuster slots are filled by experienced authors who have been at it for years (and who had agents twenty years before I got to the business), and then think about how rare it is for a new author to rise up to become one of those names. Those new authors are the type of people a young agent needs to find first and help break out, but it’s tricky when there’s so much competition, including competition for those new projects from those agents (and former editors) who have been at this twenty-five years.
(subliminal message for those agents: retiiiiiiiiire….. retiiiiiiiirrree….. you knowwwww you want toooooo… play golfff…. take up knittinnggg… send your clients to meeeeeeeeee)
But hey, there’s only one thing a young agent can do. Jay-Z (and Barack Obama) knows what that is: