Sunday, June 16, 2013

AGENTS ARE PEOPLE TOO - What I learned at SBWC 2013

- Agents are people too.
What I learned at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference

Agents have a job to do:  Sell books to publishers.

A long time ago I sold life insurance. I lasted only a year before I felt the need to become an alcoholic. The stress of convincing people to buy something they believed they did not need stoked the urge to drink even though insurance did fill a gap in many portfolios. Sales and rejection share the same shelf.

Like life insurance representatives, literary agents stand in the middle, representing the life or death of an author’s manuscript - a work of art filled with the writer’s passion and faith, and hope their creation will become the Great American Novel. If only….

There lies the rub.

This year’s agents’ panel represented all generations of agents. Toni Lopolo, who opened with the same line as last year,” The name is Hawaiian not Italian,”  displayed her antiquated attitude toward  the evolving industry by asking Marla Miller “What is this new term, The, Entrepreneurial Author?”
 Kat Brzozowski, the youngest agent and first timer at the conference became excited when I told her the energy at last year’s panel became a little heated. Her spirit and forward thinking will carry her the distance in this new age of publishing.

Agents occupy the front lines in the war between writers and publishers and those who have survived are donning more than one hat. They have added editing and workshops to their shingles. And like everyone, some hang on to old ideas while others embrace the future of publishing with anticipation.

Agents’ jobs are like other jobs, filled with rejection – angry clients and demanding bosses.

As people,we are all on the same exhilarating ride filled with a passion to share ourselves and create, in this case, The Great American Novel.


  1. If I were an agent I'd be wondering how to survive. I think there are options but it'll look very different from the past. "May you live in interesting times" has never been more true!

  2. Yes, I thought Toni Lopopolo was a little behind the times when she kept insisting that "Entrepreneurial Publishing" was simply the old "vanity press." The Internet and e-books have changed all that. Still have a lot of bugs to work out, but agents have to find a new reason to persuade authors to give up a percentage of their earnings to them -- and sorting out, explaining, and offering legal advice on selling the diverse collection of rights out there (which is growing all the time) is, in my opinion, their strong suit right now and the area where they should promote their services.