Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Agents are people too - A la Mary Kole

Today is the final day of the lessons I learned / remembered at the SCBWI Tokyo Mary Kole event.

5. Agents are real people too.

Tokyo is not the smallest branch of SCBWI. It's probably not far from though. And it's got to be one of the most functional for it's size. I think the Mary Kole event might be the biggest SCBWI Tokyo event that I've been to. There were about 40 of us.

I say that to say this: going to an event with us is a very personal endeavour. I wasn't one of hundreds or thousands. I was one of 40. At lunch and dinner, I was one of 8 and 12. It meant I got a lot of opportunity to interact with Miss Kole.

At meals, we didn't talk about publishing at all. We talked like an old friend had come to visit. We talked about food. And travel. And growing up. And things to see and do in Japan and Hong Kong. More than ever before an agent become something more than a voice on a podcast, a name on a website, or a face in a 2 x 4 pixellated square.

Realistically, we all know that agents have lives outside publishing. They have things they love and hate. Families. Hobbies other than reading. But we're writers. What does realism have to do with anything? So often we forget the people side, and we think of agents as just another cog in the publishing wheel. As the evil step-mother who's just looking for a reason to lock our manuscript away in a tower somewhere.

Thing is, if agents are real people, (and they are) then they've got some things in common with us. This industry we're in is a tough one. It's always been, but it's getting tougher. And if they're in it, that probably means they love it as much as we do. If they're reading queries, that's not because writing rejection letters makes them giggle like Pee Wee Herman. It's because they want to find a gem, fall in love, laugh, cry, have an adventure, discover a new world. It's because they want to give those same things to the rest of the world.

Thanks to Mary Kole for reminding me.

And thanks to all the fantastic people who keep this industry running like a well-oiled machine. To the agents *raises imaginary champagne * Thanks for keeping it real.


E.J. Wesley said...

They are people, Claire. Hateful, soulless people who crush dreams like I eat potato chips. lol KIDDING!

It's easy to forget that people in the book industry are people who love books just like us. They are also concerned with getting the best stories and writing into the hands of readers. Just like us.

It's easy to have an us/them mentality and to view any kind of criticism or lack of acceptance as a prudish slam of our talents, but it really isn't the case in most instances. It's just someone doing there job.

Good stuff as always.


Kate Scott said...

While I don't always like everything my friends write (some very nice people aren't good writers), I do often find that when I meet writers whose work I love, I genuinely like them as people too.

When I met my agent, it was an odd reversal of this concept. When my agent read my book she LOVED it. And after that, when we sat down and really started talking, I found that I loved her. She's a very cool person, who is as you said a real person. Because she loves my writing, it means she understands the way I think.

I live in Oregon, and my agent lives in New York, so it's not like we are going to become best friends or anything. But I know that every interaction I have with her for the rest of our working relationship will be friendly. We like each other. And most of our phone calls include some friendly banter.

So yes, you're right. Agents are real people. And while there are lots of really nice people who aren't good writers that agents unfortunately have to reject. I expect that most agents do like most of the their clients on a personal level. Because just as agents are real people, writers are real people too.

Marsha Sigman said...

What a great opportunity! And I try to remember every day that they are real people too! Thanks, Claire