Working with a literary agent

My title for this post won’t please any SEO experts, although the phrase contains the operative word working. Working says it all.

When I read aspiring authors’ blogs and the questions they post on sites devoted to providing step-by-step instructions for getting published, it sometimes seems as though writers view obtaining representation by an agent—rather than connecting readers with their books—as their final goal. Am I mistaken, or is there a widespread assumption that there’s no work left for the writer to do after an agent accepts the job of finding a publisher for the writer’s work?

Maybe this notion originates from the fact that there are dead writers whose titles sell very well, thank you, without any effort from the authors. Or maybe it’s wishful thinking, because completing a manuscript that’s brilliant enough to attract an agent’s attention can require of the writer a decade of hard work. Or maybe it’s human nature to want to kick back and watch someone else take over the job whenever possible.

There’s a species of micromanaging author, however, that recognizes the need to be constantly concerned with the business of his or her career. The word micromanage has the wrong connotation, but I prefer to work with writers who remain closely involved in the process of publishing, marketing, and promoting their books. When authors demonstrate that they care, then publishers, designers, publicists, booksellers, librarians, and readers respond by caring. That makes me happy.

Working with a literary agent involves real effort. Collaboration. Teamwork. It’s not the winning outcome of the writer’s game. It’s more like halftime.

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