A Day in the Life of a Literary Agent

by Annette Green
photo by Julian Povey

My day always begins promptly because I have my office at home, at the top of the house so I am always at my desk by 9.00 or 9.30 having zipped up two flights of stairs armed with coffee and ready to ‘open the desk’.

I check my emails first. I almost always have a vast influx of new messages each morning, both unsolicited approaches from new writers and those from clients and their publishers/editors. Our agency is a small and personal one. We have a huge slush pile, both electronic and hard copy, and my partner David Smith and I never use outside readers to deal with this material, preferring to look at every single script ourselves.
So, I always begin by reading and assessing unsolicited approaches asking us to read all or parts of novels. I then move on to dealing with emails from our clients. This inevitably takes up most of the morning, answering queries about many different areas of the business including, for instance, whether a book jacket proof is ready to view, could I ask an editor for more time in which to complete a script, do I know if proof copies have been sent out for review and so on.

More likely than not, and happily, there will be an offer from a publisher to be conveyed to a happy author and then a contract to be negotiated, or at least negotiations to be kicked off.

After this I assess my reading matter for the day. We always have a huge queue and if I’m about to leave the office to go to London to meet an editor or an author, I will at this point load up the Sony Reader with scripts and catch the train to town. A large part of the agent’s job is constantly talking to editors to find out how their lists are shaping up, which areas of the market they perceive as being strong, what they are looking to acquire and so on. Many of these meetings take place over a coffee, a snack or lunch, tea maybe, or if later over ‘a cold drink’.

Back at my desk later in the afternoon I check emails and then spend some time researching potential sources of new material and clients. I use the internet for this and look through new writers’ sites and also read through anthologies which are sent to us by the majority of the MA writing courses at Universities.

Over a cuppa I make any calls to authors or editors after picking up messages left in the office while I was out. Finally, I gather our submission reports for work currently being submitted to publishers to see which editors need chasing for a response on a manuscript while making notes for new or fresh submissions to editors for other scripts.

The day is drawing to a close, but not my working day since at this point I’ll decide which scripts need to be read during the evening, and gather material and the Reader once more. Like every good Mum, an agent’s work is never done.

Annette Green runs The Annette Green Authors' Agency along with her co-agent David Smith, and
various associates who handle translation, US and dramatic rights. The agency was established in 1998. Annette Green started her career in book and magazine publishing before moving to A M Heath where she worked for a number of years before setting up her own agency. Clients include, Maria McCann, Imogen Robertson, Bernadette Strachan and Meg Cabot.


gary davison said...

I enjoyed that, ta. nice to hear how it really works being an agent, and it sounds like a decent way to make a living with plenty on the boil, the next big deal never too far away.

Jessica said...

Thanks for a great insight in to being an agent :)

Lisa Holdren said...

Very insightful. Sounds like a nice day, too. Being an agent seems like an appealing job with lots of different things to do during the day. I've long wondered about this. Thanks.