Thursday, February 23, 2012

Know Thyself

Know thyself. —Socrates

I've been on a constant search for identity as I reach my forties and I can safely say it's almost reached an obsessive level. My private journal is riddled with entries where I've asked myself "who are you" or are tagged "self-identity" and in this search for self-identity I've continue to answer: an agent. I'm the representative for a talent to a business who plans to exploit and benefit financially from said talent and I take this role very seriously.

I strive to be better at my job on a daily basis and I spend countless hours learning and absorbing information from an industry (who like our economy) is in a constant state of flux. There have been times (many, in fact) where I've felt insecure about my abilities and my knowledge of what I do but the minute I sit down and talk with a client, another agent or an editor, I know, without a shadow of a doubt who I am. I'm an agent!

In the beginning of my career, I had to continually explain and justify my role in the digital publishing industry to everyone and while I still find the need to explain why you need an agent in digital publishing as you do in traditional publishing, more and more people in my industry are understanding and following in my footsteps. I'm not the first agent to sell works to digital publishers but I was likely one of the first and now others contact me to learn about this "new frontier" and what our role is in the changing publishing landscape.

I had my confidence shaken several times throughout the course of my first few years but every experience I've had has been a defining moment in my quest for self-identity. Each perceived slight or "failure" in my path have become moments of self-assurance. It's a great feeling to see some of my former clients achieving success because I was their stepping stone toward that greatness. If I hadn't seen their talent, hadn't validated their ability to make a profession out of that talent, they would likely not be where they are and their first books would not be available for public consumption today. My belief in them opened the gates to their self-assurance.

I'm the adviser, advocate, consultant, counselor and defender of my clients' talent! My role is to make sure they make the right decision for their career. I'm not a gatekeeper! I don't stand at the gates of the publishing industry and decide who gets to pass through to see the Wizard and who has to take the sewer to make their way. That's not what I do. I search and find the diamonds in the rough, the pearls hiding in their shells and help polish and present them for the beauty they are to the jeweler who will set them for the world to see.

I know who I am and what I do. I know my purpose. Do you?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

I often head straight for the fiction and literature section in my local Barnes & Noble and scan the shelves. I may pick up a book here and there with intent to purchase but 9 times out of 10 I spend my time looking for author names I know or recognize and seeing what they may have new that I haven't read yet. I may pick up a "new to me" author and browse through the first few pages then head over to to the romance section and do it all over again. 

The first thing I look at when I open the book is the acknowledgments page. Who did the author thank? Did they mention their editor and agent? I must admit that when I find a book without that acknowledgement, I put it back and feel a little sad that the author didn't thank them. I don't think it's because I'm an agent because it's a habit I've had all of my life and it doesn't prevent me from buying the book. It's just something I thought about today. 

I don't do this when browsing the eBook shelves. Not all eBooks are available to "sample" prior to purchasing (which is a huge peeve of mine and a discussion for another time) and those that do don't always auto-open at the frontmatter of the book. The frontmatter of a book usually consists of the title page, copyright page, acknowledgment page, table of contents and maps or "legend" pages in fantasy and sci-fi books. Most readers want to get right into the book when sampling (or so it's generally assumed) and therefore these pages are usually coded to skip when the eBook is opened. They can be navigated to via the table of contents or by the reader "flipping" back through the pages by hand.

Even with these, I navigate to the acknowledgments page (on the books I purchase) to see who the author thanks and why. It doesn't take away from the book or the author if they didn't thank their editor and agent but it does sadden me when their time and effort isn't acknowledged by the author.

What about you? What's the first thing you do when you pick up a new book off the shelf? Do you do the same thing with an eBook?