To top off this week of of posts on the submission process (with Query Critique Contest–more on that later!), the Debs have invited the Fabulous Michelle Wolfson to tell us about a day in the life of an agent.
But first, a little background:
Michelle Wolfson formed Wolfson Literary Agency in 2007. She holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MBA from New York University. Prior to forming her own agency, Michelle spent two years with Artists & Artisans, Inc. and two years with Ralph Vicinanza, Ltd. Before that, she spent several years working outside of publishing, in non-profit and then finance, and she brings the skills she learned there plus a lifetime love of reading to the table as an agent.
So, Michelle …
What Do You Mean You Don’t Read All Day??
First off, thank you to the Debs for their kind invitation to hijack their website for the day and spout some of my agenty nonsense.
So, I asked and you answered. You wanted to know what it’s like. Well don’t say I didn’t warn you…
A Day in the Life of Agent Michelle
6:42am: The alarm goes off and Michelle curses the fact that she stayed up too late last night reading a manuscript (but this is sort of cheating, since now I’ve given away the end of the day).
6:43am: Michelle’s husband passes her the phone so she can check her email and lie in bed for an extra minute or two. Determines if there’s anything that’s going to turn the anticipated average day into a complete nightmare. Maybe she sends 1 or 2 quick emails, but then drags her butt out of bed to get 6yo ready for school.
Note: Due to a recent job change by Michelle’s husband, Michelle is now responsible for getting 6yo to the bus. AND she must bring 3yo along for the walk. Michelle is most definitely NOT a fan of this change in the routine.
7:30am: After sprinting for the bus, Michelle and 3yo tra la la their way back to the apartment. 3yo stops to talk to everyone and their dogs. She demands that Michelle take pictures and videos. Occasionally Michelle sneaks in another email or two during this time.
7:44am: COFFEE!!! Yippee!!! Why was I speaking in the 3rd person up there?? Oh yeah, probably because I needed COFFEE!!!
8:34am: The second great energizing moment of the day begins with the arrival of The Nanny!
8:35am: I am at my desk (excellent commute) with more coffee and a Pop Tart (strawberry frosted, thankyouverymuch) in hand.
Note: Man, that was a lot of stuff before I even get to my desk. No wonder I’m so exhausted.
8:35am: To-Do List time
2:05pm: My stomach growls and I look at the time only to realize I haven’t eaten lunch. I say to myself I’ll grab something in onnnnne second, I’m just finishing up this last email annnnd ok, I’m done. I gather up the assorted candy wrappers (pink Starburst and some Hershey’s kisses if I’m lucky) and make my way to the kitchen to put something together, which I bring back to my desk to eat.
Unless I have a lunch with an editor, in which case I’ve usually sprinted out the door 3 minutes too late and just barely make it on time.
6:30pm: 6yo comes in to tell me the nanny is leaving. I say I’ll be out in onnnnne second, I’m just finishing up this last email annnnd ok, I’m done.
Miscellaneous play ensues.
8pm: After heroic struggle to get 6yo and 3yo to bed, I head back to the computer until my husband tells me that dinner is ready. I say I’ll be out in onnnnne second, I’m just finishing up this last email annnnd ok, I’m done.
8:45pm: While husband cleans up after dinner (I know what you’re thinking but it’s not like I’m about to head out for a massage), I come back to my desk and finish up the day’s To-Do list.
My To-Do list is pretty fluid. I’m constantly shifting and prioritizing and reprioritizing the items on it as other things pop up throughout the day. So every evening I settle down to finish all of the still open items on the list. This can include anywhere from 10-30 half-written emails that I finish and send, another dozen that I start and send, and any number of other items that I either finish or shift to tomorrow’s To-Do list.
10ish pm: Husband asks if I’m almost done or should he watch some show I don’t like. I say no, wait for me, I’ll be done in onnnnne second, I’m just finishing up this last email annnnd ok, I’m done.
And some nights that’s true, and others I’m at my desk until midnight or later. Either way, and no matter the time, I ALWAYS read before bed. Maybe it’s new material, maybe it’s client manuscripts, maybe it’s just a book. I’m pretty sure that my body wouldn’t know how to fall asleep without it.
So, I know what you’re thinking. No, really, I do. You’re thinking I can’t believe I read this whole post and I don’t know a single thing more about what agents do during the day than I did before.
So fine, if you’re going to get all nitpicky on me. I went through a week’s worth of emails and here were some of the subjects, along with some phone calls I noted in my records:
- Strategy call with client
- Call with film agent
- Foreign rights offer
- Review PR proposal for client
- Starred review for upcoming book
- No, you don’t suck call with client
- US covers
- Call w/editor and client re cover
- Lunch with editor
- Royalty statements
- Publisher twitter challenge
- Check received!!
- Competing offer received!!
- eBook stats
- New project partial
- Blurb request
- Outstanding payments on foreign contracts
- Bologna book fair happenings
- Check Sent!!
- New manuscript sent to editor
- Contract legal question
- Editing cover sheet for new project
- Blurb received
- Another great review for different book
- Conference calls arranged with author/offering editors
- Calls to author to discuss conference calls
- Decision reached
- Final negotiations
- Accept offer!!
- Go enjoy your birthday!!
So that’s a tiny glimpse into a week (that yes, ended on my birthday) that yes, happened to end with a deal.
I’m sure I’m not doing literary agents justice with that list. Another week might look completely different. And that’s one of so many things that I love about this job—the constant variety and ongoing challenges. I feel so lucky to have a career that I truly love (after nearly 10 jobs in 4 different industries, mind you).
It’s funny, because I never really think of literary agents as being mysterious, even though I know a lot of writers feel that way about us. To me, there’s nothing secretive about what we do, and most of it feels very natural to me as an outgrowth of wanting my authors to succeed.
I guess, in short, I do what needs to be done.
And then I do a little bit more because I love it.
Whew! Now, that’s what we call a DAY, Michelle!
[Aside from Deb Linda: Can you see why last year’s Deb Tawna and I think we’re the luckiest clients in the world to have such hard-working and hilarious agent?]
Oh, and don’t forget–this is your last day to enter our Query Critique Contest:
The Debs are giving away query critiques to 5 of our beloved readers! To be eligible, just leave a comment any day during this week (including Saturday, April 14th’s post—contributed by our FABULOUS guest agent Michelle Wolfson) and specify if you’d like to be entered in the contest and we will randomly select 5 winners. You’ll have up to two weeks to send us a digital copy of your query letter (for books in any genre) and we’ll give you feedback on the query. We’re so excited to see what everyone is working on!
Thanks again to TFMW* for being with us today, and giving us a glimpse into the life of an agent!
*The Fabulous Michelle Wolfson