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    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Everything Has Got To Be Just Like You Want It To

Today it was announced that an editor who left to become an agent has returned to the publishing side. Couldn’t hack it, I guess. Ha ha. It’s not easy working for the devil. A decade ago when I joined the dark side, I was petrified. Mostly, I now realize, it was losing my identity as an editor that upset me. That, and the child sacrifice. What’s that smell? I never wanted to be an agent. Turns out, I’m actually cut out for it.  A lot of people ask me if I miss editorial life, if I would go back. My dream is to rehab a dead factory in New Haven and start my own publishing company and film production company. ANd I want to offer classes to high school kids, and have screenings, and a cafe. I guess if someone offered me an imprint and said here’s your budget, hire your own people, do what you want, that would be cool. I always liked putting on a play.  In the wake of yesterday’s pity party, I have to admit I love my clients and sometimes I feel as if we are on a grand journey and over the course of many books we have built a library of our own imagination.

What do you think of editors vs. agents? Don’t hold back.

40 Responses

  1. It ain’t what it used to be in publishing companies, so what you feel you miss is fantasy now. You do your best by your authors, same as any editor would. You’re lucky to be doing something you feel you’re “cut out for” and to be damn good at it. Brava.

  2. Doesn’t much matter what you call ’em, anyone who can help a writer avoid cranio-rectal inversion is a welcome addition to the team.

    • Amen, sir.

    • I’m verklempt. But I’m glad you’re doing something that you love, Betsy, that suits you. How many of us humans ever get that? You done good.

      • My husband says congrats to you, too, Betsy, for having a job you’re good at, one you love. He spent the afternoon on a conference call with businessmen in Japan arguing over what it means to “tell the truth.” So many options! Talk about your good times.

  3. The dream author advocate is both that’s my take on your question. And I see a day when that duel role will be the norm. Squeeze on the business middle in a digital world.

    I like your factory dream. Start a publishing house please.

  4. The agent/editor discussion is so above my grade. Agents have to be shrewd and smart. Editors just have to be smart. I guess. But what the fuck do I know? I’ll just sit here and listen.

  5. I’ll run the cafe. My lemon blueberry scones are to die for.

  6. Editor is a job. Agent is a business.

  7. Have had a similar dream for years. Do it!

    p.s. I bake, paint, wash dishes and tell jokes.

  8. Only met one agent–one of what? Three agents in San Francisco? He was cool. Courted a friend re a book deal, but said friend resisted because he is contrary.

  9. Editors and agents are the same; they’re the people who don’t want to tell the author what his print run is.

  10. PS and Clarification: what I mean is, they eat talk and look the same; they know all the restaurant names; they know all the same people; they’re in the same business; they live in the same kinds of apartments or suburban houses. They are not like authors. Authors are the other team. Authors don’t get the same number of invitations. Which is as it should be because authors should stay the fuck home and not talk to those people. Anybody who can conversationally associate a book with a “season” or a “list” is not good for an author to go to screenings with. Run away.

  11. PPS Beautiful photograph. You should do that (publishing film production cafe screening room). Why die and not have done that? Fuck a lot, have child/children, and do stuff like that = good life.

  12. After watching a panel of agents and editors in action at a literary conference, I think the Coliseum should be reopened and let’s just Tweet.

    That out of my system, the reality is: these careers boil down to big-time, speculative gatekeeping for not only the literary world but potentially world culture as well. That’s heady stuff! Just catching the gaze of an agent or an editor is daunting for those of us lurking at the edge of the moat, asking for access to the castle. I have only felt the sharp slam of the door against my nose, but one day I will find a gatekeeper friendly enough not only get me past the moat, but invited into the great hall as well.

    It may have to be a cyber gatekeeper, though – I hear their spears aren’t as sharp…

    BTW -If you really are interested in adaptive re-use projects, I am working with a developer (not in New Haven, but…) with a neat building looking for joint venture partners.

  13. My day job is in the financial industry. Until now I hadn’t thought about it, but I’d be the editor in the group. You have to know what you’re doing to get to me, but it’s my job to know everything and to close the deal. The advisors, the good ones, are the ones that try and sell the product, the agents, but they know when to listen to the big dogs. That’d be me.
    That being said, and despite my day job, I’m still an idealist. I dream of writing the story, having an agent who edits and can make it better, and put it in the hands of an editor who loves it that much. Fuck print being dead. I refuse to cave to that notion. I still believe people are in the business because they love books. And yes, I plan on counting my royalties on my abacus, thanks for asking.
    I want the Harold Ober/Scott Fitzgerald relationship. I get it that it isn’t that way anymore…but a girl can dream.

  14. Not enough (i.e. any) experience with either to comment but I love your dream Betsy!

  15. I have no experience with either. It’s all going to be a lovely surprise for me one day. (Fingers crossed.)

  16. Editor vs. agent? That’s kind of like cats vs. dogs, isn’t it? Someday I hope to have one of each (editor and agent, that is — I already have a healthy distribution of cats and dogs).

    As far as personally, I’m a decent editor. Who knows, I might make a decent agent, but I think the time has come and gone for trying on that particular hat. Although I am good at Lunch.

  17. I don’t think agents and editors are like cats vs. dogs at all.

    A bad agent makes you feel like a battered spouse.
    A bad editor makes you feel like a battered spouse.

    A good agent makes you feel like a beloved partner.
    A good editor makes you feel like a beloved partner.

    • Actually what I meant was that it’s not necessary to come down on the side of one or the other — each has their own funky merits. My own thought process bleeding over into my comments, I guess, since I’m currently writing something about the cats vs. dogs issue from a writer’s perspective.

    • But if you get a mix of the “beloving” with the battering, is it more like Alien vs Predator? would seem that way to me. (My dogs and cats love each other)

    • Then I had a bad agent

  18. My kneejerk reaction is that they are both cut from the tattered whole cloth of failed creative writers. Good editors and agents realize they have failed as creators and don’t try to impose their failed vision on their clients; bad ones don’t realize they’ve failed.

    Memphis Trace

  19. Pimp vs. john.

  20. Harsh crowd you attract!

    A great/rare agent works their ASS off for you…as does a great editor. But the agent, you pray, sees you as the latest pony in her stable, in it for the long haul and your long and productive career (i.e. a revenue stream for him/her as well) — while the editor may only see you as author no. 24 in that month’s pile. Very few writers stay with the same editor or house over time now, which for me would be ideal if you work well together.

    My current agent (number 6; some are LAZY and incompetent, just like writers) was a former editor. It shows and in a good way.

    Bonnie calls it.

  21. The rare beast knows as the former-editor-now-agent ROCKS.

  22. . . . so who’s the editor-turned-agent?

  23. I’ve only had one agent, and one editor. But here’s what I know:

    When you socialize with your agent there’s usually vats of booze and a rock star, an astro-physicist, a really cute guy with an Australian accent, a New Yorker writer wearing cashmere, Xmas lights, and someone you only know from seeing their photo on a book jacket hanging around the room.

    When you socialize with your editor, there’s only Cobb salad and I’m the only one drinking.

    I now have a fulltime job where I edit, so I understand how much heartburn bad writing can give a girl. I’ve never been an agent, so I can only imagine how soul-destroying it is to have to deal with crap pitches from crazy people all day.

    So, just going by how much fun they are when they cut loose I’d say agents have the worse job, but the parties make up for it.

    What do I win for getting it right?

    • A margarita big enough to swim in, a date with one of the young guys from “Community” and a spread in Vanity Fair.

  24. My former agent was like a crazy little terrier who you couldn’t fully trust not to bite you. She was once a great editor and should have stayed an editor.

  25. In my experience–and I have stayed with the same agent and editor for two books now– is that agents are there for you, emotionally. With your agent, there’s more personal rapport, and it’s easier to let your guard down. No matter how many times you lunch with your editor, it always feels like an awkward first date,

  26. Forget agents and editors. Get me a techie. I haven’t been able to access my blog all day. Blah, humbug!

  27. Thinking about this from a writer’s perspective, I think agents are potential angels. Editors sound more like a sales/marketing person. Perhaps I am naive.

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