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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Somewhere Back In A Long Ago

Hello,I received your name from a list of respected literary agents. I am about to begin my own career with a literary agency and would like to “ask an expert” for some advice on getting started. Any advice you may have, whether it be about the business side or dealing with potential clients, would be greatly appreciated. I thank you up front for your time and hope you have a wonderful day.

Best Regards, Name Redacted

 

Dear Newbie: First, I think this is a crank letter just in case you think I’m easily taken in by flattery such as being on “a list of respected literary agents.” I would have been more impressed if you found my name on a bathroom stall. Advice about getting started: have a trust fund, this is the book biz, baby. Have an ace in the hole. Have a list of respected editors. Have great boots. Have great taste or terrible taste, but believe in it with all your heart. March to your clarinet. Have a great accountant. Give it five years minimum. Act positive. Table manners. Don’t cut corners. Do not burn bridges. Play it straight. Generate ideas. Contact writers, experts, academics, journalists, sad young men. Try not to pay for meals. Wear ginormous specs. And this last piece of advice is from my mother: when in doubt, don’t.
What advice do you have for a newbie agent?

32 Responses

  1. For a “newbie agent”? Really? I have no idea. But for a newbie writer, I’d guess that a certain book called _The Forest for the Trees_ would be a good choice. (Not that I’ve read it myself yet, but the time will come.)

  2. Develop your sparkling personality.

  3. Take me, I’m yours.

  4. Buy a neat pair of glasses. The bigger the better.

  5. kdp.amazon.com

    Those glasses exhaust me.

  6. Betsy, funny that you should mention it, but I found your name on a bathroom stall. Is your number still 606-0842?

  7. Don a pair of gloves. Sifting through bullshit is a messy job, is it not?

  8. My favorite part is that “ask an expert” was in quotes.

  9. i’ve never been an agent, but the ones i’ve respected the most are upfront and honest. basically the opposite of hollywood.

  10. Respond to correspond with your client.

  11. Great boots are the answer, always. Thanks for confirming that for me.

  12. I think it would be essential to have a time frame and a great pair of boots. I would probably add a handbag to that.

  13. Don’t ever use “contact” as a verb.

  14. Be nice to us all. We may very well turn out to be the next best thing.

  15. Don’t refer to people as “talent.” Or their books as “product.”

  16. Don’t use twitter to bad mouth wannabe authors who query you. You will lose respect.

  17. Learn to use quotes correctly.

  18. Respect the people who send you queries. You hold their dreams in the palm of your hand whether they are realistic or not…

  19. On a different page: join some literary groups, professional organizations, etc. that could build a network towards new clients. Buy one good art piece for your office (or cubicle) that reflects your literary interests. Always be prompt. And of course, keep a journal.

  20. Do not, I repeat DO NOT sign up any Reality Housewife from any of the 50 states for a trashy Italian cookbook, Euro-cuntessy etiquette book, or backstabber advice book. I do not want to have to watch publishing execs toasting these “authors” with champagne right in my face on Bravo TV while so many real writers have to make do with a paper cup of Fresca.

    Except for Caroline Manzo, the realest Housewife of New Jersey. I love her.

  21. don’t tell your clients that they’re lucky to have you.

  22. Propmtly return emails. Remember your author’s pub day. Don’t leave any money on the table. Offer literary critiques with a spoonful of sugar. Act like you give a shit.

  23. Ignore the MFAs. These guys write but they have no story. Read the slush pile. Read it like you’re panning for gold.

  24. Question their motives for writing, first and foremost, and then read them the riot act that they think they can write, and then very humbly but concisely explain to them why they can’t and why they shouldn’t and when their shit comes back, corrected of course, figure out how to use them and suck their blood to pay your mortgage on a house you bought just a little too soon to be excited about. Make it their fault. Always. Other than that, kill yourself. You’re an asshole. If you are an agent. That advice is provable.

    • P.S. Own history. Not that anyone has a golden ticket on it, but read all you can so that you have a fluent knowledge of the latest Nobel geniuses, that way you can bury anyone who is trying to sound smarter than they are, it’s not hard, it’s all a stage-play. The sooner you know that the better. Don’t be nice, yet, love life. That’s the fence. That’s the punch.

      • I’m tired of being nice. if you for one moment think that you are not a writer, don’t bother me, you are not. To add a little mix of surety to this missive, we must, by all means, present to the neutered class, a little ditty of shame, for what you must be. And have a nice day, writers: http://youtu.be/EtuRdPDCS-Q

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