As a writer, it’s all good and fun to imagine being published one day. Personally, I think about this day often. A beautiful gown, long nails, hair done up with small ringlets falling around my face. I imagine myself smiling as people comment on my book, how they love it.
Then I think back to the reality and consider; how do books even get their way to publishing houses?
There’s plenty of stories of being rejected, of sending piece after piece to various publishing houses, and waiting months, sometimes years, to hear a reply.
While they’re doing all this work, writers aren’t writing. It takes away the essential-ness of who they are. If only there was someone to be a stepping stone over this overflowing river . . .
From Fern Reiss’s “The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days”, literary agents appeared around 1880 and have been negotiating contracts, going over the author’s rights, setting them up with respectable houses, and maintaining relationships between author and publisher since (Reiss).
So well, there’s that. Literary agents.
A literary agent, defined by Merriam Webster dictionary, is a professional agent who acts on behalf of an author in dealing with publishers and marketing strategies (Literary). Literary agents are the angels sent from the depths the clouds to ease the pain and suffering a writer endures to get their work seen by others.
Many writers think they can disappear into their closet, typing away at a manuscript, and never have to see the light of day again until it is done. That isn’t the case. Writing needs to be a social activity. That’s how a connection can be built between writer and agent. You could meet an agent at a conference, a competition, or even looking them up through databases.
Sara Goff, author of “I Always Cry at Weddings”, had two agents before finding a publisher to get her book published. That’s because agents have specific genres that they focus on, helping them solicit to houses that know them well. In Sara’s case, her book had aspects that played into several genres like religion and coming of age and romance and thriller.
I personally think I know my genre that I write, and I feel like I know my market, young and adult fiction. So wouldn’t it be cool to publish my own work sooner rather than later?
As a college student, I don’t have the funds or the time to go off seeking my own literary agent to possibly get my work published. I barely have the time to edit my own work (except for the essays upon essay and other types of work that I sometimes edit for classes).
I had the luck to be in Donna Steiner’s Literary Citizenship class in the Fall of 2016. Donna is a fantastically clever woman, and one of the biggest perks of being in the class was the honor to be added to the exclusive Facebook group, Literary Citizenship. It is private except to anyone who had been in the class. On that Facebook group, she posted:
I thought, why not? He’s free, and I have always wanted to get my work out there.
And that’s how I met Brian Usobiaga, who is in the same boat as me. He’s a college student trying to reach his dreams sooner rather than later. He thinks that everyone, especially those trying to get published or become a literary agent, should take communication classes and marketing classes. You need to know how to know how to, in a sense, “sell yourself” and represent yourself in a positive manner.
He wanted to become a literary agent because:
it exists as sort of an intersection between my professional experience in sales, and my love of writing. As a career, I’m not sure how viable it is, but the process of getting to know authors, their work, and helping them find platforms for it, has, to this point, been extremely rewarding.
My initial experience with the publication industry are probably a lot different than the ones a young author would have today. Back when I used to submit work, you still had to query editors by post, the internet wasn’t such a powerful tool, and literary agents were basically the only way to navigate the landscape.
In that aspect, I feel like Brian is a bit off. I know plenty of writers my age (a wee 20 year old) who continue in our fore-mothers footsteps, searching for agents and reputable houses.
Brian says that the best part of being a literary agent is getting excited about good writing. Most of the same thing, as I believe, the other writers get excited over too, “While that may sound trite,” Trust me, it’s not Brian. “I think it’s essential because when the person who is representing your work is genuinely enthusiastic about it, they can be your best champion.
Brian is also a student, and is actually losing money by being a literary agent at the moment. He told me that building relationships and acquiring knowledge is what it is all about at the moment. He’s happy just to help facilitate people’s literary goals.
He follows the line of agents by looking through the work submitted to him, and passing the work along to his friends who are editors. Brian is slowly building up his network system that will one day assist him in being a proficient agent.
Brian is a good soul, a person like him that we need more in the world. So don’t be afraid to try something new and do a little or your own researching every now and then.
And never, NEVER, stand up an opportunity to bring you to a new part of life.
Kirsten Staller is a cat, tea, book, cheese fanatic, as well as a junior at SUNY Oswego studying Creative Writing with a minor in business. She was a varsity epeeist for four years and has an affinity for writing poetry. She likes to hike and discover new things. She also has a punny sense of humor that her friends can’t stand.
Reiss, Fern. The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days. Boston, MA: Peanut Butter and Jelly, 2003. Print.