Having just returned to my desk from a heartbreaking session of “Lauren takes 25 minutes to do math she could’ve done in 2 minutes when she was 12,” I’m reminded of a chat I had with one of DGLM’s fine departing Fall 2011 interns at the holiday party last night. He’d come to the agency thinking that publishing is all about editorial, and the biggest lesson he’d learned in his time here was how very much more there is to it. The misperception that editors sit at their desks and edit and agents sit at their desks and read slush all day and there isn’t anyone else but the writers has been corrected many times (though seemingly not enough to stop well meaning strangers from saying “I’d love to be able to read all day!” while making cocktail party small talk). Still, I think the sheer variety of things that anyone in publishing does with their time is really hard to wrap your mind around unless you’re in the midst of it.
Today alone I have put my editor hat on to get a client an edit memo, my lawyer’s beret to help sort out some out of print language in a contract amendment, my mathematician’s beanie to calculate the deductions at source on an incoming Spanish wire accounted in Euros, my secretary’s Stetson to input a new deal in our database, my publicist’s sombrero to track down some press mentions of a client’s newly launched novel, and my journalist’s fez to research “types of hats” on Wikipedia. All the while wearing my agent’s fedora and sending out 150,762 emails. (Roughly.) Tortured headgear metaphors aside, agents are many things on any given day, and far more than I’ve even been today. It’s one of my favorite things about this career—it never gets boring.
I know that as I started working here almost 7 years ago, I really didn’t have much concept of what agents do: read, edit, sell? That seemed like it’d cover it. As our intern said, “I didn’t know it would be so complicated.” Other than the algebra, I’m pretty happy that it is.