Agency Lessons: The agent of tomorrow

What do you think being an agent will look like in 2020?

I was filling out some forms recently for inclusion in a listing of literary agents and this was one of the questions. After the initial shock that 2020 is only six years away, this question really stumped me.

A crystal ball would be a wonderful birthday present for me, in case you're wondering. It would be great to take a quick glance to know what genres will be hot tomorrow and how the industry will change over the next several years.

I thought about it some more and I have a better answer than I sent the poor guy stuck collecting a bunch of agents' quirky answers.

In the year 2020 agents will still do most of the same things they do today. They'll still sift through an endless flood of queries from hopeful writers. We'll still handpick our favorites, gush over them and convince editors that they desperately want to publish them. In 2020 agents will still negotiate contracts to get their clients the best deal possible and play middle-man when disagreements arise. All of that will probably stay the same.

But some things will change. They're already moving in that direction. I think agents will morph from our current role as "agent" into literary "managers".

What the heck is a literary manager?

A manager still handles all the duties of an agent, plus more. For example, agents will probably become more involved in helping clients keep track of their books, where they are and how they are going to be published. This will become more important and more authors dip their toes into the hybrid-author waters.

Another area agents will probably play a bigger role in is marketing. Right now most agents stay pretty clear of the marketing efforts outside of the occasional tweet or Facebook post. I'd guess that's going to change, and sooner rather than later. An agents clients can all market on their own, doing their best to promote their work without becoming spammers all while pumping out their next novel. Or they can all work together in a coop type system with their agent as the ringleader.

I see this happening already and definitely encourage my clients to help each other out with promotion, as well as sharing and brainstorming ideas. I also work hard to keep up on marketing trends and work with my clients to make sure they are covered, no matter how much support comes from the publisher.

Nothing can stay the same and the profession of literary agent is no exception. We can either adapt with the constant changes in publishing or dig our feet in and become obsolete. The agents of 2020 will be the ones willing to bend with the wind in order to make sure we are continuing the tradition of being an advocate and partner to our clients.