Monday, March 17, 2014

Agency Lessons: your agent doesn't have all the answers

I have a confession.

            I don't know everything.
The pressure is on
In this industry there seems to be a belief that professionals on the inside know everything. I find myself feeling the pressure to always have an answer. But the truth is, I don't know the half of it.

Luckily for me, I have some amazing co-agents who, while not knowing everything themselves, can help me fill in my gaps. For example, one of our awesome Sr. Agents, Saritza Hernandez hosted a digital workshop for us earlier this month. To be honest, I didn't know much about contracts, terms, products or any of the details when it came to digital publishers. My eyes have been opened to a whole new world. I know so much more now, but I still don't know everything. And I bet even Saritza wouldn't claim to know it all.

Not all answers are created equal
I'm bringing this up because I want you all to be cautious when seeking advice. The writing community is full of good eggs. Honestly, I can list on one hand the number of non-helpful people I've run into that are involved in publishing. Being good eggs and all, these wonderful people want to help when some asks them a question.

And that's great. Social networks have made it easier than ever for writers to reach out to publishers, agents and published authors. But just because someone lives down in the trenches doesn't mean they know the composition of the mud they're covered in. Is that a bad analogy? Probably. What I'm trying to say is, just because someone is a professional in publishing doesn't mean they have the answer to your question. Or they may have an answer, but it might not be the only answer, or even the best one. 

Beware the know it all
There is so much to know in this industry and with changes happening daily, it's impossible to keep up with it. But that doesn't keep us from trying. And sometimes the pressure to try to know it all can lead to a sense of obligation to always have the answer. Even if we don't really have it.

So be cautious of the industry professional who always has an answer. It's a good thing when your agent/editor/publisher sometimes says "I don't know". Because if they don't say this from time to time, you can be reasonably certain that on occasion the answer you get has been made up or at least flubbed a bit. 

Find the right answer for you
Take the time to ask multiple people for their advice. The first answer you get might be right, but not right for you. And remember, in this business there are very few hard and fast rules. Sometimes that can make it difficult to know what to do, but it can also lead to some beautiful books.


  1. I love that you admit to not having all the answers. (I've never met anyone who does.) I also think this is an industry where answers can change because publishing is changing. We have to keep asking questions in order to stay current.

    1. Such a good point about continuing to ask questions, even if you think you know the answer. What was true last week could be obsolete info this week.

  2. I love this post Sarah. There are many people in the field who think they know everything and end up knowing nothing. This was just a discussion in a group that I belong to on Facebook. Thanks for admitting that you are human and don't know it all! This industry is changing a lot and I don't think it's for the better.

  3. Sarah, I love your straightforwardness and honesty. There is so much pressure today to be the "best," to be an expert in something. This goes for everyone in the business of publishing. It's refreshing to hear someone say "I don't know."

  4. Great tips. The writing world seems to be one full of 'know it all' types. Refreshing to read honest advice. Thank you.
    Silvia @


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