Yesterday morning I turned a key outside a pretty building on Spring Street a block from the Holland Tunnel and next to four furniture showrooms, two Manhattan Mini Storage buildings, and down the block (in any direction) from at least five pubs. The gate covering the door rose, I opened the door, and the next chapter of my life began. Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency (HSG) was open for business.
Carrie Hannigan, Jesseca Salky and I worked together for the last year and a half at Russell & Volkening, although Carrie and Jess worked together there for the last six, and Carrie herself at R&V for almost 14 years. But we were all mentored by the inimitable Tim Seldes, who is truly among the last of the Old School Publishing Gentlemen, whose stores of information are a mile deep, and whose stories of Eudora Welty and Bernard Malamud and George Plimpton bespeak a literary sensibility for the ages. As I walked into the gallery-like space of the new office we’re sharing with a small law firm, a PR agency, a wine importer, and a guy “who does something in the movies,” I hoped that one day I could be known for taste a fraction as good as Tim’s—but Oh my God, look at how many boxes I have to unpack!
One of the great things about Opening Day of a baseball season is that previous years’ statistics are relegated to history, and every player has the opportunity to prove himself anew, to show that the previous year’s problems were solved through off-season workouts, and the past successes were not flukes. The analogy doesn’t completely hold in our case—we left with a lot of irons in the fire, and even as I was frantically unpacking boxes to find my stapler, and loading Microsoft Office onto my desktop and trying to find garbage bags, I was getting editor responses and queries.
And it was wonderful. Because although we left a truly stunning office with lots of space and abundant light for a corner of a (large but) shared space with four desks and some bookshelves, we now have all the freedom—and responsibility—of independence. It's a huge amount of work and it's going to take a little time to unravel (Thank God I have hired a wonderful assistant, who will be starting next week...), and I can't wait until that day sometime the summer when I will come to the office, sit down, and feel i'm in a groove, and in control of my inbox and desktop. But in the meantime I'll take the anxiety and the hopefully temporary inefficiency.
The last thing I did last night before going to a BEA reception was write a pretty long letter to my clients; first thanking them for their support and continuing to believe in me, and then laying out a number of strategies we’ve been thinking about over the several months we’ve been working on this move (and to the blogger who wondered whether we had been kicked out of our office because Tim discovered our “treachery” and so had to start up abruptly: no, that’s not what happened. We’ve been working on the transition with R&V for a few months, but simply didn’t announce it until we were open for business).
One of the keys to success now, particularly for a company like ours with a number of first-time novelists is going to be finding alternative strategies in the face of in an industry with shrinking lists and a Wild West of opportunity which is both tempting and risky. Our functions as agents will change at times (though I suspect it will also stay very much the same much of the time), but our fundamental, primary job—to work for our clients to the best of our ability and help and advise them toward the best decisions to make their careers as successful as possible—will remain the same. And it’s a long season, with great opportunity and enormous challenges.
As I leaned back in my chair at the end of the day, with boxes strewn about and the stapler still missing, I was afraid, and excited, and resolute, and renewed. I look forward, each Tuesday, to giving you some insights into this new chapter of Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency. (By the way, our website is in fact still under construction—if you want info you can look on my Publishers Marketplace page or simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) .
One last note--Congratulations, Alison!