Yesterday, when I was running around with my son, interviewing with him for a new school (my wife and I sat with the headmaster for two HOURS, while he got to go to history class!), there was a Twitter hashtag thingy called #agentday. My assistant told me about it this morning, because she said that it totally stressed her out.
"All these agents were tweeting about what they were doing all day. It stressed me out and I DO all this stuff," she said (only better).
So today, it sat in the back of my mind that I ought to think about the different elements of the business I work on during a somewhat typical Tuesday--where I was not having lunch with an editor or submitting a book (both of those will happen tomorrow). I realized that, like eating the proper amounts of all the food groups, I actually worked through a very significant number of the parts of the publishing process, all in different chunks of the day:
I started by writing notes on a contract, which is the second part of contract negotiation. The first part is where the editor makes the offer and the agent says "What? That's IT?" (No, no...). Here I was finishing a review of a pretty reasonable agreement for a book where I had already negotiated a contract with the publisher before. Where I saw discrepancies between the two agreements, I said so, then sent it along. I recieved a new version of the agreement later in the day, which likely will very closely resemble the final contract by day's end tomorrow.
After the contract review I had a phone call with the daughter of one of my clients, who has entertained the thought of entering this industry. My client is no slouch in the brain department, and he had described his daughter as "the smart one." She is living in Seattle, though, and doesn't want to journey East, so she's going to have a bit of a tough go at making a living editing. But she was very smart, and lovely, and certainly was interesting to speak to. I think about the publishing industry, and the fact that there are in fact so many very smart young writer/editor/readers, and I think about what Simon Lispkar said to me when I joined Writers House in 2007: "In order to be successful, you need three things: Taste, luck, and perseverence. You can't have just two. But if you have all three, you can survive--eventually."
After I finished speaking with the now completely discouraged (but REALLY smart) Seattle-an (sic? What do I know?), I had an exciting meeting with two clients who are working on a women's beauty book. They are both extremely well-versed in the industry, and are kind of rock stars. When I read the original proposal, I believe I understood every third word. Now I'm starting to get the hang of it, and their projet is one that marries old and new publishing in an extremely exciting fashion. We realized that there was a real question as to whether the book would drive the website or vice-versa, and whether there was greater potential revenue through royalties or sponsorship income. Absolutely fascinating.
After lunch of sushi at my desk (note: HSG was going to take advantage of both Restaurant Week and our office location to go to suddenly affordable Nobu, but my partner Carrie saw my look of panic at my to-do list and suggested we skip it and order in. Bless you, Carrie!), I got to do one of my favorite things: dig into a manuscript and make editorial suggestions. What I was doing was somewhere between an in-the-margins memo and a line edit. Look, many, many agents started out as editors or writers--or at least with degrees in English. We LOVE working with text. We don't ever get to do it as much as we'd like. So when we have an extended period of time where we can read and make constructive suggestions, we grab it. It was a blas.
After a quick stop to pick up #1 son, take him home, and oversee Homework for Three, I met Jess and Carrie at the West End bar for a quick drink and discussion, and then we went to Columbia for a reception with their MFA program. It was a blast, not just because I had the opportunity to meet with a good number of smart, dedicated writers (lots of memoirs and literary Novels of Brooklyn), but also because I got to hang out with a bunch of agent friends. We sent writers to each other, caught up, showed each other pictures of our kids, and drank white wine in the Low Library rotunda. It was a lovely, rather old-school way to end the day. I may have met a new client or two in the evening--or maybe not--but regardless, it was a fitting end to a day that shifted through so many interesting and stimulating directions.
When I got home, my son wasn't yet asleep. "How was your day, Daddy,"he said. "Did you do anything interesting?"
"You bet," I said. "All kinds of things."