First Day at the Agency

I was supposed to be at work for 9am, but I was so nervous that I would get lost I left at 8 o’clock. As it turns out the office is about a ten minute walk from my house (and that’s walking slowly due to all the ice on the pavement), but when I arrived I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place. It was a residential area, not an office in sight. Perhaps, I’d been fooled again by the repeating name conundrum. So, I went back to my flat and reGoogle-mapped it. I had printed out a set of Google map directions before I left Mum’s house, but I was worried that I had the wrong address. I double checked the Agent’s email, and double checked the directions. I even did a Street View. Yup, it was the right place. But it wasn’t an office, it was a house.

I walked back down to work, and knocked on the door of the large Victorian at the address I was given. A terribly-posh slightly-disheveled older-gentleman with a cup of tea in his hand opened the door.

‘Ah you’re here,’ he said and he handed me the cup of tea. ‘I didn’t know if you were a tea or a coffee type, and I was in the middle of making both when you knocked. Do please come in.’

I followed him into the house and into the kitchen, where he took the cup of tea saying, ‘Oh goodness no. That’s not for you. There’s a fresh one waiting,’ and he pointed to a cafeteria and a pot of tea.

I obviously was in the wrong house, and I was not who he thought I was. I apologised for intruding, explained that I was looking for the Agent, but before I could turn to leave the gentleman said, ‘She’ll be right down. Biscuit?’ And he handed me a plate of shortbread.

No sooner had I began pouring myself a cup of tea wondering what sort of weird world I’d fallen into, the Agent appears. She apologised profusely for not greeting me at the door; she explained that she was bringing her mother breakfast when I arrived. She asked me to follow her and we went further through the kitchen and out another door which lead to a conservatory/extension that was made into an office.

In the glassed area was a table and chairs, and in the more extension-y area were two desks, each with a window over them, and several bookshelves and a small filing cabinet. She pointed to a desk which had a shiny new laptop on it, and said that was my space. She motioned for me to sit down in the conservatory part.

What was not explained to me, was that the Agency had foregone the idea of getting an office. In fact, the whole moving to Dundee was finally explained to me fully:

The Agent’s (who I’ve now decided to call Loraine because she kind of looks like Loraine Kelly) husband is a bit older than her, and he’s recently retired. Also, Loraine’s mother lives in Dundee and has not been getting on too well in her old age. So, with the children grown, they decided to move back to Dundee. The mother lives with them in the house, and the husband helps look after her.

The Agency had always been a collection of agents working together but bringing in their own clients. Kind of like a doctor’s surgery. Being that Loraine is Scottish, she’d always had an interest in authors from the area and many of her clients live in Scotland. Also, with everything being electronic, she figured that it would be easy to work from Scotland, and it gives her a chance to be with her mum. Also she’d be more beneficial to the Agency. If she’s up here, she can cover the Scottish region without much travel.

But the Agency is going through a restructuring. Up until now, everyone gets their own cut from the authors, and then pays into the agency. But with the whole publishing industry on its head, they decided that they’d work better as a team. All accrued money goes into a kitty, and then once the bills are paid, it’s divided up equally. (This is also why that one agent has branched out to Paris. They’ve decided that since everything is electronic, it’s more effective for the team to each work in a different region, thus giving their clients more attention, but all working under one umbrella. Also, that Paris agent can hopefully make some deals with foreign publishers bringing in much coveted foreign rights.)

Now, as for the home office. Originally, the plan was to rent out space, but this was decided against for two reasons. One. Cost. It wasn’t prudent to accrue that sort of an expense for just two people, and since she found a house that she really loves with a nice extension, there seemed no need for an office. (I think there may be a bit of a tax break having a home office as well, but she didn’t say that.)

Two. It’s not public knowledge that Loraine isn’t in London. Of course her clients know and publishers know. But the Agency is still listed as having a London office.

Which is where part of my job comes in. If you’ll remember, I was given the choice to either live in London or Dundee. That’s because I can do a big chunk of my job anywhere. Oh, and there is an admin person in London, so I don’t have to do any sort of billing, accounting type-thingies. Yippie. So, this is my job:

  1. Answer and field all general enquiries that come through email and post. (The appropriate post will be forwarded on once a week. But supposedly, there should be very little of this.)
  2. The slush pile. But happy-hooray it’s all electronic. Submissions are all in email, and they go into a submissions folder on a networked drive.
  3. Help promote non-Scottish authors in Scotland: get them in to Scottish Festivals, readings and other events.
  4. Help promote Scottish authors.
  5. Help to find new authors. (This is the one I’m really excited about, but I’ll get to this in a minute.)

Generally, Loraine said that they’d like me to be comfortable with contracts, negotiations and sales to publishers. But in the meantime, I’m to help with PR, something the individual agents are having less and less time for. In fact, as agents are becoming both editors (helping to get manuscripts publication ready even before they go to the publishers) and publicists (as publishers are spending less on publicity, much of the marketing of authors is falling on the agent), other things are falling to the side. So, they need me to help with PR. This is absolutely fantastic. To be honest, I’m surprised as MNM never really let me help with that, but I guess my references preceded me. Geeze, I hope I can do this job.

As for helping to find new authors, this is the best! Due to the rapidly changing nature of the publishing industry, the Agency is trying to be as proactive as they can, and they’re taking on an approach that is more common in the US than in the UK. The idea is that often the best unpublished authors won’t come knocking on our door. But they may be posting their work on blogs, writing websites and self-publishing. I’m to set aside time each week to search the internet looking for new authors. I’ve been given a Kindle, which has an account with Amazon. I’ve been told to keep a bank of self-published ebooks on the Kindle, and to always be reading.

I hope I don’t jinx myself, but I am so excited for my job. I’m really going to love this position.

Loraine told me to spend this week familiarising myself the client list. I’m to dig through the network, looking at contracts, reading manuscripts and reviewing old emails. She said that she has a couple of authors in particular she wants me to work with, but she’ll tell me more about that later in the week.

The rest of the day was a mixture of fun and scariness. Browsing through all the new manuscripts and learning about the client list was quite fun, but there’s so much about agenting I don’t understand. A lot of the language is over my head. I’ve got a massive learning curve, and I don’t want to let them down.

Oh, lunch was a bit weird. Loraine was in and out most of the day, and at about one o’clock the husband came through and offered me a sandwich. Which I turned down, because it’s kind of weird to assume that they’d be feeding me every day. I mean, it was really nice and all, but I don’t know what the situation with all that is. Oh, and I really had to pee, but I didn’t want to go tromping through their house to use the loo. It’s not like this is a regular office, so I’m not sure how much access I have to the house. By the end of the day, I was starving, gagging for a cuppa and bursting for a wee. It’s a good thing I only live up the road, I nearly ran home.

Oh, and the HarryPotter drama. I turned my phone off last night because he tried to call a few times and I didn’t want to be tempted to answer it. I kept my phone off most of today as well, and he’s texted me a few times, but they’ve pretty much stopped. I am not dealing with the drama that is HP and I. I just can’t. Can’t.

So, good day with work, bad day with exes. But right now I’m on such a work high, that HP drama is having a minimal effect. Now, for a cuppa tea, a bit of dinner and an attempt to stream Hollyoaks onto my laptop.

PS-I’ve been given a Blackberry as well. It’s mostly for the office, so that she didn’t have to run a phone line into the extension. But for someone of my generation, I’m hopeless with technology. I’ve just turned it off and left it on my desk in the office. I’ll figure out how to work it tomorrow.


2 responses to “First Day at the Agency

  1. Sounds like a brilliant start, and that they aren’t expecting you to run before you walk. I’m so hopelessly jealous that one of your assignments is to “keep reading.” Lol. Glad to hear the work part of things is going well. ^.^

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