Literary Agents are not Publishers

Thought I was feeling better so I went back to work today. Such a bad idea.

I was fine until lunch then I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. Desperate for a nap, I popped home in a taxi for what I thought would be an hour snooze.  I woke up at 3.30 from the phone ringing. It was BigEyes and she was having some sort of melt down because some random was told that we’d publish their book, and they called to find if it would be out by Christmas.

Of course I had no idea what was going on, but I got in a cab and was in the office in 15 minutes. (That’s one really annoying thing about Dundee. It’s quite small…if you have a car. If you’re on public transport, it’s fucking sprawling.)

Once back in the office, Patch has a go at me. He used his stern but sensible voice, that one he probably uses on his kids and the one his wife probably uses on him. He told me I’m not allowed to make publishing decisions without going through him, and that this book was a totally new line of a business, and that I needed to consult with him before ‘facilitating business strategies’.

I had no idea what was going on. I’d never met the person who claimed we were publishing his book in my life. I assumed it was a weird mistake.

I mean really. He’s having a go at me? I know every client of ours in and out, and I know every manuscript that we’re considering…actually, were considering before the buyout. All that has come to a major halt. I’m actually kind of freaking out at work at the moment. I’m the only one who seems to do anything, and I’m trying to keep all the promises I made before the buy out, but it’s really difficult on my own. And, essentially, I am on my own. I have no idea what these two ‘agents’ do all day.

I asked what the book was about, and BigEyes said that it was called ‘Earn Money from Your Cat Videos’.

I had to be getting punked. There was no way this was real.

Then it dawned on me. That sounded like a nonfiction title. I looked over at MacDraggyFeet who was at her desk reading through a stack of papers wearing earmuffs to keep out the noise so she doesn’t get distracted. I tapped her on the shoulder and when she uncovered her ears, I asked, ‘Earn Money from Your Cat Videos’?

‘Oh yes. Who do I talk to about getting that printed up?’

We all just looked at her for a moment, then I asked, ‘What is it you think we do here?’

‘We’re a publishers.’


(That’s in caps because it went through my mind in a screamy voice.)

Let’s put aside that we’re not a publishers, we discovered that she thought that being a publishers meant promising to publish people’s books, getting someone to print them, then us driving around and putting them in bookstores. She’d printed out a list of all the bookstores she could get to in three hours and was deciding what route to take.

I kid you not! I know it sounds like I’m making this up, but I kid you not.

I went outside and called Giles and ‘laid it on the line’, as he would say. I said that this is mental. That his business was going to go under, and that he had to sort out some decent staff soon or else he’d be out of business.

He said something about playing to each team member strengths and letting people fly. I hung up mid-sentence because I just was not in the mood.

I went back into the office and asked Patch if he had explained the problem to MacDraggyFeet. He said he had, but evidently he hadn’t because she immediately asked again, ‘Will these be out in time for Christmas?’

It was time for me to take charge. I told MacDraggyFeet that we do not publish books. We, in no way, publish books. We are not a publishers. We work with authors to help them publish books.

I could tell from the look on her face that this wasn’t really working for her, that she didn’t understand. So, I tried again. ‘We’re like a guidance councilor. Like in a school. We don’t hire students, but we help them find jobs. We help them with their CV, tell them when new opportunities come up, and put them on work placement. But we don’t hire them. We’re like that for authors.’

(It suddenly dawned on my why Giles in his absolute innocence thought MacDraggyFeet could be an agent. She was a career council at an FE college, and agents and career councilors are both middle-men, and I guess both help people get work. Sort of.)

Anyway, she finally got it.

Patch decided that perhaps MacDraggyFeet shouldn’t work as an agent (yeah, no shit), and he told her that her new role would be to help BigEyes. They could work together on administrative stuff, and Patch and I would handle the clients. Which means, I’ll handle the clients.

Things calmed down and by 4pm, Patch and BigEyes were back to looking at me, rolling their eyes and giggling. Patch even had the most fascinating story about crisps that BigEyes swore should be written down and published, because Patch has ‘such a gift for stories. They’re just so funny.’

What was this amazing story about crisps, you ask? He bought some for his lunch for the week. That’s it. That’s the entire story. But because he punctuates every other syllable with a laugh and says, ‘Oh, you’ll love this…’ before he starts the mundane story, he fools people (or he fools fools) into believing that his stories are mildly amusing.

And, when he speaks to Giles he uses his posh-boy public school voice. When he talks to BigEyes he uses a broad Scottish accent. When he speaks to me he just seems confused.

I’m still in the office. No real reason but everyone left, andI actually like the peace and quiet of the place when I’m alone. I really need to think about what I’m going to do with our clients, and how I’m going to manage them. And it’s nice to sit and read through some of their manuscripts without distraction.

And, I guess this is the big ‘and’, HP and I still haven’t talked. I honestly don’t know what’s become of us. He’s got a secret, and he’s okay with Candy making sexual innuendos. Are they sleeping together? Even if they aren’t, does he wish they were?

Have you ever been faced with something that has the potential of being life changing, so potentially painful, that you just put it off even though you know you shouldn’t. I’m doing that. And, maybe I’ll stay here late just so I can postpone the inevitable a little longer.

On a totally different note, I found these two articles today about being 23. I can so relate. Sometimes I feel super old and sometimes super young. But, mostly, I just feel stuck in the middle.

The Brain on 23 by Molly Sprayregen

23 Awesomely Underrated Things about being 23 by Lance Pauker

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