“There’s a lot to be said for the long game”

My college friend Michael Szczerban is now an editor, and he also contributes interviews to Poets & Writers magazine. From his latest, a roundtable with 4 young agents:

Ballard: I often take people on and then work with them for a very long time. The first novel I sold this year was something I had worked with the author on for four years. It wasn’t that I was editing every line. We just had to find out what the story was. I work very closely with my clients, and I bet everyone in this room does. The better you make the book, the better the sale.

Flashman: Your point is really important because sometimes writers think, “Oh, I’ve got an agent! We’re sending it out, it’s going to be a best-seller tomorrow!”

Habib: There’s a lot to be said for the long game. Look for an agent who’s in it for the long haul.

This turns out to be a fitting post for today since Twitter tells me that it is Agents Day. I’ve been with my agent, Tina Wexler, since April of last year. In that time, she has already proven to be a kind, wise, generous, and patient advocate. Even when I lay bare my insecurities and frustrations, she guides me through them with confidence and grace. Sometimes I worry that I’m a bit of a disappointment to her, like an investment that hasn’t panned out. But then I remember that she’s in it for the long haul, and so am I, and the years ahead hold unlimited potential.

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10 Comments

  1. Robert Altman, my all-time favorite movie director, didn’t make his first feature film until he was 42 years old. At 45 he made MASH and had his first big success. Before that, he’d worked for years in television and in industrial films, perfecting his craft and figuring out what he wanted to do (and what he didn’t want to do).

    After MASH, he made more than one movie a year for the next five or six years — all of them were good, most of them were great, and two of them were masterpieces. Because he’d done the work to be ready.

    • Thank you for sharing that anecdote! I didn’t know any of that, and it’s so exactly what I needed to hear right now. I know there are other similar stories — artists who did a lot of quiet, front-end toil before achieving the success we now know them for — but I guess it’s hard to remember to apply that idea to myself, to think “this is me doing the work to be ready.” But of course, that is the perfect way to think of it, and it’s exactly what I believe I’m doing. Thanks again. :)

  2. Hang in there! Nearly two years passed between the time I signed with my agent & the time the book sold. I know what you mean by feeling insecure about it, but I assure you she’s invested in you as a writer not just for today but a future, long career. And we’re all cheering for you :)

  3. You could never be a disappointment! From the way you talk about Tina, she seems like such a kind and dedicated person. I have every confidence that she’s as thrilled to work with you as you are to work with her. :)

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