Book Trailer The Noble Train

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Literary Agents and Hollywood

I was watching The Word last night. A familiar plot of struggling writer takes an old manuscript for his own and becomes famous. But the scene that ceases to amaze me is the agent scene. It as if Hollywood has not been updated since about 1945. First the agent looks like a professor with donnish spectacles...a greying dignified figure behind a desk who looks more like Max Perkins than the rough and tumble agent of today. But lets hold on that.

So the author is discovered by the agent and he gets a call. In The Word the struggling writer submits his phony manuscript and the agent is on the horn. I must see you. Ok. First canard. Agents no longer call anyone. You get an email. But alright lets roll with it. The writer goes into the very large office of the uber successful agent who sits behind his desk more befitting a CEO than a literary agent. He crows about the manuscript and then produces an enormous contract. Second canard. The contract.
Agents don't require contracts. Sure. A few still will get you to sign but it is really a gentleman's agreement. If you want to leave you leave. But if there is a contract it  is one page. Then the agent sells the book instantly in The Word. Boom. Done.

So lets take all of this together and put forth the modern literary agent. Many have an office but many do not. Many work at home. The agents office is small and very nonliterary. The laptop is the office. They do not look like Max Perkins. They look like anyone trying to sell something in a cyberbased economy. Harried. Disheveled. My one agent who was extremely distinguished looked more like a punk rocker and preferred a room with a very old couch fit for a fraternity.

But more than all that the call to the author is an email saying I will give this a shot. I like it and want to represent it. I will let you know. That's it. Nobody flies to New York. Apologies to all authors who fly to NY to meet their agent. But mostly you never meet. Even after they sell your book. It is not that they don't want to meet you it is just they are too busy. And you are usually too broke.

So that's the very unglamorous picture. But I did enjoy The Word. The way the author skyrocketed to the top like a movie star. The agent who sold his book the second he took it on. The Max Perkins world of author and agent. So nice. So gone.

Rocket Man...the Catcher in the Rye of the suburbs

Books by William Hazelgrove