A Day in the Life…Who’s Kidding Who? There is no Typical Day in the Life of a Literary Agent.

By Amy Moore-Benson

But there are Typical Tasks:

Reading. The truth is I’m always reading. But who isn’t, in this industry? Drafts of clients’ manuscripts, deserving of a focused read and detailed notes; outlines for new book ideas that I react to from my gut; proposals for clients who are writing non-fiction, who need me to work as their architect, to ensure the scaffolding of the book will hold up the power and uniqueness of their story; manuscripts and backlist books by prospective clients, sometimes needing to be read in a matter of hours in order to get a jump on opportunities; submissions that come from the wildest places (a friend’s colleague, a client’s friend, a random seatmate on a plane, an email out of the blue) all of which can potentially be THAT NEXT GREAT DISCOVERY. I read competitive books that shed essential light on trends, voice, storytelling, and books I buy for myself, to satiate my incessant thirst to READ MORE, which pile up beside my bed and get attention either for twenty minutes before I fall asleep or in reclaimed weekend hours. I sometimes think it would be easier to just give up trying to keep up with “personal” reading, but then I remember I wouldn’t be as good an agent for my clients if I did.

Writing. I confess to loving writing as much as reading, and any skill I may occasionally show as a writer comes directly from exposure to my exceptional clients. When I write pitches for their new work, my job is to harness the passion I have for their story and my excitement to get that story into the hands of an editor who will love it as much as I do…and articulate it all in a couple paragraphs. I’ve learned over the years that this is the calling card I craft for my clients, and that responsibility weighs heavily. I believe the words they put down on the page deserve equally focused words in my pitch – it’s a first impression, and you know what they say about those. I follow up with calls to editors, when I can articulate my passion for a client and their work in more detail, but I put a lot of time and agony into crafting those pitches.

Talking. It never feels like work, but in writing this, I realize I’m a professional talker. To clients, to editors, to marketing and PR folks, to film and TV producers, to colleagues, to strangers on the subway caught reading a copy of a client’s book. At meetings, at conferences, at lunches and dinners and awards banquets, on panels, on podcasts. Every Monday at Meridian we have a working lunch, where my colleagues and I sit around our board table, eating and talking like a boisterous family. We talk about GoT (of course…) and the latest Netflix show. We talk about movies, and politics, and personal stories. We talk about our clients and their work and lives. Every Friday we have a development meeting where we talk about the projects our clients (authors, screenwriters, directors, producers, actors) are working on. And we talk every day about how we can work together to make their careers better.

Posting. Truth: I’m not the most enthusiastic social media poster. I’ve cut out all social media with the exception of Twitter, which I find to be a great source of information about the industry and the world, but which I don’t devote a whole lot of time to. Too busy reading, and writing, and talking. Though my clients may miss the odd supportive post about their work, I think they’d all agree that my time is better spent on other things.

Spreadsheet-ing. This may surprise some of you who know me well, but since I’ve joined Meridian Artists, I have come to embrace the beauty of a good spreadsheet. The support system we’ve built here helps keep the ground from shifting, and I appreciate how essential that solid foundation is.

Travelling. Though I don’t always manage it, I try to see each client at least once a year. Easier, of course, when they’re local, but conferences, like ThrillerFest, Bouchercon and RWA are a great opportunity to see a number of clients at once. Book launches, award banquets, and publisher meetings are also priorities. I’m a true believer in the power of chemistry, and spending face time with clients and publishing professionals goes a long way to establishing deep and beneficial relationships.

I also sleep, hang out with my kids, walk my dog, entertain, socialize. But I think the key to having a good balance in your life is doing something you love. And I’m lucky to have perfect balance!

Amy Moore-Benson began her publishing career at Harlequin Enterprises, where she helped launch and eventually run the romance company’s mainstream fiction imprint, MIRA Books. After thirteen years, Amy left Harlequin to launch her own literary agency, AMB Literary Management, focusing on commercial fiction (suspense, thrillers, romance, women’s fiction, literary fiction) and narrative non-fiction (memoirs, food and lifestyle, leadership) and working with authors and publishers both in Canada and the US. In September 2015, after eleven years as a literary agent, Amy joined Meridian Artists, leveraging her more than twenty years of publishing experience to build a book division for the agency.

Ed. Note: Some of Amy Moore-Benson’s fantastic clients – from the world of crime fiction – include Jamie MasonEric BeetnerGraeme CameronS.W. LaudenTom PittsRick MofinaJosh StallingsGrant McKenzie, and Victoria Helen Stone. We were lucky to have Jamie Mason take part in our How It Happened series this past January, and Eric Beetner will close out 2017 with his HIH essay.