I love your blog but see that you and other agents also write books. How does that happen and why?
I think that you have the right to also be authors but what happens when you have an author who is as qualified as you to write a book, a publisher is looking for an author, and you get the job? Is this an agent perk? I write this with all the most respect. Seems you are always saying you are busy, so why writing books and not agenting? I have never been published but trying to understand the business.
If you do a little research you’ll probably see that a lot of agents and editors are also or have been authors. And I was not at all offended by this question. In fact, I think it’s fabulous.
How does this happen? Well, in a variety of ways. Being entrenched in publishing allows agents to come up with new and fresh ideas every day. Sometimes they are ideas that we’ll pass on to our authors. We’re excited, we think it’s great, and we think we have the perfect client to write it. Therefore, we’ll pass it along. But every once in a while agents might feel the need or desire to stretch their own creative wings. When the idea comes in an agent might feel so passionate or so excited about it that she just needs to write it herself. In that case she would write a book in the same way most of you are writing a book—in her off hours. It’s very rare that any writer has the luxury of writing full-time. Most if not all of you have other jobs. Some of you are teachers, doctors, engineers, librarians, lawyers, priests, or stay-at-home moms. Whatever it is, few of you are spending all day in front of the computer. If an agent takes on a book project she would do it in the same way you do, in her personal time. Her writing would not be done in the office, but late at night, early in the morning, or even while on vacation.
The other way agents become authors is exactly as you suggest. There are definitely times when publishers go to agents they trust and ask for books on certain subjects. Usually they will ask if the agent has any clients that might be right, but there is the rare time when an editor is looking for just a writer (no platform necessary), and in that case, if the agent is also a writer, the editor might ask the agent if she’s available to do it. This is very, very rare though. An example of this are two books that Jacky and I wrote together. The Book of Thanksgiving and The Book of Christmas. Both were done very early in our careers as agents (in fact, at that time BookEnds was operating as a packager). I had a meeting with an editor/former colleague who suggested that they were looking to do a book on Thanksgiving and possibly other holidays and suggested that I could probably write it. Since Jacky and I were very new packagers, as was BookEnds, we decided that it might be a fun project for us to undertake ourselves rather than try to find an author to write it. It was fun to do at the time, but would I do it today? Probably not. As you well know writing a book is a time-consuming process, and at this point the only books I would willingly undertake would be those that speak to my passion. If approached, I might consider authoring a book on publishing, but most likely I would only author again if it’s an idea I truly felt passionate about or came up with on my own.
As you know, agents and editors preach platform, platform, platform. And rarely does an agent have the type of platform an editor is looking for when seeking an author. Therefore it benefits the agent best to talk to her clients rather than try to write the book on her own.
I guess your concern is whether or not you run the risk of losing out on work to an agent (your own) who would take projects for herself rather than pass them on to her clients. Unlikely. Unless I’m representing another agent it’s not very likely I am as qualified to write a book as any of my authors. Why? Publishing is truly the only thing I am qualified to write about. I am not a doctor so that rules out all books related to health; I’m not a professional speaker or well-known sales professional so that rules out sales titles. I don’t think I could write fiction to save my soul, and if I could I would want it to be an idea I came up with. I’m stubborn that way.
So don’t fear the agent who also writes, since many of us do in some capacity. If she’s a good, hardworking agent with a solid reputation, you’re in good hands. And if she has good connections it’s very likely she’ll be bringing projects or at least ideas your way.