I’m a staunch believer in the importance of mentorship. Not only do I spend a great deal of time mentoring and coaching the agents of BookEnds, but whenever possible I connect with other agents to support them.
Publishing is a field where you learn on the job. There are no classes that truly teach how to navigate things like contract negotiations, auctions, or the author-agent relationship. Everything is learned on the fly. Agenting is on-the-job training with, hopefully, the support of a good mentor.
Mentorship has only become a part of the publishing conversation lately. When I first started BookEnds it wasn’t something people talked about and it definitely wasn’t something that was openly offered. Thankfully that has changed and hopefully will soon become as much of a requirement as paying interns (should be) and a living wage.
I was never formally mentored. Sure, I considered some mentors, but when I started in publishing it was never a formalized realtionship. Truthfully, I’m not sure some of those people know they were my mentors.
Starting BookEnds would have been a ton easier and a lot less scary with a mentor. Things would have been calmer if I had a mentor to lean in. It’s one of the many reasons I mentor now.
Why I Mentor
I never had a mentorship, but I have hired paid coaches. People who are invaluable in guiding me through my business and teaching me how to become a mentor and coach myself. BookEnds wouldn’t be where it is without my coaches.
I love mentoring and coaching. I love seeing people grow and become empowered. Mentorship to me is about encouraging people to be their best selves, and also about guiding them down an easier path than the one I traveled.
Mentorship at BookEnds
So what does mentorship at BookEnds look like? It looks a lot like connection. Each team member at BookEnds (agents, assistants, and interns) schedule an hour-long call with me monthly. It’s during this time that we talk about how things are going, celebrate successes, and discuss concerns.
These calls can be business and pleasure. One month we might talk about the intricacies of a contract negotiation, the next month might be parenting, and the next might be a hodge-podge of everything. It’s during our calls that the BookEnders can connect with me on a very personal level and we can both talk honestly and openly about goals, what’s holding us back and strategies for growh.
Monthly calls aren’t the only time we talk. My DMs and phone lines are open every day, all day. If something comes up I make myself available to answer questions, have hard conversations or sometimes just give a note of reassurance in a difficult situation.
But I’m not the only BookEnds mentor. One of the things I love about BookEnds is how supportive the BookEnders are of each other. I know if I’m unavailable, a BookEnder can reach out to just about anyone for the answers or conversation they need. I also know there are times when the answer is “I dunno, wait until Jessica is off/back/available.” Which is sometimes enough for everyone.
Mentoring and coaching, not just from me, but the mentoring that’s done within BookEnds, has been a critical part of our success. It helps too that I absolutely love it and, let’s be honest, get as much out of it as those I mentor.