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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


There are a gazillion things I could/should be doing, but as we settle into our new office, our first office office, a little bit of reflection...

When I started JABberwocky almost 18 years ago, the business plan wasn't much. A piece of memo paper where I had determined I'd need around $24-25K in gross commission revenue to break even, that I was sure of having at least $12K the first year, and that I would surely sell another book or two over the next year. It wasn't a get rich quick scheme, that's for sure! As things turned out, I did somewhat better than break even, with total commission revenue in the low 30Ks. What I didn't realize, and I don't even know if I'd have started the agency if I had realized it, was that my revenue wouldn't grow for a long time. It was five years before gross commission revenue moved from the low 30Ks to the mid 30Ks, five years before I finally started to have a smidgen of breathing room.

On the other hand, I don't know if I'd have predicted that once things started to grow they would pretty much keep growing.

That growth -- well, you're in this business, you certainly dream of representing a big bestselling author or two and making a difference for an author, and somehow I've come to do just that! But I'm not proud of that, per se. Rather, I'm proud that I've managed to do it without compromising my idea of how to build and run the business. I didn't want to be an empire builder, I didn't want to accumulate clients or employees for the sake of accumulating them, I didn't want to just be around because there was money to be had. I wanted to be sure that we were working as hard as we could every day to make each client as successful as we could get each client to be.

Oh, there's luck aplenty in all of this, things would be different if Alan Ball hadn't stumbled across Dead Until Dark in a Barnes &; Noble while waiting for a dentist appointment. But it isn't just luck, it's also a lot of hard work to build my capabilities and those of the business, to be a literary agency capable of doing the job for big bestselling authors. In how we approach editors and publishers when the wind is behind our sails, in the kind of IT and infrastructure we have in the office, little ways and big ones. Big authors can open doors, they can also leave for bigger agents, I think we've managed to become bigger agents while still recognizing that we have to work to make authors big, each in their own way. So I'll confess, one of the first days leaving the new office, I got a little teary-eyed at the fact that I'd managed to build a business from a modestly defined business plan on a memo sheet to a much much larger business that now had its own real office with room to have more employees to do more good things for a client list that isn't all that much bigger than it was five or ten years ago

The project hasn't been a solo effort, of course. This is my blog, but the business isn't just me. It's Eddie, it's Jessie, it's our clients.

I don't usually like to do posts like this, it seems immodest, but then again, facts are facts and the past few years have been pretty amazing.

It's also a fact that the growth of the agency got a little bit ahead of me the past six months or so. Last summer, I had actual pleasure reading time, it seemed like I'd finally managed to earn a little leisure for myself, a little time to smell the roses and all. Then we get to the holidays in 2011, and there's no let-up. We get to January 2012, and there's still no let-up.

After I pulled the trigger on an office hunt, I realized as things marched along that we really really needed an office ASAP and that for all the money we'd spend in the office every day we remained in the home office environment was costing us money. This isn't the way to do an office hunt, you want to be the person who's willing to walk, and here, when we had found the size of office we needed in a location we liked we weren't really wanting to say no and have to go for a second choice location or another few weeks or months of looking.

Hence, we need to get settled in the office even as we're still awfully busy, even though we're about as functional now as before the move being 100% where we want will take longer. Why didn't I see this coming, so we could have been looking and set and ready a little bit before instead of a little bit after?

But I think we've got the blueprint for what we need to do. We've identified the additional furniture the larger office requires, and it's coming. We have the server, and we'll get that set up so we have a more scalable more efficient networking set-up with potential for remote access.

Most importantly, the cavalry is scheduled to arrive in a week-and-a-half, as we add another full-time staff member. More to come on that, let's just say it's exhilarating and frightening for me, I'm going to have to delegate some things I hate to delegate, but I think I'll be delegating them to an gifted and talented person who is capable of doing great things for us and for our clients. But there's a lot to catch up on to feel 100% totally back in the zone the way I feel we were just last summer.

[And if you've read this post, you might have an inkling why the blog hasn't been very active in recent months, if all goes well maybe as we get into July and August more blogging time will emerge.]