I recently took a research survey in which I had to reflect on just that question.
I found myself feeling as if I was writing a “help wanted” ad for Craigslist as I described the job skills:
An eye for good writing, an eye for marketability, current market knowledge, editorial skills, personal connections to editors and other industry professionals, ability to negotiate and read a contract, multi-tasking skills, self-driven and motivated, a thick skin, perseverance, an excellent memory, speed-reading, and a sugar daddy or three jobs for the first 3-5 years.
But what it all boiled down to was: an agent…is our clients’ best advocate.
Publishing is changing. The duties that agents are taking on are changing. But the role of the Literary Agent will never change; we will always be our clients’ best advocate.
I think all writers should mull over what that really means. Because it does not mean that we should be limited to certain duties; and it does not mean that all we need to do it pitch and sell a book. We have to be our clients’ best advocate – we have to believe in that client, period, and do whatever is necessary to aid their career…traditional or otherwise.
It may be the case that some agents have lost sight of this. It may also be the case that authors are misinterpreting recent moves and decisions that some agents take as selfish instead of client-friendly.
But in this agent’s eyes, that’s all anyone needs to know about me: that I adhere to this standard.
Regardless of the fact that sadly, I do not have a sugar daddy.