Literary agents, like actors, suffer from a stereotypical caricature: particularly those with a penchant for long, boozy lunches with old friends to whom they sell – or try to sell – their clients’ work. Or authors they should ditch but have not found the vocabulary to urge them to do what drivers routinely do in a road rage altercation. A languid or livid liquid literary exchange.
The curmudgeonly Ed Reardon would attempt, usually without success, to get to sit at table with his dis/un-interested old style representative, Felix. This was before the business fell into the management to his assistant Ping, whom Reardon calls his ‘twelve-year-old agent’.
My experiences with literary agents have, by and large, been courteous and professional. But the fact is that I have had to do many of my dealings without one. Either the sort of work I write is not in their field of operation or, sadly, not likely to generate enough in fees to justify the work it takes to put the material about.
A recent tangential follow-up on my book Three Angry Men led me to make an overture to an agent. I find that as a result, after many years, I have representation. Sally Bird runs Calidris Literary Agency in Australia.
I must say I am delighted to have someone taking this role for me after many years. Our contact has been mostly by email and follows the pattern of courtesy and professionalism, something that I have found truly heartening. But, distance being what it is – Sally is in Australia and I am in London - there is no lunch in sight at the moment.