Having an agent is like being in a relationship, or being in a relationship when you’re 19 and hanging on every moment, crushed by anything negative, elated by anything resembling forward progress. I thought I was done with this foolishness, of driving to Theresa’s house at 3AM, because that was the time she would’ve gotten home from the Hamptons, from The Bawdy Barn, from her night of figuring out the world was filled with guys with way more muscles and way more height than I had. That desperation pushed me to park my Jeep around the corner, walk a ways up her street (Park Avenue), to the side of her house, crawl underneath where her basement bedroom window was, knock softly, so as not to wake her NYPD father, but firm enough because I didn’t know any other way to express my desperation that she be there, waiting for me.
That anxiety and the constant need for reassurance returned when I got an agent.
There isn’t necessarily a concrete standard when it comes to what the comprehensive role of the agent is. Barbara told me right up front, “I’m not an editor…” Britta was an excellent writer herself and, as I mentioned before, had a sharp eye for what worked and what didn’t. There’s also the issue of copying manuscripts and paying for postage to send out the work. Part of my initial agreement with Barbara was that I provide her with the manuscripts and that I’d pay for the costs of sending them out to publishers. This isn’t abnormal. Many agencies, even if they charge you after the book sells, will bill a writer for the costs of printing and postage.
Britta never charged me anything. She may have billed me after the book sold, but she did all of the printing, all of the copying, paid all of the postage. All I had to do was worry about the work. I’m not a seasoned veteran of having agents. I think if you are, you might be the equivalent to the minor league baseball player with the all-time homerun record: Did well at a certain level, but never good enough to go to the show…