sorry, that ain’t how it goes (Agent Edition)

So there’s stuff allllll over the internet about the relationship between author and agents.  It goes something like this: author writes awesome book, sends it to agent. Agent likes book, agrees to work with author to sell book to publisher for mutual benefit. Agent works hard, places book at a great house, everyone is happy and makes money. Insert HEA here.

Well, maybe not exactly like that, but you get the idea. And if you still don’t know what I’m talking about, there are a million places you can learn all about every nuance of how the agent/author interaction is supposed to work. Of course, this always makes me wonder: with SO MUCH information out there about what to expect from a literary agent  where do people get these crazy ideas about them?

Some of it is simple ignorance, some is misinformation from scammers, and some is simply stupid television.

I’m a horrid cheapskate, so we don’t have television at my house. As a result, I cruise through a lot of Hulu when I have thirty minutes of downtime. This exposes me to a lot of TV shows I would not otherwise watch, including a new ABC classic, Castle (wikipedia link to avoid ABC’s AWFUL auto-launching ads).  The show’s premise is as follows (again, from the wikipedia article):

“Nathan Fillion stars as Richard Castle, a famous mystery novelist who is initially called in to help the NYPD solve a copy-cat murder based on his novels. Stana Katic stars opposite as the young detective Kate Beckett. Following his encounter with Beckett, Castle decides to use her as the model for his next book series. He uses his contacts and receives permission to accompany Beckett while investigating cases.”

Fun right? I mean, sure it’s a little far fetched, but who wants reality in their TV? Heck, we don’t even want reality in our reality TV! I can swallow a little ridiculousness in the name of a good show, and it’s got Mal from Firefly! (<3 ❤ <3) So I thought I’d give it five minutes. Of course, those five minutes happened to be from the latest episode on Hulu. To truly understand my horror (and the next few paragraphs), I ask that you take 2 minutes and watch the very first bit. Just 2 minutes, I’ll wait.

Ok, for those of you who didn’t/couldn’t watch, here’s the crux. Our author, Mr. Castle, is woken at 7 am in his lovely NY apartment by his extremely fashionable “book agent” ringing his door bell to come and tell him that he is on the short list to write the new James Bond series. This is of course fantastic news… but I couldn’t get much past that because I was too busy picking my jaw up off the floor from the incredible, stupid wrongness that was the set up of events for this scene.

I’ll tell it to you straight. Your agent will never visit you at 7 in the morning, in heels and a hot red dress, to tell you about a deal. She may call you, email frantically, maybe even send flowers, but I’m willing to bet you a great deal of money that she will never show up uninvited at the crack of dawn to play coy about you getting a huge deal. This is mostly because your agent is probably in New York, and, chances are, you are not. Even if you do live in NY, I’m pretty sure your agent still wouldn’t drop by your apartment without invitation early in the morning, (though maybe Nora can set us straight on that one).

This is because, unlike as is depicted in this episode, the agent/author relationship is a professional one. Of course it’s wonderful if you’re friends with your agent, but business is still business, and your agent is aware of that even if you’re not. After all, they’ve got other clients. Of course, life is different if you’re a “famous mystery novelist,” but I’m pretty sure even Tom Clancy’s agent doesn’t just drop in at the crack of dawn. That’s just… stupid. And rude. And unprofessional. And counter productive.

STILL, I could have swallowed all of that for the sake of TV. Really, I could have. My disbelief is used to being in a high state of suspension. However, the little tick that really did me in was the phrase “book agent.” Both our author and our agent referred to her position as being a “book agent.” I have never heard this term. Lit agent, sure, agent, literary agent, etc. But it’s not even the “book” part, it’s the fact that he has to identify her as a “book agent,” which begs the question, as opposed to what? Does he have a film agent too? Is he an actor? Maybe his real estate agent drops by for beers every Saturday and he has to keep them straight.

There are exceptions to every rule, but generally speaking, if writing is your bread and butter, you’ve only got one agent, your literary agent. The person who makes the deals. If you have other agents working with your material (say for foreign rights, or if your book gets turned into a movie), they go through your lit agent. That’s why it’s so vital to get an agent who loves your material, they become your door to publishing, and, through it, all the other good stuff like movies and commemorative shot glasses and your face on a cereal box.

I’m sure there’s more to the show, but I shut the page down after 2 minutes of that swill. The worst part about all of this is that, while it’s easy for me to see how desperately stupid all of this was, how completely and deliberately divorced from the truth, most people probably watched this and saw nothing wrong.  The space in their brain for information about being a writer, hither-to pure and untouched, is now filled with blatantly false B.S., all thanks to Castle, and that’s just sad.

Just think of this as another reason to do your research. You can lose viewers (or readers) for the stupidest stuff. You don’t have to be 100% real, but it does help not to be blatantly, foot-in-mouth-to-the-knee wrong. Just a thought, Castle writers, just a thought.

5 Responses to “sorry, that ain’t how it goes (Agent Edition)”

  1. October 23, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Even if you do live in NY, I’m pretty sure your agent still wouldn’t drop by your apartment without invitation early in the morning, (though maybe Nora can set us straight on that one).

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAhellno. =) And my agent is extremely fashionable and very friendly. But no way in hell would she do anything so intrusive, rude, unprofessional, ethically hinky (stalker much?), and just plain wrong. Even the bad agents don’t do housecalls; they just try to scam you by email and phone.

    Wow, I’d been hearing good things about Castle, too. ::shakes head::

  2. October 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    ‘Nother note related to writing though not agents.

    Irony is part of rhetoric, not grammar.

  3. October 24, 2009 at 9:05 am

    And something very similar to this is the reason I no longer read For Better or For Worse.

    Did Not Do The Research much?

  4. 4 DKT
    October 28, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Oh, I dunno. If I sold books the way Stephen King, Dan Brown, or Neil Gaiman did *and* I looked like Nathan Fillion, I’d say anything is possible 🙂

  5. January 14, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Hehe. I love that show (and if nothing else, you should watch the first few minutes of the Halloween episode.) His agent is also his ex-wife, which might make an early morning drop in a little more believable.

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