Thursday, August 8, 2019

Lovely Lisa - by Catriona

Q: Do you have, or have you ever had, an agent? Depending on your experience, mount an argument for or against having one.

I do. Her name is Lisa Moylett, of CMM Lit Agency in London, and we've been together for a very lucky thirteen years.

I can't do pros and cons, because there are no cons. Well, if you are or want to be self-publishing then an agent makes no sense, but if you are or want to be traditionally published an agent is like the cops, your mum and Google rolled into one package.

People look at the commission out of the side of the eye, I hear. Yes, Lisa earns 15% of whatever I earn, but when she negotiated my first contract she got me a 400% pay rise, so . . . you know. And also, notice that I said she earns it, not that she gets it. Lisa - like all good agents - works hard for her clients. Okay, some of the work is lunch but a lot of it is going over contracts with a toothcomb so fine it would bring me out in big, slapdash, borderline incompetent hives. 

It's the checking contract clauses, even more so than submitting and negotiating, that makes me thank my stars I've got her. An agent doesn't just haggle and scrabble and screw better deals out of publishers (well, a few agents do, but then publishers hide in cupboards when they see those agents coming, and an agent that no one in publishing wants to talk to is a bit of a liability), she also knows what battles to pick, what hills to die on. She knows which, apparently outrageous, contract clauses are boilerplate and can talk me down from the outrage. And she notices the tiny little changes that might have expensive repercussions down the line; things I wouldn't have seen with a spotlight trained on them.

She also knows what's happening in the publishing world (from all the lunches) and so knows when to pitch things and when to keep our powder dry. 

Why don't I know what's happening after all these years? Because when we get on the phone we talk about boys, clothes, politics, telly (not options, just actual telly) what we're reading, family news, her dog, my cat . . . it's a lot like having a really good friend who, by some miracle, it's okay to ask to do all the fiddly things you don't understand about your own job. 

And finally, next week, when I'm in London, going to meetings (lunchtime meetings, oh all right then lunch) with Lisa and three different publishers, I don't have to make any complicated arrangements about where to meet her because, as usual, I'm staying in her house. Now, that's a good agent. 

20170427_155655 (1)In Bryant Park, NYC, 2017


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Yup, staying at her house, that's a good agent.

Susan C Shea said...

I agree that a good agent goes far beyond selling the manuscript, although neither of mine has ever invited me to stay at her house, so there's room for improvement, I guess.

Brenda Chapman said...

You make me want to get an agent who is the clone of yours!

Frank Zafiro said...

That is a dream agent! Without the picture, I would have suspected you of gaslighting us!