Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for May: (5/4) Linda Norlander, (5/11) Connie Berry, (5/18) Mary Keliikoa, (5/22) Annette Dashofy, and (5/25) Rosalie Spielman.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Fine Line: Knowing Yourself

Earlier this month Nathan Bransford announced he was leaving the literary agent business to join a tech company. This news did not shock me; I had already labeled him in my categorical thinking as a sometime-agent. What do I mean by that? I mean someone whose primary work is something other than agenting. It doesn’t mean the person isn’t or can’t be a good agent; it means their heart is somewhere else.

How can you tell about some else’s intent? How can you tell about your own?

The best way to understand a person’s real intent is to observe how they spend their time. If someone is twittering all day long, making multiple posts on a number of listservs, has a daily blog that is often irrelevant or continues to emphasize an aspect of life other than the “main” area, then one should wonder if the intent isn’t more social than work-related.

I admit there may be a fine line in differentiating between activities to make oneself known, a.k.a. marketing, and those serving some other (maybe subconscious) objective. Take blogs for an example. Literary agent blogs can be particularly useful as marketing tools for newer agents who are building their reputations. A good blog draws readers who, when it comes to submitting their manuscripts, may be more likely to submit to agents they got to know through their written words. Blogs can also be a way for agents to give back to the writing community once they have become established.

I had the sense Nathan was more interested in (1) his own creative efforts (which seem to be doing well) and (2) technology for technology’s sake. Thus, his news did not shock me.

It was, however, a catalyst for me to think about how I spend my own “marketing” time—especially writing, reading and responding to blogs. I contribute to Writers Who Kill and My Two Cents Worth (Before Inflation) . The Two Cents blog is a bully pulpit where I write about money (use and abuse) and miscellaneous ideas that strike me as interesting. I write it because I like to; I have no expectation of any future payback, but have been pleasantly pleased when people have told me a post or series of posts has helped them in some way.

For Writers Who Kill I had multiple objectives: to entertain, to develop a following and to share my experiences in hopes they may help other writers. It’s been six months and time to reflect on how that’s going.

Any opinions you want to share?

~ Jim


Unknown said...

I thought it was strange that Nathan asked for pages from writers but rarely responded. Also, for all the hype he received, he didn't seem to sell anything. Those were major clues for me.

E. B. Davis said...

I had no idea Nathan wasn't in it for the long run. I thought that his blog was his outlet for his own need to write! Yeah, I'm naive.

It's been six months since we started this blog. I was dubious at first, but I think we've done a good job and our readership has increased, for which I am very thankful (if anyone wants to know what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving). I have to admit that I am often stumped for a subject, and yet since I am writing, there are always issues that I want to discuss with other writers and with our readers. The more minds the better.

So--thank you all for joining our blog. We hope in the coming year to (as Jim said) entertain, to catch the attention of those in the publishing industry and provide a forum for writers where we can share our ideas, our wins and commiserate about our losses. Thanks everyone!

Kaye George said...

I agree, Jim, the most visible "agents" aren't spending much time agenting. They probably get the most submissions, too, because everyone has heard of them, or follows them or something.

A good agent is buried in work! I wrote Nathan off a long time ago.

Nathan Bransford said...

I spent about an hour a day blogging and about 12 hours a day agenting, so if you want to judge me by how I spent my time, there you go!

There are plenty of hours in the day. Just because some agents blog doesn't mean they're not getting their work done,. How could they - their clients can see what they're doing online and they'd desert in droves.

Kaye George said...

I stand corrected! A lesson in not judging, eh? I wish you success in your new endeavor, Nathan.

In 2007, I did get a reject from you in 3 months. And Query Tracker gives you a good response report. You made the most of that hour a day online!

E. B. Davis said...

I don't know of anyone who isn't a work demon in this business. You've worked hard, have been successful and have found the need to move on. Your insights are valuable, seeing the industry from the inside. I've quoted you before in this blog and probably will again. Have a wonderful holiday, and thanks for dropping by, Nathan. Come see us again. We can benefit from your wisdom!

Jim Jackson said...

I did not mean nor intend to imply that while Nathan was agenting that he did not work long hours at his work -- only that I sensed that agenting itself was not the thing that really excited him. I thought he would make a really good teacher!

Many writers also work long hours at writing (something) when what really excites them is something else -- perhaps different types of writing, or perhaps something entirely different.

When we are trying to center ourselves we need to understand what causes our inner fires to burn hot.

Kaye George said...

True dat, Jim! I can't imagine not being able to write. It's what I've always done and, God willin' and the crick don't rise, what I'll always be doing.

BTW, E. B., this group is doing an excellent job with this blog! It's one of my favorites.

E. B. Davis said...

We try Kaye! I also think our guests have been terrific interview subjects and writers. It's one of the parts of the blog I like best because I find new authors to read. I'm a book addict and need new material everyday! I probably should be a professional reader, but I writing has more challenges.

Nathan Bransford said...


If you had written that I am heading off to pursue something that's more of a passion, I mean, how could I disagree with that? That's the very reason I'm leaving. But that isn't what you said in the post. You said the best way to judge someone's intent is by how they spend their time and suggested that my primary work was something other than agenting.

Well, I spent the vast majority of my time agenting. And I don't think it's fair to suggest that I ever took social media more seriously than agenting or spent more time at it. Social media was something that helped me and my clients do our jobs, and was nothing but a help. Agenting always came first.

Pauline Alldred said...

You never can tell what's in another person's heart and mind! I had no idea what blogging would entail and how our blog would develop. I think it's great that I've met so many writers through the blog and it's opened up my mind to other blogs. So, thank you to all our readers and contributors. I look forward to sharing the future with you.