"What Can I Expect from an Agent?"

Hollywood lied to me.

Dear Milo,

What can I expect from an agent if I get one?


Currently Querying

Dear Currently Querying,

Congratulations on entering the second-most anxiety-inducing step of the querying process! (Number one is when your agent sends your manuscript out to potential editors and publishers.) Querying is a whole thing, despite it mostly being us just waiting, so I hope you’re keeping yourself occupied in the meantime.

It’s great that you’re thinking about your expectations of an agent and what’s considered reasonable. I’m not sure if you’re asking in terms of book-related work or emotional labor, so I’m going to address both. As you probably know already, agents are often overworked, underpaid, and have full lives outside of their jobs. And yet despite this fact, sometimes writers have expectations that are wildly inaccurate. This can cause frustration for the agent, disappointment for the writer, and potentially a severed business relationship.

I don’t believe this situation is because we’re prima donnas expecting to be waited on hand and foot by someone who doesn’t make money off our work until we do. (Maybe a couple of us, but those people were spoiled to begin with.) Rather, I think it’s often due to one of my favorite things in the world: inaccurate movie portrayals of a writer’s life.