Chip MacGregor

January 21, 2013

Do you enjoy being an agent the most at this point?


Someone sent in this: “You’ve been involved in just about every aspect when it comes to the publishing world. Do you enjoy being an agent the most at this point?”

I love agenting. Right now I can’t imagine ever leaving agenting to do anything else in publishing — and that answer comes out of a lot of publishing experience. I’ve made my living as a writer, editor, agent, and publisher. But there’s no question that my favorite role has been that of agent. Why?

First, because I love books and words, and have enjoyed making my living with them. As an agent, I get a chance to talk to a lot of authors about their book ideas and their writing. I have the opportunity to explore a lot of great ideas, to brainstorm stories, and to offer my completely bone-headed opinions on things I know nothing about.

Second, I have a heart for mentoring. It’s my nature to work with a small group of people and talk with them about how to move forward, so I enjoy the personal side of this job.

Third, I have a natural ability with strategic planning. When I was in my doctoral program at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), I did my graduate teaching fellowship as the assistant director of the Career Planning and Placement office. That helped me know how to bring to bear the principles of organizational development to an individual’s career choices. (The U of O is strong in the arts, but didn’t have much in terms of career assistance. My job, years ago, was to help develop some tools for those people.) I frequently hear agents talk about the importance of authors doing career planning, but it really seems like to many of them that means, “You need a book deal.” Of COURSE the author needs a book deal — that’s why they signed on with an agent. For a good agent, “career development” means helping authors recognize where they are, define where they need to be, and determine the steps they need to take if they are to move forward. I love talking with writers about their careers and their future plans.

Fourth, I actually enjoy the business side of publishing. I represent great authors, really like the editors I do business with, and just enjoy the entire process of getting books done.

Besides, I’ve tried those other jobs. I don’t want to be an editor again, sitting down with a red pen and a big chunk of dead trees. I don’t want to be a publisher again, since my time as a publisher sucked a lot of the joy out of the business. I still write a bit (this blog is the main focus), but don’t see myself moving into a full-time writing role again. Agenting is a nice fit for me. Thanks for asking.

And this is a good time to say, if you have a question about agents, publishing, or writing careers, I’m happy to post it on the blog and offer any help I can. Feel free to drop your questions into the “comments” section. Appreciate you taking the time to read this.


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