First, Be A Fan
This last weekend I had the great privilege and pleasure to see two projects I represented (and one I edited over a decade ago) win Hugo Awards. I had two other clients nominated and, once the full voting came out, several more projects appearing on longlists. It was a good night.
I’ve talked a lot about my complicated relationship with awards and I have my deep frustrations with how much we focus on them. But, all told, at the end of the day, it’s impossible not to get caught up in them. You see your projects on the ballots and you want them to win. It’s that simple. Even though you’re rooting against your friends. Even though you’re rooting against your colleagues. You want that trophy. You want those accolades. You want that affirmation that yes, you do deserve to be here.
A few days ago, a client of mine delivered a mostly final version graphic novel they’ve been working on for over two years now. Graphic novels take a long time. This was the first I’ve ever sold and seeing it fully illustrated, in full color, was pretty special. Even more special was the experience of sitting down and reading it through, in its entirety in a single sitting. I was deeply moved by the final version. I laughed and I cried and it was everything I hoped it would be.
Here’s the thing about agents. We’re often forced to be dispassionate about the work we do. To step back with a cold, clinical eye and say “this is worth enough money.” To say “this is how many units we can sell.” And to say, “this isn’t good enough.” We talk our clients through the vicissitudes of the business, equal parts commiseration and telling them to suck it up and keep going. We’re the bearers of bad news. The negotiators of contracts. The designated scrappers, thrown head first into every conflict with the publisher.
But before all of that: we’re fans. We do this because we love the books we work on. We do all of the ugly tasks, for money, yes. Getting paid for our work is important. But before that we decide to take on a project because we love it. Because we’re fans of it. These precious moments that I got to have this week weren’t about the revenue we generated (although that is there), or the strategic positioning we’re considering (although that too is there). All of those thoughts come later. First is just the joy in celebrating a work you love. A story you believe in. A writer you want to see succeed.
There’s a divide between industry and fans. And it’s an important one and one we shouldn’t lose sight of when at cons, or interacting with people online. But even if we’re not part of “fandom” as an entity, we are first and foremost, fans in the purest sense of the word. We love the books we work on. We love the books our friends and colleagues work on. And we love the books we have nothing to do with, purely because they’re good stories that mean something to us. Love of the books is what got us all into this mess in the first place.
I try to remember that when the going gets rough. It’s hard to hang on to that feeling of joy when you first encounter that perfect gem of a story that got you excited in the first place. It’s hard to remember what you’re looking for when you’re deep in the query mines.
So I try to embrace these moments. Stave off the worry and the nagging voice asking “what’s next?” Linger in the pure simplicity of being a fan. And then move on, re-energized and committed to the work that remains to be done.