If you had a warehouse filled with sweet smelling soap, and you were unable to sell it, what would you do? You would hire a man who could. And if your business was manufacturing soap, your selling could not wholly be done by yourself. Its too much to ask. This selling is highly complex, very expensive.
Therefore, instead of wasting your valuable manufacturing time peddling your own manuscripts, why not let another handle the selling for you?
Theres more than knowing markets to selling. The salesman should be in constant contact with the buyer. A writer cannot be in constant contact with his editors. It would cost money. Luncheons, cigars, all the rest. An agent takes care of all that and the cost is split up among his writers so that no one of them feels the burden too heavily.
An agent, if he is good, sells more than his 10 percent extra. And he acts as a buffer between you and the postman. Nothing is more terrible than the brown envelope in the box. Its likely to kill the day. Youre likely to file the story and forget it. But the agent merely sends the yarn out again, and when it comes home, out again it goes. He worries and doesnt tell you until you hold the check in your hand.
The collaborating agent and the critic have no place here. They are advisors and doctors. Your sales department should really have no function except selling and perhaps when a market is going sour, forward a few editorial comments without any added by your agent. This tends for high morale, and a writers morale must always be high. When we started, we assumed that you already could write.
By all means, get an agent, and if you get one and he is no good to you, ditch him and try another. There are plenty of good agents. And they are worth far more than 10 percent.
Your agent is your advertising department. He can tell the editor things which you, out of modesty, cannot. He can keep you in the minds of the men who count.
But a writer is his own walking advertisement. His reputation is his own making. His actions count for more than his stories. His reliability is hard won and when won is often the deciding factor in a sale. Editors must know you can produce, that you are earnest in your attempt to work with them.
To show what actions can do, one writer recently made it a habit to bait an editor as he went out to lunch. This writer met this editor every day, forced his company on the editor and then, when they were eating, the writer would haul out synopsis after synopsis. The answer is, the writer doesnt work there anymore.
If a check is due, several writers I know haunt the office. It fails to hurry the check and it often puts an end to the contact when overdone. Many harry their editors for early decisions, make themselves nuisances in the office. Soon they stop selling there. Others always have a sob story handy.
Sob stories are pretty well taboo. Its hitting below the belt. And sob stories from writer to writer are awful. One man I know has wrecked his friendship with his formerly closest companions simply because he couldnt keep his troubles to himself. Its actually hurt his sales. You see, he makes more money than anyone I know, and he cant live on it. Ye gods, ALL of us have troubles, but few professionals use them to get checks or sympathy.
Reputation is everything.
It does not hurt to do extra work for an editor. Such as department letters. Check it off to advertising. Answer all mail. Do a book for advertising. Write articles. Your name is your trademark. The better known the better sales.