The other day on Twitter – yes, where I get pretty much all of my news – I saw someone listed as an “agent and author coach.” And he was tweeting coach-y type things. You know – those energetically optimistic exhortations that you can doo eet. Usually with the caveat that you need the coach’s help to doo eet. (Sorry – Adam Sandler movies have forever corrupted this phrase for me.)
In case you haven’t picked up on my tone, I should say I’m not a huge fan of the whole coach concept to begin with.
Some of this goes back to being a 10 year-old cheerleader and having the football coaches yell at me to get the hell out of the way. And the coaches in school who also taught gym class and showed nothing but contempt for non-athletic me. So, yeah, I have issues there. But even the whole personal trainer and life coach trend bothers me. I even have a friend who’s a life coach, and she’s a really lovely, interesting and dynamic person, but I still have problems with telling people how to run their lives.
See, that’s the thing – a personal trainer or life coach really doesn’t have access to knowledge you don’t have. You can read all kinds of information on how to build muscle tone or organize your schedule. What the coach brings to the table is that outside perspective and a kind of authoritative permission/directive to do the things you really want or need to do.
I’m stubborn and self-directed, sometimes to a fault, and I really don’t like other people telling me what to do. Not my gig.
But let’s talk about these “author coaches.” We all know that the job of agent is in flux. With the rise of digital publishing, authors have access to publishing again in a way that they didn’t for many years. We still need agents to reach the upper echelons of traditional publishing, but that particular brass ring isn’t quite as shiny as it was. Certainly it’s not the be-all and end-all of a writing career anymore. Advances – where agents traditionally made most of their money – have shrunk or, in the case of many digital publishers, have gone away.
A lot of writers are questioning whether they need an agent. When I see agents selling their clients’ books to the exact same digital publishers that I am, I wonder, too. That debate is another issue, but what is undeniable is that many agents are reinventing themselves and their profession. Clearly the agents selling clients’ books to digital publishers that don’t do advances are making their money through a percent of royalties, perhaps with the hope of building the clients’ readership and moving them into bigger and better contracts.