Author:Chad Gervich

Publisher:Focal Press

ISBN:978-0-240-82377-5

Legend has it that the legendary film and stage star, Tallulah Bankhead, never had an agent. She also may never have had a manager. I very much doubt, however, that she never had an entertainment lawyer.

It’s also part of radio/TV lore that the 50-50 partnership between Kate Smith and Ted Collins was never reduced to writing.

Add to this the ancient suspicion that agents, whether they deal with real estate, employment, casting, or writing, being basically middlepersons, intrude, almost parasitically, between “true” creators and the ultimate consumers of their creations. Even Brad Wollack’s whimsical introduction to the book at hand reports how its author was advantaged precisely by dispensing with an agency relationship in dealing with that introduction. To be fair, however, Mr.Wollack’s basic, though somewhat tongue-in-cheek, point is that he was correspondingly disadvantaged.

The fact is, however, that whether representation in the fields of film, television, or publishing, is viewed as virtue or necessary evil, necessary it surely is as explored and explained in Mr. Gervich’s valuable and comprehensive reference book.

The book begins with what may strike many hopeful writers as irritating preaching to the converted. Such a choir member may be heard to chant, “Great, I’m really enjoying learning how to handle my agent. Now if I only had one. The highest pile of rejection letters on my author’s desk is from agents. I do better with publishers and producers.”

In addition to all the advantages author Gervich convincingly cites early on in his book as reasons for representation, the most compelling reality is that most significant publishers and producing entities will categorically refuse to consider unagented submissions. Indeed, arguably the most successful contemporary novelist in terms of selling his books to movies distills his online forum advice down to: “get a Hollywood agent.”

The most rational defense of this exclusionary policy would seem to be that producers need a filter to exclude from their sight unworthy submissions, which, everyone knows, exist in gay and non-gay profusion in the industry. Whether some agents have the background ideally to serve this filtering function is a question that might be the subject of another book.

More than half way through the book, Gervich gets around to advising authors how they might best go about getting an agent in the first place. Here, the Catch-22 pill is anything but sugar-coated. If an agent-seeking writer isn't prepared to move to Hollywood, hob-nob with its denizens, and take a work to its next level in the production chain, the writer may have to settle with producing the world’s best query letter, which should probably not be the first step in any event.

Commenting on Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents, Bookpleasures reviewer James F. Broderick noted that the book’s overall message might be a tad on the optimistic side. No such comment can be leveled at Mr. Gervich, Drew Goddard’s cheerful “words of wisdom” to the contrary notwithstanding.

This book and its forthright title are primarily dedicated to the already represented and it serves this elite constituency extraordinarily well. Never will a represented reader of this book be faced by any agent, manager, or entertainment lawyer saying, “Oh, our world is very complicated; just leave it all to us experts.” The weeds of this book have weeds, and the author guides the reader through them with encyclopedic thoroughness.

But for an aspiring, unrepresented, writer who is perfectly willing to accept the premise that representation is essential, or at least important, the reading of this book might efficiently start well past its mid-point. If the writer manages to marry—a metaphor the author is fond of—this book can then be taken down from the shelf, as the author anticipates and recommends, and read selectively based on the book’s serviceable glossary, notes, and index.

The formatting of this handsome book is admirable, with helpful sidebars and quoted material from industry experts throughout. Although the author sensibly stresses the importance of using good English in communicating even with industry insiders that may not recognize or appreciate it, I was surprised to see a model cover email include the following: “In the mean time [how mean can time be?], I hope…lemme [sic] know!” Some model.

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