There’s some seriously great news coming, so I’ll start it off with my announcement: As of this past Friday, I have an agent! Now before I tell you how much I love her, let me back up a sec–because the journey deserves a retrospective glance.
You know I’ve been working on the same manuscript since Kath and I started Writer Unboxed. You’ve read about my struggles with the unpublished writer’s seven deadly sins, not to mention guy talk that sounds authentic and outlines that feel confining. I’ve shared my angst over writing a big story, dealing with sagging middles and finishing the first draft. Earlier this year, I finished the final draft of my wip. I’d researched how to write a query letter and experimented with tightening tricks to ensure agents would read beyond the first five pages.
It was time to get serious about the next step.
So I subscribed to Publishers Marketplace and developed a strategy: I’d call my fuzzy-genre manuscript “commercial fiction” until someone who knew better could put another label on it. I came up with my agent wish list. I identified published novels I felt conveyed a similar emotional tone as mine, ready to include the comp in my query. Then I wrote the dreaded query. And rewrote it.
A few months ago, I started to send out personalized, highly researched query letters. And had feedback pretty quickly. My post on batheticness was inspired by a telephone conversation with a fabulous agent who wasn’t going to be fabulous for me; he’d liked my story’s premise but wasn’t keen on the overall direction I’d chosen to take. This was followed by a post about laughing off rejection, inspired by a note from an agent who said my writing was “fantastic,” but how would she market it? Doubt started to creep in. Maybe it just wasn’t going to happen.
I gave the negative chatter a smackdown. No way. I’d worked too hard, too long for that. I wrote about my son, a baseball fanatic, overcoming over coaching in homestretch writing–about blocking out all the voices and following your gut. And my gut had said the manuscript was right, and it was finished. I had to believe it.
But I can’t deny that when I first saw Elisabeth Weed‘s name in my inbox, I wondered if it would be another rejection.
“I am so totally madly in love with your novel!” she wrote. “I am racing to finish the last 100 pages tonight but couldn’t wait until tomorrow (when I hope to call you) to tell you. Is there a number and time I can reach you?”
I blinked. The words were still there. I opened my manuscript. What in the last 100 pages could throw her? Anything? But the last 100 pages have always been my favorite; it’s where every Chekhov’s gun I’d planted goes off.
So I replied with something brief, determined not to seem too much like a freshman who’d just been asked to the prom–wonderful, yes, here’s my phone number, call anytime, looking forward to it.
I scrambled, did some research. Because I’d been paranoid that over-preparing for success would ensure failure in some karmic backasswards way, I didn’t have a ready list of questions to ask a would-be agent, even if I had tucked away a few articles. Writer Beware’s comprehensive agent page was invaluable (HERE), as was advice from my writerly friends (thank you, Allison, Kath, Elena, Amy and all you GIAMers).
After a night pretty short on sleep, I spoke with Elisabeth. I got right away that she was friendly, open, smart. She wanted me to ask her anything and everything, to be sure I felt she was right for my work and for me. Because this was a career decision and she believed in me for the long haul. So I asked: What would be her marketing approach? Who did she think would be right for Unbounded? Did she have any hesitations about the book? What sort of changes would she like to see made? How would she describe her agenting style, her communication style? Did she like to see works-in-progress, proposals? How would she handle foreign rights? Film rights? Submissions? Would she share copies of rejection letters? What were her contract terms, and would she send me a copy of her standard contract for review? How would she label my fuzzy-genre manuscript? (“Upmarket women’s fiction,” as it turns out.) Was she thinking in terms of one book or a career?
And I slept on it–well, laid in bed and thought about it until daybreak–and then we spoke again the next day and made it official. Why do I know she’s right for me and I’m not making a hasty choice?
* Her level of enthusiasm for the work
* Her level of commitment for growing her fiction list
* Her developing plan for marketing Unbounded
* Her hands-on editorial approach
* Her good-natured manner
* Her communication style
* Her reputation with her clients
* The breadth of her contacts
* My gut
I went to my son’s ball game that night and had a round of congratulations from family and friends. And then my son stepped up to the plate and hit another triple–completely over all that fear that had paralyzed him weeks ago–and it really did feel like A Moment. See now, life was telling me, aren’t you glad you didn’t get swallowed up by doubt and start extensive changes based on Agent X’s vision? Aren’t you glad you believed?
Yeah, I am.
And that’ll get me through the next stages, too: Sell the book. Develop a new idea. Keep on keepin’ on.
I hope all of you have the luck I did in finding the perfect match for your work. Keep believing in your vision. And as a friend of mine always told me whenever I was feeling doubtful: Never, never give up.
Write on, all!