Over the years, I‘ve met a fair number of literary agents. If I had to take a stab at how many, I would say probably close to thirty. I‘ve made it a point to place myself in their path and attend book events where agents like to be.
I got some great insider tips from all of those people.
In terms of seeking representation, I‘ve only seriously considered three.
The first literary agent I seriously considered was for my screenplays, and he did indeed take me on to represent my work. But it didn‘t work out. He didn‘t really have the right contacts to produce the screenplays I had written. He explained this to me and about a year later, he shut down his agency.
By the time I was ready to look for another agent, I was also writing music and short sketches for a kids‘ theatre group I‘d organized. I was also delving into picture books. I knew there were many things I wanted to write, and I would need an agent who could represent picture books, novels and screenplays.
I found an agency with an excellent reputation and solid portfolio and based on what I read about the agency‘s work, I thought they would be the perfect fit for me. But it didn‘t quite work out that way.
I submitted a sample of the manuscript for Everwhen, which at that time was a YA novel – not the manuscript I now have nearly finished. The writing was deemed strong enough to allow me entrance into the agency‘s exclusive writer‘s conference.
This meant I would be allowed to pay the entry fee and fly to America to meet their agents. I did go, and it was an incredible experience.
Making it to their top 1%.
That literary agency is interested in my work. They’ve given me a code to include in my emails so that anything I send them gets prioritized. But I have never taken advantage of that code, never sent them anything even though I could have.
It wasn‘t until I was going through chemo rehab (April 2021) that I finally asked myself, “Why haven’t I sent anything to the agency?”
This was for me a very hard question, one I now know I had been avoiding for well over a year. I had worked very hard (read: very, very hard) to make that connection with that particular agency. It had been a long and hard won effort. But it didn’t matter.
Deep down I knew they weren’t the right agency for me and it wasn’t until Easter weekend that I could really face that. Creatively, I just didn’t jive with those particular agents, which meant a solid working relationship with them wasn’t really possible.
For a while, I was just stuck. In stasis.
Instead of looking for another agent all over again, I had – simply – stalled. I stopped completely. The COVID pandemic hit, I was smacked with a family crisis, and then I got cancer. So sure, there were some serious, valid reasons for my writing to have stalled. No doubt. But I could have done something and I didn’t.
It was clear that the only thing I could do was search for another agent. Square One, all over again.
Finally looking again, and finding her.
I couldn’t work on the manuscript while at the clinic. That was out. I didn’t have anything with me. So I did what I was able to do. I put on my face mask and went down to the clinic lobby, to the dark corner and four clunky computers with internet access. It was so empty my footfall echoed.
I disinfected the keyboard, then my hands, and started searching through literary agencies.
Incredibly, I found the profile picture and name of a literary agent I once met at the International Book Fair in Frankfurt, about one year before the pandemic broke. She was terrific. When we met, I told her about how I was going to fly to America, to meet this other agency who I thought was a perfect fit for my writing. She had a little time before her next meeting, so we talked about family, movies we like, authors we like and why.
She recommended I read some books that weren’t yet on the market, certain titles to watch for and I’ve since read them all.
It was that moment, staring at a blinking monitor, my hands resting on a sticky keyboard on Easter Sunday that I realized she should be my agent. At least, she’s the agent who’s actually going to see my Everwhen manuscript, the one I’m rewriting these days.
I hope she loves it, my novel. It’s my best writing to date. I hope she will feel as I do, that we would make a terrific team. If not, well. I’ll brush myself off and start from Square One again. What else?