Monday, January 08, 2007

Literary Agents. Do we need them?

It's been said time and time again that landing a literary agent is just as hard (or even harder) than finding an editor. That sucks! There are only a few publishing houses out there who'll look at unagented material (though with e-publishing, more and more aspiring writers have a fighting chance to get published).

As for me, I lucked out. Big time!

You see, I was never really on the hunt for an agent. The first three romance novels I wrote were targeted to Harlequin/Silhouette, which doesn't require an agent. I foolishly thought selling the "smaller" books would be easier. Let me tell ya. I should just paint STUPID on my forehead in big, bright letters for such backwards thinking. Har/Sil is one of the toughest houses to sell to, no matter how big or small the books are.

But I digress. We were talking about agents, right?

My agent story goes like this:

I went through this period of about two weeks when I did absolutely nothing writing-related. It was driving me CRAZY!!! My approach to writing has been extremely professional for several years. Even though I just sold my first novel, I've treated this like a job ever since I got serious about my craft. So going without writing, or at least researching, or sending out queries or submissions, was agony for me. Only problem is, I was too busy to get back to writing.

So, one morning, I decided I had to do something related to publishing. I figured the easiest thing would be to send out a few query letters. I opened up one of my trade magazines, found three of the most well-known literary agencies that accepted query letters only. I didn't have time to print out a synopsis or the first three chapters. It was query only, or bust.

I fully expected three form rejection letters, which I promptly received from two of the agencies. However, the third was a surprise. The agent asked to see the full manuscript.

The full manuscript? But he'd only read a one page query letter?

Needless to say, that baby was in the mail the next day. Five months later, I received an email. Was I still seeking representation?

Umm...well, you see. I was never really seeking representation. I only sent the query letters out because I didn't want to feel like a writing-sloth.

Don't worry. I didn't actually say that. I did the Cabbage Patch around my office (that's a dance to those too young to remember), and sent the most suck-up reply thanking my agent for taking on a new, wet-behind-the-ears writer. Seven months after signing me, he had the book sold. And I dare say I could have gotten through the whole contract process without him. I'm sure I'd still be crouched in a fetal position crying for my Mama if I didn't have my agent to hold my hand.

So, do we really need agents? Some may say no, and try to go at it on their own. As for me? No way! I relinquish my 15% with a smile on my face, and thank God daily that I sent out those queries that faithful morning.

To those still looking? Never give up!