This poster from Despair.com embodies a vision I’m coming to embrace in my own life. In the spirit of that sentiment, I’ll discuss a question commenters Sherry and Kathleen Marie raised on my last post, which was (in essence), “How does a head case like you get an agent?”
The answer is, “Once, by luck. Probably never again.”
(I’m not going to name my agents, by the way. They’re good guys who agented part time and never made it to the top of the pile. They made some choices that probably weren’t optimal, but then so have I.)
I’ve sometimes referred to “my agent” in blog posts, but that was an abbreviation of convenience. In fact they were a two-man shop. I’ll call them Primus and Secundus. Primus was the senior partner, and I dealt with him mostly when I actually had book contracts. I dealt with Secundus when I was out in the cold, at the beginning and at the end.
I got acquainted with them (by correspondence; I’ve never actually met either man) back when I was writing short fantasy stories. They were editors for a certain prominent fantasy and science fiction magazine, and they immediately impressed me with their taste and good judgment (by buying the first short story I ever sent them).
After a couple fruitful years (in which I never managed to sell a story to anybody else) they announced they were resigning from the magazine and opening an agency. They asked me if I’d care to come on board, and I jumped at it, knowing that getting an agent in the first place is one of the biggest hurdles a prospective author faces.
Then followed about ten years of nothing. I dealt almost exclusively with Secundus during that period, and they sent my first manuscript, and then a second, off to one publisher after another. Each one bounced back, although I got some flattering rejections.
I noticed, as time passed, that the agency was… less than energetic. Very compatible with my own personal style, of course, but not what you really want in an agent. They’d send a book off to somebody, and a year and a half later I’d ask them whether they’d heard anything, and they’d say, “Oh yes, we’ll have to give them a call.” Then another year would pass before the final rejection came.
Finally Jim Baen of Baen Books took the bait, and I started dealing with Primus.
Four books later, Jim Baen invited me never to darken his transom again, and I was back with Secundus.
And the slow, measured rhythm of submissions resumed. And again I’d ask them after a year or two if they’d heard anything, and again I’d get the impression that they’d forgotten about me completely.
Then one day I e-mailed Primus (I forget why it was him and not Secundus), and got no response. When I e-mailed him again, he replied that I should contact Secundus.
And Secundus told me that a) Primus was in bad health, and b) they’d recently noticed that nobody was returning their calls or messages. They deduced from this fact that they were out of business.
But Secundus said that he’d been in contact with a woman from a major agency, and she was interested in hearing from me. So I carefully sent her an e-mail with my personal bibliography, along with sample chapters from an unpublished book as an attachment.
I’ve done some research on this agency, and I have my doubts. For one thing this agency proudly declares itself a pioneering feminist agency. It was begun for the express purpose of getting more women writers published.
This makes me wonder if, after all these years, Secundus has ever actually read one of my books. Maybe he thinks I’m a woman. It’s a little troubling when your own agent misunderstands you so fundamentally.
So here I am. I’ve asked a couple writer acquaintances for references, but the one contact I’ve gotten went into the hospital about the time I e-mailed him, and so nothing has happened to date.
As you’d expect, knowing me, my hopes aren’t high.
Maybe when this bout of light-headedness (and heavy-bottomedness) is past.