There was a time–it seems like forever ago, and just yesterday–when my first agent contacted me to say she was leaving the industry. We’d been on submission with a novel for many, many months with no luck, so it wasn’t that hard to say, “Let’s pull it from consideration and I’ll use my latest WIP to try to find a new agent.”
(That sounds simple and painless, but trust me – losing my agent after not selling my book rattled me more than even I knew at the time.)
I was fortunate that I’d been following the tried and true advice for any author on submission: keep writing.
So, when it came time to seek new representation, I had a shiny new manuscript to show off. And you know what? I had fun querying again. Maybe there’s something wrong with me (okay, I *know* there are many things wrong with me, but this is different), but I actually enjoy the querying process. Seriously. It’s fun.
I didn’t have to query very long before I found an adorable agent at a fabulous agency. She and I clicked from the start, and I felt safe and secure in my writing space (or so I thought – remember how I said the first loss shook me up…). We did several rounds of revisions on my novel and then, fingers crossed, we went on submission.
The book didn’t sell in the first round.
We made some revisions based on feedback from the first round and went back out.
It didn’t sell.
We tried a third time. We let the editors in the third round look at it for a *really* long time. (By long time, I mean some of them have had the ms for over a year now…)
During this last round, things at work got stressful and the rain and darkness of winter didn’t help, and I basically became a non-writing mess. I couldn’t seem to settle on a project no matter how hard I tried. So, for over a year I ignored the cardinal rule of “keep writing.”
This is an important rule, folks.
Not only does it help keep you sane (or sane-ish), it means you’ve got a potential ace in your pocket if things go unexpectedly south. And for me, last week things went unexpectedly not north.
You see–and here is where the change that is not easy, but not bad comes in–last week my agent contacted me to let me know she’s leaving the industry.
I am extremely happy for her. I think she’s found a job that will challenge her and keep her excited about work for a long time. In fact, if she were just a friend instead of a business partner, I’d be all over throwing her a party because I think it’s so absolutely awesome. I really do.
But for me, the author, this is not so great news. We’re going to give the last round of editors one last shot at my manuscript and if no one bites we’re pulling it from consideration. (This sounds an awful lot like what happened with my first agent.) However, here’s where the story differs: this time, I didn’t keep writing.
I don’t have a nice, shiny new manuscript to woo a new agent with. In fact, I’ve got nothing except a history of books that never sold. This is not a great place to be when one is used to the comfort of having an agent.
Is this the end of the world?
Is this a major setback that I’ll never recover from?
You see, as much as my fragile author-ego is smarting from the thought of being un-agented again, it really doesn’t change my day-to-day writing. Think about it, my agent was basically twiddling her thumbs with me while I dithered around and produced nothing more than random scribbles and failed starts, so it’s not like I was giving her much to do on my behalf. What’s the difference between having an agent and not having an agent when you don’t have a manuscript?
My first thoughts were, “OMG, how am I going to find an agent now?” and I started scrounging for ‘things’ that might tempt an agent to take a chance on me even though I don’t have a novel to sub. I figured if I could find an agent right away, it would be like nothing had changed. Then I realized that isn’t fair to the agents I wanted to query. They don’t get paid until I do, so where is it right for me to ask them to give up their time when I have nothing concrete to offer in return?
Besides, I kind of also realized that my gut reaction to wanting to find an agent ASAP was motivated by a fear of not being able to find one when my next ms is complete. When I realized this, I realized how stupid my gut reaction was. Come on, I said to myself, you’ve landed and agent not once, but twice. You can write, and you can write well. The fact I wanted to land another agent without writing another book is sort of like saying I don’t think I can write another publishable story.
Gee, now that’s a great selling point, eh?
“Dear Agent: I’m feeling very insecure because my last two novels haven’t sold and I’ve lost two agents in that time. Please take me on as a client so I can feel better about myself even though I have nothing to offer you except a big bag of authorly angst. Sincerely, Cheryl.”
Losing an agent sucks. Not selling a book you love sucks.
Letting it get to you not only sucks, but it comes back to bite you when things get tough down the line.
I spoke with my agent today and she helped me see a few things. I also spoke with a dear friend who let me ramble on and off the path until the things I’d started to see with my agent became clear.
I am personally sad to be saying good-bye to my agent. She is a wonderful person who always looked out for my best interests and always seemed to know when I needed a nudge and when I needed space. She was the right person to be in my writing life at the right time.
I am also excited to be striking out on my own again, as it were. I went into writing with a “my game, my rules” attitude and I let rejection and publishing woes change me. Now that no one’s waiting for me to finish a novel, in fact no one but me really cares if I finish another book, I have the freedom to write what I want – for me. (Which, coincidentally, is exactly what every agent out there will tell you you’re supposed to do.)