It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about the quest for a literary agent. Not that I haven’t been seeking representation like a crazy person for my middle grade novel “The Luck of Lily Adams” all summer- -I certainly have! At last I’ve exhausted my preliminary list of possible literary agents for the project. This week, I faced the wearisome task of finding a batch of new agents who might just possibly be a good “fit” for me and my writing.
Some encouraging news came my way with “Lily”: one of the agents I queried this summer requested the full manuscript! I’ll back up a bit for those of you who’ve never looked for a literary agent. The first step in the dance is sending the agent a query. These days, a typical query is sent via email (no attachments!) and will most likely consist of the (extremely difficult to write) query letter and some sample pages of the manuscript in question (I’ve seen requests for two pages to fifty pages and everything in between). Some agents will also want a brief synopsis, summarizing the story in one or two pages.
Most queries end in rejection, either through a brief “not right for me at this time”-flavored email or through the passing of time. “The passing of time” means that many literary agencies respond only to queries that interest them; the kinder ones will give you a timeline, generally expressed in a number of weeks, at the end of which you may consider your hopes officially dashed.
Rejection is business as usual for writers, so you can imagine how my heart nearly burst through my chest when I received a request for the full manuscript! My book, the agent said, had intrigued her! Between July 23 and the morning of August 21 I dreamed dreams of literary representation, of a sale to a high-powered publisher with an actual marketing department and other helpful niceties. This dream ended in what is called a “positive” rejection:
Thank you so much for sharing THE LUCK OF LILY ADAMS with me.
Uh-oh, I can see it coming. . .but, from my perspective, there’s an upside:
You’re a talented writer and there was so much to enjoy and admire in your story, but at the end of the day I haven’t found myself falling head over heels for it in the way that I had hoped that I might and would ultimately need in order to take this on. And you deserve nothing less than an agent who is head over heels!
I continue my search for a literary agent who is head over heels for “The Luck of Lily Adams.” It reminds me of being single in the mid-1980s, of lots of first dates that died on the vine. Many liken a good author/agent relationship to a happy marriage, and there’s a reason for that. The agent I hope to find will be eager to work with me to make my books as good as they possibly can be, something I believe most parents hope to do in raising their children.
It feels like what I imagine using an online dating service must feel like, going back to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators website, working through pages of agency listings in “The Book” to find the ones that might be a good fit. I found twenty-nine; about half of those I’ve rated as possible, three of them as highly possible. So that’s where I’m starting. Again. Deciding which agent at a given agency seems the best fit; reading whatever I can find online about that individual; ferreting out their client list and the books they’ve represented; finding copies of those books to read to see if I still think my work will interest the agent. At least I don’t have to wear nylons, style my hair or put on makeup to make a good impression. Yet.
Some agencies, by the way, didn’t make a good impression on me, once I got digging. Three on my new list have a “website under construction” instead of an active website so I can’t find out much about them. Four are closed to unsolicited submissions. One describes itself as a “content marketing agency,” which, I believe, would be a good match for authors who describe their projects as “an excellent product placement opportunity.” I shudder to think who these two types would be in the real-world dating scene; the words “run away” come swiftly to mind.
Please send your good wishes for my success as Agent Search, 2018, enters phase two. With luck, you may, one day, have a lovely new book of mine to enjoy in addition to the weekly blog!