Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Let's Talk About Agents

I never queried.

Don’t hate me.

I also no longer have an agent. Maybe it was a bad omen that “The Phone Call” where I was invited to sign with the agency came while I was at the awkward doctor, and my call went to voice mail.

But for a while there I thought I’d “arrived.” I’d spent a couple of years researching, writing, and finally polishing my manuscript. I wasn’t going to be “that” writer: the one who queried and then had to hurry to finish a draft to send off to an agent. In fact, I was near terrified of the query. People, I wanted to write fiction! I was as angsty about the query as my teen protagonist was about her boyfriend.

I hit the conference scene. An agent liked my sample chapter. A miracle. He requested the full. Four months later I’d signed with the first boy to say, “I love your book.” I had butterflies. I had visions of my book cover and my name in print. I was so nervous about real editors reading my sex scene that I would literally sweat when thinking about it. My parents might actually read that. I was GOING TO HAVE A REAL BOOK. My agent would make it so.


After revising for months—first a different beginning, then a totally different ending—the manuscript was ready. FINALLY. It went out on submission. If I thought querying was going to be scary. Oh, lord. I’m positive there is nothing more stressful than having a book on submission. Who would say yes to my book? Who would offer the biggest advance? Which publishing house had the coolest authors for me to associate myself with? These were all the wrong the worries.

The rejections came in over months. Not days. Not weeks. Months! My book and my dreams were dying the slowest of deaths. Then one day my agent decided to take his career in a different direction. It wasn’t personal. It was business. But still.

Back to square one. I a few things to do: Write new novel. Find agent. Revise. Submit. Hope it works out. No guaranties.

And that’s where I am now.

Do I still believe it will happen? Yes. I think I can get published. Am I willing to do years of writing and potentially suffer another failed submission? Yes.

Sometimes I wonder if my hands really hold a printed book I wrote if I will feel the ecstatic first love feelings or if it will be more like, There, I endured it. But, I’m jumping ahead again. What makes either one of those outcomes worth it is that writing and yearning to get published make me feel like I’m living hard. I need to live hard and feel a lot. That’s life.

Jody Sparks is a struggling novelist who also writes web content for Angie's List, The Children’s Museum, and other fine clients.


  1. I spent all last year seeking an agent, and I got one at the end of the year. But I also have a dozen books, in print, done without an agent. The only real reason to get an agent is to have your book submitted to the big 6 New York publishers. If that's not your goal then there are dozens, if not hundreds of small indie publisher of all stripes.

    So if your goal is just to be published professionally check out small pubs.

  2. I've heard even medium sized indies are easier for agents to talk to than unpublished authors, even when the publisher accepts unsolicted manuscripts.

    I'm looking at indies. Some of the up and coming are e-pub only, but I'm still hoping to get into at least some libraries.

  3. Yikes, we must be living in duplicate universes cuz you're living my life. Great post, David. I once had an agent who was SO excited about my book that I was on top of the world for an entire month. He asked for rewrites. "You bet," I said. A month later I emailed to say the rewrites were done. He said, "I'm sorry ma'am, I'm not taking on new clients."