Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Tale of Five Agents: Agent #2

Tonka Tiger, sleeping the afternoon away.  There isn't much
cuter in this world than seeing a full-grown tiger sleeping
with their not-so-little pink tongue sticking out.
Call me a dreamer.  Call me egotistical.

The night after I got the call from Agent #1 saying she wanted to represent me and my book, I sat down and reviewed my list of agents.  If my query and manuscript were good enough to get one agent interested, why not send it out to some of the agents on my If You Gotta Dream list

 So I did.

And to my absolute thunder-struck You-Have-Got-To-Be-Kidding-Me amazement, I received an email from someone from KidLit Agency That Represents One of My Favorite Authors.  Who asked if I had time for a phone call.  Me.  Phone call.  With her.  About my book.

(Um, yeah, I think I can fit your call in... between the hyperventilating and the attempts to calm down.)

I spoke with Agent #2 that afternoon.  She was upfront and said while she liked many things about the book, she didn't feel it was at a point where she could make me an offer of representation.  She understood that I had a solid offer in-hand, and was sorry she couldn't offer me more, but if anything was to happen with Agent #1 she was interested in working with me.  Even better, she was willing to tell me what she felt my book needed to bring it to a level where she could make me an offer.

Forty minutes later I had a handful of notes.  I was already thinking how I could incorporate some of her suggestions and how they would make The Book much better.  The rest of the day was spent in a mild state of shock and getting comfortable with the idea of letting go of the firm offer of representation for the sake of improving my book.

What Agent #2 was offering was her time and energy, but nothing formal in terms of a contract.  The understanding was that we would work together, exclusively, on getting the book to a point where she could make me an offer -- but there were no guarantees that an offer would come at the end of the process.

For me, it was a question of belief: did I believe in my story and myself as a writer to take her suggestions and turn my goofy little story into something much better, much deeper, and more complex?

That night I emailed Agent #1 with my appreciation for her offer but that I was going be working with someone else.

Over the course of six months I wrote four major revisions.  Agent #2 sent me a line-edited print-out of my manuscript.  Her suggestions for revisions were encouraging, never dictatorial.  She always treated me like a creative, professional writer who could piece together ways of giving my story and my characters the boosts she felt they needed.

The book went from 22,000 words to 56,000 words.  My characters had history and deeper interactions.  New scenes were added.  The tension throughout the ending chapters was amplified.  My goofy little kids book had grown and matured!  Each revision was greeted by Agent #2 by more praise, stronger encouragement.

In early April I sent off the revision of the book that I knew was going to be The One.  I started practicing looking at my cellphone and apologizing to people saying, "I'm sorry, I have to take this.  It's my agent" before answering.

Weeks went by.  Silence.

Nothing new.  I told myself Agent #2 was busy and, besides, she now needed to write up a contract with my name on it.  I'd waited before, doing so for another few days wouldn't hurt anything.  Besides, I needed to get to work revising Book Two to match up with the new standards set by the Revised Book One.

The first week of May Agent #2 sent me an email.

"it’s SO much richer, deeper, improved, and I really enjoyed all the changes this round..."

And then she said she was going to have to pass on my book.

I stared at my monitor for... well, I have no idea how long I stared at my monitor.  It was a long time.

Was it me?  Was it something I'd written?  Not written?  Had she loved the book only to have it vetoed by another agent in the office?  What changed from months of nothing but praise and encouragement to "just not close enough to take it on"?  I felt left at the altar... or something.

I wanted answers, but I knew there was no way I'd ever find out what happened or what changed or... anything.  The best I could do was take all of the good things that had happened with my manuscript and move on.

Luckily I had a Plan B.

Next: Plan B = Agent #3!

MORAL: Believe in yourself, your manuscript and your ability as a writer. 

-- Tom