In a perfect world, you sign with your dream agent who sells your manuscript to a well-known publisher for six figures. If only…
RU co-founder and Carina author Adrienne Giordano is back on campus to talk about her search for an agent. Take it away, Adrienne!
Like most things in my publishing career, finding an agent didn’t go according to plan. Looking back on it, this wasn’t a bad thing.
Five years ago, I completed what I considered my first “sellable” manuscript. Meaning, that manuscript was the first one I thought actually had a shot at getting published. At the time, I believed finding an agent would have to be my first step. After carefully researching agents, I came up with a target list and started querying. I was pleased when I received requests for fulls, but eventually the rejection letters trickled in. Maybe they more than trickled. The bright spot was most of the letters were positive.
So, I kept querying.
Three years and a hundred or so rejections later, I decided my plan of finding an agent needed to be revamped. I was in that treacherous place many writers find themselves. I had a stack of rejections from agents telling me I’d done everything well, but with the tough romantic suspense market, I hadn’t given them the right story.
By that time, I’d completed three manuscripts and thought I’d alter my plan by sending one of them to Carina Press, the digital arm of Harlequin. Six weeks later, I had my first contract. Then my second. Then my third. All without an agent. When my books released, I was overjoyed at the positive reviews and reader excitement, so I sent Carina a proposal for a fourth book in the series.
Fast forward to May of 2012. I had five contracted stories with Carina and an idea for another book in my Private Protectors series. And I hadn’t queried an agent in almost two years.
I still had one manuscript (not a romantic suspense) that I’d written that I wanted to do something with. I knew the manuscript had issues, but wasn’t sure how to fix them. I hired an editor to do a content edit and set about making her suggested changes.
A couple of weeks before I finished the edits, I had lunch with one of my Windy City RWA chapter friends who writes cozy mysteries. At lunch, I told her about the book I was editing. Did I mention this author happens to be a New York Times bestselling author? During lunch, she offered to ask her agent if she’d be interested in my mystery book. To say the offer was unexpected would be an understatement. I’d all but given up on finding an agent. Particularly because I’d been busy with my Carina books. Now though, I’d put all of my hard-earned editing knowledge into fixing up my one remaining unsold book.
Two weeks later, I sent the full manuscript to Laura Blake Peterson at Curtis Brown.
The following day, I had an agent.
Yep, it happened that fast. After all the years of query, rejection, query, rejection, query, rejection, I finally had an agent. And, don’t kill me for saying this, but I wasn’t even looking for one.
I’ve given this a lot of thought and I’m convinced of two things.
1. I strongly believe that I needed to experience the publishing process to know what I truly needed in an agent. I have a terrific relationship with my editor and the team at Carina Press. One of my first questions when first speaking with my soon-to-be-agent was how involved she got in the editorial process. I knew I didn’t want someone in between my editor and I and Laura understood that. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have known that and, for me, it’s an important factor.
2. Back when I first started querying agents, I wasn’t ready for one. I originally wanted an agent I could call and cry to, who would hold my hand and walk me through the publishing process. After going through the publication of five books, I realized the agent I needed five years ago, wasn’t the agent I need now. Today, I don’t necessarily need an agent I can cry to. I have Kelsey and Tracey for that. I don’t need an agent who will check in with me once a week either. What I do need is someone who tells me the brutal truth, can get me a fair deal and is there for me when I’m (as my agent says) ready to cut open a vein. That’s me though. Someone else might need a different agent and there’s nothing wrong with that.
My advice to all writers looking for an agent is to ask yourself what you need. And be honest because nobody else has to see the list. If you know what your specific needs are, you can start looking for agents who are compatible. If you want an agent who will get involved in the editorial process, you can start looking for someone who enjoys that rather than an agent who will simply let you and your editor work it out.
It’s all about asking yourself (and then the potential agent) questions. Hopefully, in the process, you’ll kiss the right frog.
RU Crew, do have any advice for writers who are looking for an agent?
Please join us on Friday, August 17th when we host Ask an Editor with Theresa Stevens.
Bio: Adrienne Giordano is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. For more information on Adrienne’s Private Protectors series please visit www.AdrienneGiordano.com. Adrienne can also be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AdrienneGiordanoAuthor and Twitter at http://twitter.com/AdriennGiordano.
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