Courting an Agent

Me – looking all author-like

When I made the decision to seek agent representation for some of my work, I started to do the necessary homework. Looking up agencies who handled the types of stories I have in the works, reading about various agents based on interviews, keeping my ear to the ground to hear the scuttlebutt on Twitter, listening to agents in various chats, online forums, looking them up in the various platforms designed to assist the struggling writer in making their selections, etc. I have taken a slow and measured approach to finding an agent for a few reasons:

  1. This is someone I’m going to be in partnership with, and I want to ensure I have found the right partner.
  2. Sifting through all of the information, searching for the right mix of personality coupled with someone who loves my work takes time.
  3. It is a learning experience and with each fresh submission I have the opportunity to learn more.
  4. Having had an agent previously, I want to make sure this time it is the right match for me.

Based on my research, I had decided to try sending a Middle Grade novel with magical elements to Sara Megibow. On paper and from what I had found out about her, I thought we might be a good fit. I received a rejection on the query. For those who don’t know me, I view receiving rejections as a part of the process. I don’t get depressed, I don’t get anxious, I take it, file it, and move on. At the time I received the rejection from Sara, I was in the middle of revisions for Tattered and it had the majority of my attention.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet Sara at World Fantasy Con (WFC) in San Diego, while waiting for my friend (and Sara’s client), Jane Kindred, to take part in a panel. Sara and I hit it off right away, and both enjoyed the meeting. During the wait, the subject of rejections came up and how hurt some people get and how personally they take it, and being my usual smart-alecky self, I told Sara she had rejected me, but I was still willing to talk to her. So she had me pitch her right there in the hall. (Trust me when I say it was a lame pitch) Sara graciously asked me to send her the first thirty pages for her to take a look.

Throughout the weekend we ran into each other here and there, and I mentioned that I had another Middle Grade which insisted on being written, so started it that weekend. After the con, I gave it a few days and then sent the pages to Sara. She rejected with a very nice note about the strength of the writing, and how much she liked the characters, but it just wasn’t the right story for her. Fair enough. I was in the middle of first draft heaven with the Middle Grade action/adventure, so just kept on writing.

Through our correspondence and interaction on Twitter, I grew to appreciate Sara more and more as an agent as well as a person. She is my ideal of what I’m looking for in an agent. Her belief is that she must be her client’s number one advocate for their work and she has to be passionate about the work in order to pitch it with confidence. YES!!! This is what I want. So when the next manuscript was ready to be launched in search of an agent, Sara was definitely at the top of my list. She had some really lovely things to say about the writing and my characters, but once again, the story was not for her. And I appreciated her telling me that. It wouldn’t do either of us any good for her to take something on that she isn’t passionate about. And I don’t want anything less for my work.

At this point I felt that even though on a personal level we got along well, Sara was not likely the agent I was seeking. But while goofing off on Twitter one day, during her popular #10queriesin10tweets, Sara issued a challenge of a particular type of book she’d like to see written. Have I mentioned I’m a smart-aleck? Even though the type of book she mentioned was well outside my norm, I, of course, had to chime in and say I’d write it. Meaning it only as a joke, but then Sara asked me to write some pages and send them to her. Which I did… and now the story is under my skin and will be finished… one day. Because this time when I sent the pages off to Sara, I was a little nervous. Not about whether she’d pass on the book, but more about what would happen if she said she loved it and wanted the rest.

This story is completely outside my norm, and while I really appreciated the challenge and the stretching I am doing as a writer with the concept, if Sara loved this one, where would it leave us in the agent / client relationship? While I would have been tickled to have hit her fancy, what about all of the stories I have inside me that I have to write? You know, the stories I am passionate about. But since I took this on as a challenge, I saw it through.

When Sara had a chance to review the pages, she sent her regrets, and deep down I felt a sense of relief. No difficult decision for me to make. This is something we both wanted to make work. But it just wasn’t happening. We are not a good fit for each other, despite appreciating each other on both a personal and a professional basis.

© Photographer: Lakis Fourouklas

Why have I spent an extraordinarily long time telling this saga? Because I think it is important for writers to realize. Not every agent is the right one for you. Not even when you think they are an awesome agent and make fabulous deals for their clients. Not even when the agent finds your writing strong and your characters adorable. This is not a tale of rejection, but of determining whether or not we were a good fit for one another. Sara is an awesome agent. I am a good, strong writer. We are not a match. And I’m okay with that because we both want the same thing albeit from opposite sides—she wants a client whose work she can champion, and I want an agent who will champion my work.

So we will continue to interact on Twitter, and I’m sure we’ll run into one another at a conference some time in the future, and will be glad to see one another again. And I will continue in my quest, happy to have had the experience.

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18 Comments on “Courting an Agent”

  1. I think this is a wonderful post! We get caught up in that dream and the whole “It MUST happen this way with THIS agent, because…”

    But the truth is, even if an agent says “I’m not the one to champion your book” doesn’t mean they aren’t amazing people that you could enjoy hanging out with. Hooray for honesty!

    1. Thanks! I agree. And I think I have an excellent agent in my corner who, while she won’t be the agent to rep me, will always be supportive of me and my work. It’s a win/win situation as far as I see it.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s refreshing to hear all that transpired and to know that, even when there’s a good connection, not all agents and clients are right for each other.
    And you’re so right about Twitter. It’s a great place to find out the wants, needs, and personalities of agents.

  3. Excellent post! Getting an agent is often the end-all, be-all for authors, but they need to mesh, and so much can go wrong if they don’t. As you know, LK, even though I acquired an agent who was one of the top in his field, we parted ways when I realized he was not right for me. “Your” agent is just waiting for you to find them! 🙂

    1. Thanks! And yes, I do know that each agent/client relationship needs to be the right mix. Yours wasn’t. And another thing to consider is that not all projects are meant for the same route. Not every book is a blockbuster, nor should it be. The wonderful thing is that there are so many options available to us that have not been available in the past. I will continue on my quest for the right agent for me, and I will also continue to write the books I need to write, whether they be for a broad audience or a more select audience.

  4. Loved this post! I agree that it’s SO easy to get caught up in wanting an agent so much that we don’t look at that IMPORTANT detail that you’re not a fit. Even when you like them. Even when you are friends with them. I’ve come to that same conclusion myself, but it’s still good to hear it from others. Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. I agree. It IS good to hear it from others. And I agree “the fit” is something that gets lost in the shuffle sometimes.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  5. GREAT post, LK. I know it’s going to happen for you soon, and every step like this is one in the right direction. Thanks for providing such a nice perspective.


    1. Thanks. It really has been an excellent experience. Sara is such a sweetie, and very supportive. We both wanted things to work out, but onward I go. 🙂

  6. This is such a sane post. I have warm, friendly relationships with lots of agents via social media (not deep friendships, but nice “acquaintance-ships”) and most of them have rejected a book of mine at least once. There is so much more to the agent-writer match than just liking each other or being good at what you do (on either side of the equation).

    And when you read those #10queriesin10tweets, you see just how overwhelmed agents are with submissions and just how careful they need to be in their selection process. They have my respect. I could never do it, myself.

    1. I’m going through the process of hiring someone to work with me for the day job, and as we have been interviewing my mind has gone back to the query process time and time again. They are so similar, and some of the applicants I have passed on, not due to any lack on their part – they have the skills, they seem to be nice and would work well in my specialized environment – but there is that little thing that is so hard to explain where I feel that they are not a good fit for me. Yes, with some there are clear cut reasons, but others it isn’t a simple task to explain, even to myself, why.

      Agents go through the same thing times thousands (I don’t even want to hazard a guess on the total numbers) and while I can look forward to hiring someone and stopping the process, agents must continue to sift through, looking for the right fit, not only for them, but for their portfolio based on their other clients, and the agency overall. Not an easy task by a long stretch.

      Like you, agents definitely have my respect.

  7. …and if Sara is ever at a con where she runs into another agent for whom YOU MIGHT BE PERFECT, she would probably recommend you to send your words there… that would never happen if you let yourself be beaten down and feel rejected. Or if you let Sara feel the weight of your disappointment.

    Very good post, about life in general, actually, not just for agent-seeking. You will want to be with the one who wants to be with you, too.

    1. Exactly. Sara has been so supportive of me and my work throughout this process, which may sound odd, since she kept rejecting my work as not right for her, but it is true. And it’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this post, because it has been such a positive experience.

      And I agree, the concept spans beyond the agent-client relationship in so many ways.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  8. This is one of the best blog posts about agent sagas that I have ever read. Truly. I discovered it through the wilds of Twitter retweets and I am so grateful I had the chance to read it, so thank you for writing it!

    Subjectivity is no small thing, is it? Agents aren’t kidding when they say they want the perfect fit. This post goes to show you that and show you it so positively.

    1. Thank you for stopping by to read it. I’m so glad you found it in the wilds of Twitter RT’s. It’s a great place to find little gems. And you are so right…this is a subjective business and we can’t get caught up in taking every rejection as an attack against us personally. It was an excellent experience to have, and I’m so glad I could share.

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