Along with work, it's finals week (I'm taking a break from grading to write this now), and I've been plagued by migraines. More, I've been on a sort of emotional roller coaster regarding my writing career.
Around the beginning of the year, I resolved to start looking for an agent. Well, I haven't. I researched one and one only, and I sent her a short query, but that was as far as it got. I stopped thinking about it and began to find my comfort again in publishing short work online.
Then it happened. This week, an agent contacted me through my website. She said that after reading "Don't Tease the Elephants" in Monkeybicycle, she found my contact information online and would love to converse. The first thing I did was Google her and her agency. I thought I'd heard of the agency, but I wasn't sure. The agent is legit and the agency is well established. So, I guess you could say, I got the call. The thing is, I didn't see it coming and did not feel prepared.
In order to prepare for our chat, I went online and researched, looking for articles to try and figure out what an agent's role really is and whether that would be something I'd really benefit from. (You know, all the things I said I'd do months ago.) She asked for a short sample of a longer work in the meantime as I am promoting the fact that I have a novel-in-progress. I sent a sample with disclaimers. It was near-maddening to release a small piece of a project that I was not yet planning to send to anyone.
The thing is, I have dreamed of getting this call (which was really an email initially), but when it happened I was caught off-guard. I wanted to be more prepared for our first conversation, but I also didn't want to squander the opportunity to connect. I read numerous interviews with agents and found that many times agents will approach authors instead of responding to queries (strong argument for publishing online) because there are just so many queries that they can't possibly answer them all. I found quite a few sites that suggested questions to ask (the sites I found most helpful are listed below). Armed with these questions, I asked the agent how hands-on she was, how often she spoke with her clients, and whether there was a market for short story collections (I have a full collection almost ready to go, but a novel that could still use some TLC). I asked her what attracted her to my work and how she would categorize it as she shopped it. I told her I was nervous about the sample I sent her, and that I felt far more comfortable with my short story collection; but, she seemed to want the novel. She said the novel would be a good place to begin. I thought, Nooooooo.... but then I thought again, and I agree. Story collections are a tough major-market sell. And also, I might want to place my own collection in more of an indie market so long as I do it smartly. We'll see. My mind is open to the possibility.
The call was very efficient and, honestly, a bit anticlimactic. She offered some background on her agency, the authors the agency represents and how foreign rights are handled. What I realized is that the agent's role varies greatly from agency to agency. For instance, some agents are far more hands-on than others; some handle foreign rights themselves; some like to speak with their authors monthly, whereas others prefer to see in-progress work weekly. The conversation was enlightening.
After the call, I told friends. A few friends were congratulatory, telling me I deserved it; others told me to be careful and to ensure she has my best interest in mind and would best present my work. Some asked if the agent charges fees. (No.) Some asked whether she'd represent me or the book or the career. Good question. I appreciate all the support. What I've come to realize is that the process is not as easy or straightforward as I thought. It's a business relationship that must develop. There are no guarantees.
I'm excited, and I'm really motivated to get a hundred pages of my novel really polished by the end of the month (as promised). But, I'm also keeping my feet on the ground here. I've made some mistakes in the literary game. But, for my sanity's sake, I refuse to dwell. I am looking ahead, and I believe that if this is supposed to happen, it will. I believe that for everyone. Work, work, work, work, work, work, and work some more. Eventually, if you work hard enough and keep your mind open, something will happen.
All that to say, again, I've been an emotional wreck. I've been very happy, and I've felt very naked. I've felt both supported and not. It's an interesting outcome, and it's really enlightening. I suppose I can only focus on the positive, get those hundred pages set, and be honest with myself as our correspondence continues.
In other news, I have an experimental piece in ARDOR entitled After the Gazebo. It was wonderful working with the staff there, and I'm really proud of the piece because the way it's told is very difficult (for me) to pull off. If you go to the link, also, you can PDF the pages. I read the whole magazine that way. There's beautiful photography and truly provocative work in those pages.
Here are the sites that helped me to prepare for my first agent call. If you're looking yourself, or think you might get the call one day, save yourself some emotional upset and read these ahead of time:
What to Ask an Agent?
Questions to ask an agent offering representation
Hopefully, I'll have an update the last week of the month. My writing career has been transparent, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Writing is hard work. Instead of trying to create the facade that I'm flawless and incredibly talented, I'd rather let everyone know that I'm flaw-filled and have very little talent. The thing is, I work my ass off because I love to write, and I love to tell stories. Whatever happens, it's an interesting ride, and I'll keep putting in work.
"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." - Albert Einstein