Monday, November 8, 2010

5 Reasons You Don’t Have an Agent Yet

Not me, as in Sierra (although in point of fact I do not have an agent). But everyone. I bet many people wonder this, especially if you have friends or fellow writing buddies who have agents. Lots of people probably suffer from Agent Envy (and those who have agents but no book deals probably likewise suffer from Book Deal Envy). I think this is natural. I also think everyone who suffers from the envy probably tries to hide it. But it’s there, isn’t it? Especially if you’ve gone through the exhaustive query thing and done everything right and revised and fixed and followed rules and were ultra-professional, where God where are the agents knocking down your door?

Usually when I have some neurosis like this, it turns out that lots of other people have it too. So with that, here are my reasons as to why you (or me) do not have an agent:

1. Your or your book isn’t ready yet.
Everyone is at a different stage in their growth. Just because you and your friend are mind-twins in terms of brilliance doesn’t mean you’re both at the same place of writing maturity. Maybe she is and you aren’t. Or maybe you are and she isn’t, but she had a super hooky commercial fiction and you went the way of a slim volume of poems about dried up rose petals. Get over comparing yourself.

2. You write for a different market than your peers.
Maybe you write for one that's way slower, or has much more stringent requirements as to what you can submit and have accepted. Know your market, and adjust expectations accordingly. Don't compare to other writers in other hot or popular markets.


3. Everything is perfect except some unforeseen stupid ass first chapter crap that you should have known better about.
No one’s perfect. You learn. It’s okay. The key is discovering the crap part and fixing it, then picking yourself up (or scraping yourself out from under the fridge, if necessary) and carrying on. Writing a good story that is well formed in every way is hard.

4. Your book isn’t as good as you thought it was.
Look, even Jonathan Franzen’s FREEZE could have benefited from a critique group. Everyone makes mistakes. Just go forward, because if you give up then you won’t go forward. Consider very carefully whether your story is as interesting as you thought it was. If you aren't enjoying it after 107 read throughs, then maybe the book isn't really that great. Just move on.

5. Your time hasn’t come yet.
Or everything happens for a reason, in its own time. It could be that you are similarly clever to everyone else to has an agent, and that your book is dynamite. But as someone (super apologies for not remembering who) said recently, finding the right agent is like online dating. It’s going to take a while to make sure that right chemistry is there. Maybe you, in your life right now, aren’t quite there yet. It’s okay! You will be. Just later.

Finally, I leave you with a metaphor I’m shamelessly stealing from Kristen Lippert-Martin's extremely mega awesome query manifesto series (Part 1 and Part 2, git over and read them if you haven’t--they are BRILLIANT). Kristen tells us a story about doing a bike marathon thing and going up a heinous hill and nearly puking from it, and wanting to murder all the people whizzing down the hill in front of her, only to realize when she got to the top that all those people had had to struggle up the hill first, just as she did, before they got to whizz down. Read her version, it's better. But still, you see what I'm saying. All those people who have agents? They did the struggling--your struggling--already.

What do you think about these five reasons? I know lots of you are in this limbo field where you're querying...does any of this make sense? Care to add any?

21 comments:

Yvonne Osborne said...

I like to think my reasons have more to do with numbers 2 and 5 than the dreaded 4. I know one thing: I've never gotten tired of revising and rereading it, 107 times! I've not yet tired of my characters, and that has to be a good thing. Thanks for the post.

Linda G. said...

Well, I do have an agent (the magnificent Michelle Wolfson), but my book hasn't sold yet, so I understand all about book deal envy. Though I try to keep my complexion toned down to the palest shade of pastel green possible. ;)

And you know what? It might NOT sell (though we're not giving up). If it doesn't, maybe the next one will. Or the one after that. Persistence doesn't apply only before you get an agent. It's necessary every step of the way.

Lt. Cccyxx said...

I think I can especially relate to #2. I would like to think I can relate to #3 and #5, too.

The only one I might add is: "Your book doesn't fit the market right now."

Clarissa Draper said...

These are good reasons but we should never give up. Just keep working hard.
CD

Meghan Ward said...

Re: #4: I think it's hard for some people to accept that they may need to give up their current WIP and start a new book. It's tempting to revise 1000 times because you've invested so much time and energy into it, but there are some books that just aren't going to sell. That said, I have to go work on revision 1001 now.

KLM said...

I knew those marketing dollars I spent on your blog were going to yield BIG results for me. Thanks so much for the kind mention, m'dear.

I think you absolutely have to have faith in the idea that "when the time is right, it will happen." Because as corny as it sounds, it is true. Of course, it's frustrating because that means it's mostly beyond your control. But then, 90% of this whole biz is beyond our control, so I guess it's just an idea you've got to get used to and the sooner the better.

I, too, am in wait mode, as you know. The whole submission experience -- it's like deja vu all over again.

Roni Loren said...

Great post, Sierra. I definitely suffered from agent and book deal envy over the last two years. Now that I have both of those, I realize that the difference between the unagented/unsold writer and the agented/sold writer is VERY slim.

Honestly, a lot of it is right time, right place, right agent, right market, right editor, etc. etc. I think the online dating analogy is appropriate but instead of finding one "soulmate", you need to have multiple people at multiple levels fall in love with you (well, your story.) So I think all your reasons are valid, but I definitely subscribe heavily to #5.

I think as long as a person keeps writing and striving to constantly improve, his or her time will come. I know yours will! :)

demery bader-saye said...

Thanks for this. It's pretty early on in the game for me and I already feel defeated sometimes. I'm going to hang in there - keep adjusting those expectations - keep listening to the great advice that's out there - and keep working hard. By the way - I read every single article from your Friday Round Up and they were awesome! Thank you for that as well :)

Sierra Godfrey said...

Thanks for all the comments so far, guys. Each one of you makes great additional points.

I really strongly believe that persistence is a huge and important ingredient in one's success.

Roni's point about the difference being very slim between being agented/bookdealed and not is well taken. After all, you're still the same person when you get that call.

Karla Nellenbach said...

Thanks for this. It always helps to be reminded that I'm not the only one slogging my way through the agent-getting process. :)

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

Five reasons I don't have an agent yet:

1. Got knocked up and quit writing my book.
2. Can't seem to put down doughnuts long enough to use pen.
3. Baby girl seems to be feasting on my brain power.
4. I swear, my amniotic fluid must be made up of all my creative juices. Again, it all goes to Baby. Nothing left for me!
5. My muse is hormonal, crying at the drop of a hat... or, really, at the drop of ANYTHING that requires bending over for retrieval.

MISSED YOU!

coffeelvnmom said...

I think these are great reasons. You nailed them, Sierra. =)

Jeannie Moon said...

Great post, Sierra and so true. I have the agent and thought I had the book deal, but it fell apart in the marketing department. I have some lovely editors who really want me to write a book they can buy, but until then I am a little green with envy.

It's hard when you do everything you're supposed to do and the stars don't align, but that's exactly what has to happen.

Anne R. Allen said...

Those are some good reasons. Add to that "you call your book a comedy or 'humorous fiction'."

I just read a quote from veteran agent Aaron Priest saying "NEVER call your book a comedy. Comic novels don't sell. Call it a thriller (mystery/romance/whatever) with a unique voice."

Another reason your friend gets published before you: she writes for YA or MG. Or a particular hot-selling romance line. Or there are zombies in zeppelins.

I like #5 the best. I do hope my time comes in my actual lifetime.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Oh, good. I'm okay. I already knew why I don't have an agent. But I do have a severe case of "done with my rewrites and actively querying" envy.

Kellye said...

Nice post, Sierra! Amber, I remember those days. My baby is 14 now--it truly goes fast. Enjoy the time with the little one, keep writing when you can, and know that you will have more time (and sleep and creative juice) in time.

Tawna Fenske said...

Though I have both the agent and the book deal, I agree 110% with everything you've said here. There are things you can control and things you can't, but bottom line, we each have a different path to publication or agent representation. Comparing ourselves to each other is both frustrating and futile. Better to just keep our eyes on the road and continue moving ahead.

Great post!

Tawna

Julie Dao said...

These are genius reasons that I bet pretty much every unagented writer can relate to. I know that I'm not ready myself, but I tell myself that I will be sometime soon. I just have to work at it. Love that bike metaphor! I'm just now beginning my trek up the hill.

SAMUEL PARK said...

These are all very very good points, and very insightful. I especially like what you wrote about markets--indeed some are much harder and trickier to break into than others. Glad that you're offering perspective.

Tina Lynn said...

I'm sure I could add several more. Like -

1.) I rack up more word count on Twitter than on my WIP.

2.) I spend far too much time trying to appease the muse rather than showing her who is boss.

And many, many others. Soon, I'll blame it on the worldwide chocolate shortage. How am I supposed to write without chocolate?

DL Hammons said...

Brillance and simplicity...personified!! Keep pedaling! :)

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