A few years ago a friend who is in the publishing industry allowed me to use her name in the subject line of a query email to one of the largest agents in the land. I don’t mean to say that this woman agent is fat, just that her agency employed other agents and that her reputation is larger than life. She is/was famous, infamous, legendary, notorious, wildly successful, and a mentor to many agents who followed in her footsteps.
The agency loved my pitch and wanted a few pages of Finding Clarity. I was thrilled. What followed was the typical dance: they wanted a few chapters, then 100 pages, and evidence of my “platform” including many of my New York Times articles.
When the agency then asked for the synopsis of my next Clari Drake novel, my cup runneth’ed over. I worked hard studying the style of writing required for synopses. I provided the agent with one, followed by the first 100 pages of this second WIP (work in progress.) My writer friends were as excited as I was. This agent was, after all, all powerful.
Then one day she asked me for a revision of Finding Clarity. She had read the entire thing, and loved it, but wanted a few scenes moved up. She didn’t like a certain chapter and wanted it cut out, which meant finessing other plot points. Could I do these two things? Why certainly, anything to get representation from Her Largeness.
I cut 30,000 words out of my manuscript and turned the work around in two weeks. I cleared by calendar and went off line in order to accomplish this.
She confirmed that she got my revision. Then the love stopped.
Months went by and my emails were returned with breathless news of all the conferences Large Agent was busy attending. Why, I was sitting right here, writing away in Berkeley! Why wasn’t she ready to sign me?
Then one day I turned to my husband while we were knee deep in the ocean on a family vacation and I said, “She’s blowing me off, isn’t she?”
“Ah, yup,” he replied. “’Fraid so.”
My friend who allowed me to use her name was furious. A phone call was in order. I should have had a signed contract much earlier in this negotiation. But the agent had stopped responding to my attempts to reach her.
Then one day I got an email. It was 4:55pm on a Friday, that magical time for a “clearing out an inbox” email. She said, and I quote, that I “did not rise to the top of the pack.” The agent who had asked for more and more and more from me, revisions, sections of the new book, proof of my excellent work as a New York Times reporter, decided, after EIGHT months, that I was little more than a canine metaphor.
Then she ended with this: “But if no one else wants you, let me know.”
I didn’t say Fuck You, which would have showed more class than she deserved. Instead, with my dyed-in-the-wool New England sensibilities and manners, I wrote back and thanked her for her time and attention over the past EIGHT months. I then had the temerity to ask for her evaluation or opinion of the revision that I knocked out for her! She never even gave me the courtesy of a reply.
Fast forward a year. A writer friend met the agent in a bar during a conference. The agent nervously confided that her income had dropped by 75% in the past year. Yes, she was taking home one one-fourth of what she previously had.
Well, anyone who takes EIGHT months to make a decision, anyone who is that ineffective, rude and sloppy deserves to make a quarter of their income. I laughed out loud when I heard that. In the time Large Agent spent jerking me around, she might have sold my book to a publisher.
Note to her: Finding Clarity has done very well on Amazon. I’ve had thousands upon thousands of books downloaded. I’ve even reached #16 in comic fiction and women sleuths at certain points. Her loss.
Adapt or die. That’s what’s going on in the publishing world and that’s precisely what I am doing. I am in charge of my destiny, no matter how indie or low-key it might be.
I don’t think about this agent or her actions more than maybe once a year, and that is only when prompted. She might well have made the right choice about me. She might indeed have known what she was doing. But sometimes it’s all in the swing, rather in whether or not you hit the ball. Her mode of doing business was not mine. And it never will be.
I understand now that Famous Agent actually did me a huge favor, but I can’t resist this final, churlish and childish retort: don’t let the dog bite you in the butt on your way out of business. Top of the pack indeed.