"How I Got My Agent" is a new recurring feature on the GLA blog. I find it fascinating to see the exact road people took that landed them with a rep. Seeing the things people did right vs. what they did wrong (highs and the lows) can help other scribes who are on the same journey. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings.
To see the previous installments of this column, click here.
If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll talk specifics.
DROPPED BY MY PUBLISHER
A few months before the release of my second book, Lord of Pleasure, I discovered that my publisher, Kensington, was not going to be renewing contracts. It's a writer's worst nightmare to be rejected by your own publisher once you thought you've made it. What could possibly be worse than being rejected by your own publisher? Letting go of your agent beforehand, which, yes, I did. Just after my agent and I parted ways, I got the bad news from Kensington.
So without a contract and without an agent, I basically started over. I queried 15 agents and every single one of them came back with the same answer, "Love the writing but it's a tough market." Seeing it took me 11 years to get published and that during those 11 years, I had garnered over two hundred rejections, I knew I needed to keep trudging onward. So I did the one thing I could do. I submitted to publishers on my own. Or at least those that would let me query without an agent (which isn't very many...). I queried Avon, HQN, and Sourcebooks and waited.
Two weeks later, I went to the National Romance Writer's of America Conference which I attend every year. It's an amazing writing haven where connections and education abounds for all romance writers, published or not. I went with no expectations, just the high hopes that I could push my upcoming book.
At one of the luncheons, I sat at a table with a group of lovely women I didn't know and we all started to talk. About the same time, a gentleman nabbed the last empty seat at the table and quietly sat there listening to our conversations. I happened to touch upon the topic of my blog, which I post to every first of the month on topics of sex in the context of history. That is exactly when the gentleman spoke up and said, "That sounds very fascinating. Might I have a card?" Seeing I was discussing my blog, I thought "Perve" (because I attract them), so I drawled, "And you ARE?" He paused, then graciously replied, "Donald Maass." Needless to say, I choked, gave him my card, feeling much like a dolt and thought, "Well...there goes that chance." Then, the night before the conference was over, my life completely changed.
Though there's usually tons of desserts available after the Golden Heart and Rita Ceremony, for some reason, this year, there was none to be had as the staff wasn't refilling the platters. Being a chef, I immediately flagged down a waiter, handed him an empty plate and kindly asked him to go into the kitchen and bring me whatever dessert he could find. While I waited by the kitchen door, the editor from Sourcebooks approached me and on the spot offered me a four book contract based off of the proposal for the new series I had submitted. As I stood there in complete shock, that's when the waiter came back and delivered a huge piece of chocolate cake. All for me. So yes, I had my cake and ate it, too. I hardly got home and immediately called up the two other publishers who had my series to let them know I had an offer. Avon passed with glowing compliments but HQN counteroffered. And that's when I realized, "Holy Cow, I need an agent."
My good writing buddies, Lisa Hendrix and Kristina McMorris quickly offered up their fabulous agents which I called immediately. My husband, however, kept pestering me and saying, "Why don't you call Donald Maass?" I cringed. After I had insulted the man? I think not. My husband, however, kept pressing and needless to say, I caved and called Donald Maass. Lo and behold, Donald not only offered representation, but assistance in honing my writing. To get an agent and a writing coach all in one? A complete dream! That said, I signed with him and he helped me through the daunting process of choosing which publisher was best for me.
To receive two offers from two amazing publishers was a nightmare of a decision. Yes, it's what every writer dreams about, but not quite as fun filled when you're actually living it. With some back and forth between the two publishers, I eventually decided on HQN who offered me a three book deal. So what did I learn from my roller coaster experience? Trust your gut and don't ever, ever let an agent decide your career for you.