Book Agents–A Minder, Gentler One


This photo has nothing to do with the blog, but I just like it.  🙂

Recently, when I attended a writers conference I had the pleasure of pitching my middle grade novel, Bumbling Bea.  I signed up for this opportunity. You were either assigned a publisher, agent or another author.  I lucked out and was given an agent (whose name will remain anonymous).

I had NEVER been through anything quite like the session, however a hundred million years ago I trained to be a professional actress so I know how to audition.  I wasn’t especially nervous, but more apprehensive. I was required to give her the first ten pages ahead of time. This gave her time to look them over, write down comments, criticisms and hopefully suggestions.

I remember that I slept well, awoke early, had two cups of coffee and a Danish and sat in a waiting area until it was my turn. Each author was given ten minutes to talk about the book as well as yourself–sort of a pitch and social moment.  Kind of like speed dating, I would think.

I cheated and listened to her as she spoke to the person ahead of me. Yes, I eaves dropped. Couldn’t help it!  The agent sounded tired, but pleasant.  She was soft spoken, but assertive.  And she was pretty critical of the author’s writing ahead of me (okay, I didn’t really know that, but I imagined she was).

Ding!  The bell rang and it was my turn.  I heard the agent say, “Yes, I would be willing to read the first fifty pages.  Would that be acceptable to you?” but it sounded more perfunctory than sincere. Suddenly, my hands got sweaty and I was dry mouthed.

Oh no!  I had never thought of anything more than the first step.  There could be more, like sending the first fifty pages to an agent?  Yikes.  As I walked up to her table, I remember thinking…well, nothing. There was just empty space in my brain. My mind was a blank.  What’s my name?  What’s my book’s name?  What the hell is the book about?  You know, that sort of stuff.  Oh brother.

After shaking her hand, she asked me to tell her a little about myself.  I have absolutely no idea what I said.  I could have talked about jello and frogs for all I know.

Then we got to the book. After some questions from her about an apostrophe that I used after the main character’s nick name–Bea’, we talked about the humor in the story.  Now, I had done something right before I came to the conference.  I researched the agent and her website and discovered she loves good humor.  She admitted that she laughed while she read my story.  Oh yeay!

Then, she told me that she liked the book.  My very intelligent response was, “Really? You do?” I NEVER expected the agent to like my book, but….she did!  I was stunned.

You know how sometimes in life you go through some experience, long or short, and you don’t know why you did?  About twenty years ago, I learned how to ask an nonthreatening question for a product I was selling.  I asked her a nonthreatening question, “Would you like to read more of my book?” She said yes.

Long story short- I sent her the next fifty pages, waited three months (because that’s what you are supposed to do), got antsy and wrote to her asking what she thought. Indeed, the agent had read more of my book, told me she loved it but that it still needed work. She was very kind.  She had read the whole fifty pages AND even had particular notes for me.  I knew exactly what I needed to do.  So, before I wrote this particular blog I was working on the additions she suggested. Piece of cake.

Will I try again with this agent?  I don’t know yet.  Probably, maybe, yes, no, it all depends.

I am so grateful to her.  She will never know this story unless she runs on to it accidently. But if you are a tired, pleasant, patient, soft spoken but assertive agent please know that a novice author DOES appreciate you.  That’s me.

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