Will the Right Agent Please Stand?

Writer’s Conference Series, Part 4

On the third day of my third writer’s conference, I felt no closer to finding the right agent than I did on the first day of my first conference. Okay, maybe a little bit closer. I knew more about the agents’ role and the concept that having an agent is a good idea if you’re serious about taking on writing for the long haul. But as far as me finding the right agent … I recently wrote about my fear of making the wrong choices in my writing journey, and one of those primary choices, in my mind, is having an agent.

I had read books dedicated to agents, who grew to be the authors’ dearest friends. I wanted an agent like that. Or at least someone who could offer advice on the writing path. I had gotten advice from a few agents that I had met with on conferences past.

Things like, “Build a platform; our agency doesn’t usually look at a writer unless their platform is in the tens of thousands.” That only intimidated me. As a work-from-home mom of three and also trying to get through university, building a platform is a slow and tedious process.

Another agent suggested I choose whether I want to write fiction or non-fiction, and perhaps write the other under a pen name. But I like my name. And I want the freedom to write what I am inspired to write without being hindered in my choices because it’s not good for marketing.

I told another agent that I’m probably every agent’s worst nightmare … for the reasons above. He declined to respond and smoothly changed the subject.

At one workshop I attended, I got some good advice from an author on what to look for in an agent. It was helpful, although I only remember one point of of the three the author gave me. I’ll leave that to him to share on his blog.

What I really wanted, while I was standing in the auditorium waiting for my appointments, scoping out the myriad of agents and editors of publishing houses … was for the right agent to just stand up. That’s it. Make it easy for me. Cut out the guess work and the trial and error.

But until the perfect agent is also telepathic and not scared away by my genre jumping and half a dozen blogs, I’ll have to settle for the guesswork and the trial and error.

One helpful point I thought to settle on, when searching for the “right” agent … something I hope will help you if your search is somewhat similar, is the idea of finding an agent whose strengths are in inverted order to your own. Or to put it another way, someone whose talents in the writing world complement yours.

Let’s say you’re great at marketing, but need someone who wouldn’t mind giving your manuscript or proposal the once-over with an editing eye; you might want to look for an agent who has that eye and interest in the more in-depth details of your manuscript.

Or perhaps your manuscript is perfect, but you need a little more help on the marketing side of things. You might want to look for an agent who has a blog for her authors, or a private group where his authors brainstorm ways to support each other.

And yes, finding the agent who complements your writing talents probably does take some homework, some guess work, and some good old fashioned coin flipping. Oh, and prayer. Everything about a Christian author’s writing journey, if bathed in prayer, will find the right results at the right time.

Perhaps not when we want it.

But in God’s time.

Always the right time.


Of Authors and Friendship

Reading a book on a hammockReading a book by an author you haven’t read in a while – a favorite author – is something like meeting an old friend. A good friend.

You smile and their face lights up. You shake hands or hug. You chat over your usual order, or sit in the back porch over lemonade and begin to catch up. And before you know it, or without even really realizing it, your conversation has plunged into deeper waters than you dare to go with the average acquaintance. And that’s why they’re such a good friend, because you don’t stay on the surface. (It’s clear to all of us that there is much more beneath the slight ripples, more in the heart and soul that somehow should and could be known if we cared enough or were brave enough to venture in.)

But with a good friend we do just that. It’s not, “Hello, how are you?” or, “Wow, that storm last week was a real gully washer.”

It’s not necessarily even, “My son failed his math class and I’m not sure he still wants to go to college.” Though it might start there, it goes deeper. Why that decision of your son makes you fear your parenting over the years hasn’t been enough, or that you have somehow enabled him, or disabled him through your own set of fears and hang-ups.

Whatever it is, it is not, “Everything is fine.” It’s truth. It’s honesty. It’s revealing questions you have and fears that loom, and situations that still threaten to overwhelm you. Somehow, when shared with a good friend, they seem not as much. Or a light shines so far away as to seem only a pinprick that could very well be an oncoming train for all you know but, for the moment illuminates your conversation just enough.

As a friend bestows a little light perhaps through words. Or perhaps through your own words, when you’re finally honest and brave enough to voice them, you realize what’s at the core of that thing you’re fearing or running away from. You’re finally at home enough to where you can be yourself and in your own skin.

And somehow, in a way, reading a book by a favorite author has a similar effect. (Or is it just me?) You smile at their audacity to put something in print that you never would have confessed in a hundred years. It gives you confidence that maybe it doesn’t really need to stay hidden. You smile at their choice of words or are completely awed by the way they seamlessly weave together a concept or thoughts that you’ve always felt or wondered or held deep inside.

You know, Hey, that’s me in there. In those pages.

And maybe, just maybe, somewhere in their heart. Somehow, in that way that doesn’t really make sense but doesn’t have to. Because truth is stranger than fiction. And the words we speak and the words we write are somehow are part of us that come from a place so deep that we don’t know exactly what’s going on down there.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I write. To figure out who else might understand or relate or wonder the same things I do.

And that’s why when I meet an author through the pages of a book new or old, I know I have made a friend. I know I can be myself with that person, when and if I ever meet them. That our conversation would venture beyond the “how are you” and “I hope your health is not affected negatively by all the smog in the air.” Because for so long, through their words, they have been a part of my life, like a friend is – no matter how near or far.

Through them, or because of them, I have the courage to be myself, which is often the very bravest the best and worst of us can be, to let a bit of all that flows beneath the surface slip out for a glimpse from time to time.

Have you “met” an author like that? Please leave a comment if you have a favorite author or two who are like that old friend or kindred spirit.