My sister is my lifeline. She is gloriously, ridiculously neuro-typical. She is five foot ten and blond, which came in handy in her previous career as a Wagnerian soprano. Now she travels the world counseling corporations on promoting woman into leadership roles. She has her own Tedtalk, a head full of feminism and Sondheim lyrics, and she can drink most grown men under the table.
What she doesn’t have is a lot of time. She cuts to the chase. It’s a skill.
After I’d talked to a half dozen agents, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t think straight.
I called my sister.
“Okay, it’s like this,” I said. “I have all these people who want to be my agent and some of them are people I’ve queried and been ignored by multiple times, but now that I’m part of Pitchwars everyone who had my novel for months has suddenly read it. Maybe my novel isn’t that good, it’s just that I part of some big stupid competition between people who don’t read through their slush piles until another agent blinks first and then they get caught up in the endorphin rush of a bidding war over a novel they wouldn’t look at otherwise….”
“Laura.” My sister interrupted me. “Correct me if I’m wrong. Publishing is a business.”
“Yes, I guess.”
“And businesses exist to make money, right? Has it occurred to you that your book might sell?”
Truthfully, it hadn’t occurred to me. As any fiction writer with an active internet connection can tell you there are “ten reasons you can’t make a living as a writer,” and there is a “horrible truth about the publishing industry.”
“Anyway, you’re going about this all wrong,” she continued. “Who cares what these agents want from you? What do you want from them? What do you want from your career as a writer?”
What do I want?
This is not a question I ask myself very often. When it comes to my career, I have a whole different set of questions I routinely ask myself. Here are some of them:
“How can I ‘pass’ for normal?”
“How can I get instructions I understand without outing myself as an ND person?”
“What happens when I’m found out?”
What I want doesn’t matter. Usually.
My sister refused to counsel me on ethical grounds. She referred me to the wonderfully patient and thoughtful Mariapria. At the end of our conversation I knew what I wanted.
I wanted an agent who knew my novel was more than just a romance.
I wanted and agent who really understood my novel.
I wanted an agent who wouldn’t change the end.
I’m a revision monkey. I’m willing to change just about anything. But I didn’t want to change the end of my novel.
After I talked to Mariapria, I was able to narrow the field down. In the end, I chose Jim McCarthy of Dystel and Goderich. It wasn’t hard to choose Jim. He was fantastic. So were others and the hardest part of this process was not choosing agents I would have been thrilled to work with.
The whole thing happened at warp speed. After decades of writing, years spent on this novel, months and month of querying, Pitchwars was shockingly instantaneous.
Thank you Brenda Drake.
Thank you Marty Mayberry.
I’ll never get done saying this to either woman.
After a scant few Pitchwars months, I ended up with an agent. A nice guy Jim, but I barely know him. I wasn’t sure I’d made the right choice— until I got my first set of revision notes from him.
Then I knew I had.