June 19, 2009

So you say you want an agent

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 10:16 am

I began looking for an agent before the internet age.

There were no agent guides on line–I read Literary Marketplace and Jeff Herman.

I snail mailed (or in my crazy case Fed Ex-ed) queries and printed out partials and boxed up fulls. I used boxes from a special writing supply house called Papyrus because theirs looked especially slick.

No email for requests or rejections. I hovered by the mailbox, checking for those SASEs onto which I laboriously slathered labels. One good thing about this method–you only had to look for a response once a day.

I came up with a list of six agents to start with. From what I know now, this was a vanishingly small number. I should’ve expected six form rejections.

My top choice agent was Albert Zuckerman of Writers House. I’d learned of Mr. Zuckerman after reading his wonderful book, Writing the Blockbuster Novel. This book is my first recommendation if someone asks me for one–whether s/he hopes to write a blockbuster or not. To my mind, Mr. Zuckerman’s dissection of story surpasses Joseph Campbell’s.

Because I was so wowed by the guy, I decided to give him the great honor of an exclusive query. I would give him a week to get back to me before sending out any of the other five!

You can tell I’m being ironic here, right? Oh, was I naive. I had no idea how the business worked. Its molasses slowness. The sheer numbers I was up against.

If I had, perhaps I never would’ve dropped that 100% cotton sheet of resume paper on which was typed my lovingly honed query, plus a synopsis, and the accompanying number of pages–precisely what was requested–off at the Fed Ex office.

The Fed Ex will show you that I thought we were dealing in days here. Possibly hours. Probably I didn’t go so far as to pay extra for morning delivery. There was an upper limit to my delusionality.

Tomorrow, I will post a copy of that first query letter if I can get my hands on it.

And Monday I will tell you what Mr. Zuckerman had to say, and what I did then.

1 Comment »

  1. Sorry, guys. Meant to say that Monday I’ll post the query, and Tuesday my initial results! Have a nice weekend, all!

    Comment by jenny — June 19, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress