Sew Witchy: Finding an Agent

I am an example of the saying “There’s no road map to success.”  I posted earlier about how I wrote the proposal for my book Sew Witchy.  It was accepted by the first publisher I submitted to.  That’s not the way it usually works out and I found myself caught off guard.  Once I got over the surprise of Llewellyn Worldwide‘s acceptance, I realized I needed to get started on finding an agent.

I have experience with publishing contracts, but I wasn’t under any illusion that I would be able to negotiate a contract on my own.  Also, I want to have a writing career, and having an agent will help with that.  Finding an agent now would help with both those issues.  And, I figured, having a contract in hand would make it much easier to attract an agent.  So, much sooner than I had expected, I found myself once again engaging in caffeine-fueled Google searching.

Because of the complicated nature of the book, and my desire to have both a nonfiction and fiction career, I realized that potential agent pool was going to be limited.  I needed to find an agent who repped not only fiction, but also pagan nonfiction.  And if they had some experience with craft and/or sewing books, that would be a plus.  Sure, no big deal, right?

I started off hitting Publisher’s Marketplace and Agent Query.  Both allow you to search for agents based on their areas of interest.  I didn’t want to query people who repped general nonfiction, so I started off looking for agents who repped “New Age”. (That seemed to be the catch all for pagan/metaphysical/Wicca/etc.)  Of those agents I noted those who also repped fantasy authors/titles.  Remove the agents who weren’t accepting submissions and that left me with a list of sixteen to query.

I didn’t send off my queries right away.  I took time to research them online.  If they had websites I checked it out and looked to see who else they represented.  That often gives you a really good idea of who would be a good fit.  If they are representing books and authors that you enjoy or think you would enjoy, there’s a greater likelihood that you and the agent will get along.

The first few queries went like this:

I'm writing to you because Elysia Gallo at Llewellyn has expressed interest in my pagan craft book proposal and I am seeking an agent.  

Elysia has already pitched my proposal to the editorial department and they have said yes if I can provide them with suitable photographs.  They are suggesting a full color craft book, about 192 pages.  I will be sending them the photographs on Monday and they will be getting back to me about a week after that.

I have attached my original book proposal to this e-mail.  It is the one that I sent to Llewellyn.

If there is any other information you need, please feel free to email me.

I look forward to hearing from you.

After I had sent some out I realized I should add why I was querying the particular agent so I started to add a sentence along the lines of “I am approaching you because you have [expressed interest in / have sold] [New Age books / craft books/ etc.].” I also realized that I needed to make it clear in the subject header of the e-mails that this was a query for a book that had an offer already.

The following days were nerve wracking.  Every time my e-mail pinged I had to prepare myself for rejection.  I got a few of those at first.  In fact, when it was all said and done there were six rejections and seven non-responses.  I did, however, receive three interested responses, with two responding within hours of each other.  And this is where it got anxiety inducing.

Agent #1 responded first and wanted to know if Llewellyn was the only publisher I had approached.  Agent #2 responded second and wanted to talk on the phone.  I emailed a couple of times back and forth with Agent #1 where it became clear they thought that another, larger, publisher might be interested in the book.  This made me a bit uncomfortable.  I had done research and I really felt that Llewellyn was the right publisher for Sew Witchy, however agents have more experience and maybe this one knew something I didn’t.  It didn’t feel right to go looking for another publisher, though.

I made plans to talk to Agent #2 on the phone, despite the fact that phone calls ratchet up my anxiety.  I was willing to deal with it for this.  So Agent #2 and I talked on the phone and it was good.  She agreed with me that Llewellyn was the best publisher for this book.  We talked about how I wanted to build a career.  She told me my writing was good.  And at the end I squeaked out, “So, do you want to be my agent.” (Because I’m smooth like that.)  And she said yes.

This left me with Agent #1.  We had emailed back and forth, but I hadn’t said that I wanted to work with her, I had just answered her questions.  I wrote her a note saying that I had just signed with Agent #2.  Her reply was, paraphrased, “That’s odd, I thought we were going to work together.  Oh well, good luck.” That sent me down a spiral of, “Oh crap!  Did I just screw up?  Did I make her think we were working together?”  It took a bit of time for me to claw my way back up from that feeling, after people pointed out that no mention of a contract had been made.

Agent #3 had responded the day after I had talked with Agent #2 and I sent another “Thanks, but I just signed with someone else.”  They replied with a note of “Good luck!”  I imagine this is business for them all.  Sometimes authors go with other agents, that’s how it is.

When it’s all said and done, the agent I signed with, Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, is enthusiastic about my writing and doesn’t seem to be turned off by my supreme awkwardness.  And that is what I need right now.

Published by

roach

roach

roach (aka Raechel Henderson) is a dual class seamstress / shieldmaiden. She has sewn professionally since 2008. Over the years she has traveled around the Midwest region selling her handmade bags, skirts, coats and accessories at various events and conventions. Arachne hangs out in the window of her workshop reminding her to check the tension on the sewing machines. She writes about magic, creativity, living a life by one’s own life patterns, her family and books. Her first book, Sew Witchy, is due out February 2019 from Llewellyn.

2 thoughts on “Sew Witchy: Finding an Agent”

  1. I have been following your book process and am so excited for you! I also appreciate the practical info as I am fighting the battle myself to publish a knitting pattern book. You are a great source of inspiration!

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