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.
This post originally appeared on April 26, 2018.