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.


This post originally appeared on April 26, 2018.

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