and now the waiting

94,400 words, two professional rounds of edits and an uncountable number of marks with my dying red pen later, I’ve started pitching agents.

The first experience was only made tolerable by the help I got from my dad, who it turns out is an ace at writing proposals. On Facebook, I compared sending the first query to the first time having sex. It was dreadful. Uncomfortable. I was full of self doubt, but experienced a sense of relief when it was done. Six hours later, the agent in question rejected me (another parallel to my first sexual encounter) but each query I’ve made since has been easier. Better. And on the plus side, it only took two hours and four minutes for an agent in my top three to request my full manuscript.

Yes, as I described a few months ago, the agent pitching process is a lot like online dating. But worse in a way because you can’t tell whether someone peeked at your profile, and it could take four to six weeks to get a wink. Or you might not get a wink at all, as the downside to electronic submissions is that many agents only respond if they are interested. So at some point in the average response window, if you haven’t heard anything, you have to reach your own conclusion that s/he is just not that into you(r writing). I’m not good at reaching that conclusion in my dating life, so this part is going to be particularly tough for your favorite debut novelist wannabe.

In the meantime, while I wait to either hear back (or not) from the remaining 24 agents I’ve queried, I don’t really know how to channel my creative energy. Do I start writing the second book? Enter some writing contests? Revamp my Modern Love essay that was rejected? Reconnect with the real world, which I’ve more or less disappeared from since the  beginning of the new year? Recommit to finding a new client? Bask at the pool and read?

Or maybe, while I’m steeled for rejection, I’ll try online dating.

finding an agent: worse than online dating

If you’ve been around me at all over the last three months, you’ve probably heard me make the joke that as a debut novelist, the process of finding an agent is worse than online dating. Except it isn’t a joke at all. Not that I’m a huge match.com expert. The one time I tried it many years ago left me permanently scarred even though I went on zero dates.

Let’s hope I have better luck on my agent search.

If you don’t have a literary agent [eligible dating material] running in your social circles, you have to make a list of whom to query [join an online dating site]. That’s hard. There are agent databases [online dating sites] which share basic information like agency [bachelor] address [age, exaggerated height, eye color] and the genres [desired age range, kid preference, hobbies] the agent [prospective suitor] is interested in representing [finding in a partner]. You also get a sampling [photos] of their authors [adventurous vacations] many whom [places] you’ve never heard of [traveled to] which makes you feel guilty because you consider yourself an avid reader [traveler].

I’ve spent weeks amassing my initial list of 20 dream agents [dates]. I could end up querying [trying to date] 50-100, depending on my success with the first tranche [few suitors].

In all seriousness, once my manuscript is ready, the next step is to cold call agents, except I can’t actually call at all because phone calls are prohibited. Some agents accept email, though no attachments. Just one long message that includes cover letter, synopsis (sometimes 2-3 pages, sometimes 10-15) and maybe an excerpt from the beginning of my story. In many cases, you’re instructed to send the cover letter, synopsis and manuscript by snail mail, unless the literary agency has noted to only send a cover letter and synopsis because they’ll reach out if they want to read more.

Each query [photo] has to be personally tailored [perfect] so that they agent’s intern [bachelor’s best friend] who does the first round of cuts doesn’t throw me in the discard pile. I can’t compare myself to any classic writers [supermodels]. I’m supposed to share why I think I’d be compatible with that agent [bachelor].

Oh, and don’t forget to include a SASE for the rejection letter. Yes, you have to pay for your own rejection. That’s worse than a breakup text.

Speaking of, you don’t get rejected on the quality of your work [personality] at all, but on how riveting [gorgeous] your cover letter [photo] is. Are you kidding me? I just wrote a 95,000-word novel [am witty, warm, charming] and I have to catch your attention with my cover letter [looks]?

My first choice agent was written up recently as a rising star. She seems like someone I’d like as a friend. I picture us drinking a bottle of wine and talking books. She happens to be looking for the next hot debut author, a definite bonus. Then I saw her picture. She was wearing great, Chelsea-like eyewear and tall black boots.

Yes, I could work with [date] her.