How Could I Say Anything But Yes?

The lovely agent I’ve been speaking to about my novel, The Secret War, offered to represent me Saturday morning. Yes, she works on Saturdays. It’s because she likes being an agent, and working with writers. She is one herself. She referred to my book in the same sentence as she mentioned Heinrich Boll. And it wasn’t a negative comparison. Good heavens, what a gem she is!

Like much change that comes into our lives, this new good thing looks different than I’d thought. For one thing, this agent is not the gin-swilling, cat-eye-glasses-wearing, incredibly busy and hard to get in touch with, Manhattan agent of my imagination. She’s in Sacramento, not in Manhattan — in my own time zone. How great to have someone represent you whom you can go & have lunch with if you need to.

The other agents she works with are experienced, committed and smart. The agency does a lot of commercial non-fiction, but not exclusively. They’re very nice people, very professional, and my new agent, Verna Dreisbach, is enthusiastic about my book. She e-mails me back when I have a question, and she’s a perfectionist. I’m going to have to clean that book up a lot before she sends it out to editors. You only have one shot with them, she says. So make sure it’s something you’re absolutely proud of. I realized, as I was speaking to her, that an agenting relationship is made up of a lot of things — they need to be able to get editors to look at the books they send them, but that’s just one part of it. They also need to see you and your book the way you see yourself, or — even better — as something you’ll be one day, if you work hard enough. And that is what I really like about Verna Dreishbach. Because after talking to her a long time, it was clear that she sees me in the way I want to be seen. Plus, she used to be a cop. How cool is that?

It didn’t take me very long to say yes.

What’s next? Well, after you write the novel, and then find the agent, you have to: get your book in impeccable shape, and then sell it to somebody who’s going to be a good match for you. Yikes. That’s not easy. And then if you make it past that hurdle, you promote the heck out of it, all while you’re working on that second book, the one you love so much you can’t believe you have to go back to the first one for a while. But you know what? None of this seems like a pain in the neck. I’m totally excited about doing it all. I’ve never felt like that about any work I’ve done before — okay, I did love working in the Parkland Branch of the Pierce County Public Library putting the books back on the shelves. But I was 15, and I was making $2.20 an hour. Okay, it’s EXACTLY like that job. I was so thrilled to get the job, I loved everything about it, I wasn’t going to get rich, but I would have done it for free, so I didn’t care (shhh, don’t tell anyone about the free part. We want a big bidding war for my book, you know!) And now, on to the next step. Making my novel even better, so it’ll make some editor in New York sit up straight, really straight, and fall in love.

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35 thoughts on “How Could I Say Anything But Yes?

  1. I AM SO THRILLED! Oh, BL, congratulations! This is just such exciting, exciting news! An editor, the perfect one, will fall in love, I am sure it.

  2. Wow! I’m so jealous. And so happy for you!

    I think Dennis Lehane said that when you choose an agent – and he was careful to stress the word choose – make sure it’s someone who you feel you would have drinks with, socialize with. (Maybe I’ve told you this before?) Your agent sounds like that kind of person. A good match for you.

    Please don’t forget me when you’re negotiating a film deal. Or my husband who can shoot it for you.

    I’m happy when people I like are doing well!!!

  3. I am so happy for you! And I love your connection between this new job and your library job. It’s very revealing about what is meant when we call something a labor of love. How on earth can you contain yourself!! How very, very exciting. Way to go!

  4. I am so so thrilled to read this, Lily. I couldn’t be happier for you. When the time comes for your book tour, you can count on me for anything I can do in the Pittsburgh area, including investigating readings at the famous Mystery Book Store, and anything else I can POSSIBLY do for you. I am so excited right now!

  5. lily, that is wonderful news. congrats — very exciting, and i’m not even jealous. i’m sure you’re going to sell your baby (figuratively speaking) to an editor who will treat it like a queen (to mix metaphors).

    that your agent is responsive and professional are excellent signs. she sounds like a winner.

    mazel tov.

  6. Congrats! Put us down for two hardback copies, provided they are autographed, of course! Seriously, way to go on scoring an agent. Can’t wait to see you in print.

  7. Congrats, Bloglily!! That is very exciting news!!

    As you have been writing about your life a lot lately, plus the recent changes, I tagged you for a memoir-meme. Don’t worry, its short…You’re it!

  8. I think you’re right Gloria. Sure, there’s a lot of rejection. But the writing itself can be so satisfying and so much fun, that you do hang in there. And I think the longer you hang in there, the better it gets.

    Hi Alice. How fun. I love those six word things. I’ll give that some thought.

    Oh Scott, you are sweet!

    Hey Jade — I’m thinking the road forward might well be filled with a lot of ongoing construction but as you know, that’s still just fine!

    Thank you Dorothy.

    Hello bookfraud. That made me laugh. My book the baby, treated like a queen. Sort of like moses — I’ll put it in a little woven basket and send it out into the san francisco bay and hope someone picks it up and treats it right.

    Courtney, that’s such a lovely offer. I will definitely be taking you up on that. I know it’s awfully far in the future (somebody has to buy that as yet to be perfected book!), but I am thinking that going on the road and meeting up with people and talking about books (and not just mine, by the way), will be so much fun.

    Deborah, the way I contain myself is by telling my children over and over, “guess what, guess what, mommy has an agent!!” And they stare at me blankly and sigh and say, “Okay, okay. Now will you take us to the skatepark?”

    Oh Mari, you are such a lovely woman. I like Dennis Lehane a lot. He’s one of those literate genre writers. And you should keep me in mind too, when you guys form a production company and you’re looking for a good property to make into a movie!

  9. Hooray! What wonderful news! Your very own agent. The most amazing thing is that I’ve just written the same words of celebration over at Litlove’s. That two of my favourite bloggers have found agents to represent them in the same week is so great.

    Thrilled for you, Lily!

  10. Isn’t it wonderful that you (the small or, maybe the big you) have now set up the perfect atmosphere for making that book as good as it can be. The writing space downstairs and the editor in the background. What a smart woman you are! All the very best on the next stage of this (ad)venture.

  11. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!
    That is fantastic news!! Awesome!
    Woah, I’m thrilled for you, I can only imagine how ecstatic you must feel! – those kids sound really funny btw, the best ‘keep your feet on the ground’ answer you could get I guess…
    Anyway, let’s get on with the perfectioning, so I can read your book asap, mmkay? 😉

    — again, congratulations BL, and my best wishes for the rest of the journey.

  12. Now this is just absolutely perfect!! Oh the biggest and most loving of congratulations, my dear friend! When I read in your notes that the agent had said she’d loved it, I thought you were in there and I am so thrilled and delighted that this is the case. You’re going to be a star, BL, and I will be heading the queue in the bookstores for my copy on the day it’s out. Wonderful, wonderful news! And so richly deserved.

  13. Ahhh, you’ve made it past the first hurdle! I knew you would, but it’s always nice when it finally happens. I’m so proud of you, and so happy! Oh, and I can’t wait to read the book. I’ll be right behind Litlove in that queue (or maybe at the head of one myself on this side of the pond).

  14. Hooray! This is such exciting news, not just for you, but also for your devoted readers out here who can’t wait to have your book in our hands! One giant step closer. Congratulations!

  15. Oh, and another thing – The key to winning Booker prizes is to know this: the judging committee simply weighs the book, then divides the weight in ounces by the average number of adjectives per noun. If the resulting integer is positive, the book is dropped from contention.

  16. Congratulations and best of luck on the next step, selling the book Based on what I’ve read here, I have complete faith in how well you clean up.

  17. Aw. These are among the nicest responses I’ve ever received on my blog. Thank you, all of you, for being so sweet/funny/supportive/enthusiastic.

    So, now begins the next big thing: making my book really worth all these lovely responses.

  18. A big smile from over here. Thrilled for your success, watching how you go from wanting to write to getting closer to the book being out there and read…..I’m so happy for you that you found an agent you like, so it feels like someone really is in your corner, cheering you and your book on. Please let us know when it comes out, I know I want a copy!!
    You give all us other writers out here hope, too 🙂

  19. Oh Susan, that’s just so nice! And yes, indeed, I think I am living proof that if you just keep writing away, a little at a time, and doing your best, and trying to enjoy it all, things will work out just fine.

  20. U-Dad, very cool! She’s been doing a great job so far, recommending a really fine developmental editor, being patient about my contract, mentioning me in an interview she did with Writer’s Digest, and, in general, giving me the sense that my stuff matters and that she’s excited about it all.

    Thank you Ms. W – I’m sure I won’t be able to stop blabbing about it, but first I have a LOT of editing to do. xoxo, L

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