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.