A Zombie’s Hunt for an Awesome Agent

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By day, I am a zombie. At least that is what my colleagues at work would have you believe. I don’t actually devour brains or anything, just very large amounts of coffee. My dread day job is as a software engineer for my local school district. It’s a living, and I suppose even the undead must make a living. Due to my nocturnal writing activities, I do tend to have that sickly yellow glow of the recently departed when I arrive at my day job each morning.

I would love nothing more than to be able to write for the rest of my life minus the dreaded day job. However, the day job is the reality for most writers. Those few writers able to live off nothing but their craft are rare and the exception, and even among them, lots are doing editorial work, copywriting, and other less glamorous things on the side to keep food on the table.

For me and probably for you, it’s writing when you should be sleeping or eating or taking a bath. It’s time away from friends and telling yourself that one day there will be time for all that. But now it’s the book. You just have to finish. Then you must get an agent. Then there’s the next book and doing whatever comes after you get an agent. I will have to get back to you on that one. I am still hunting.

On the artistic side, writing is the greatest thing ever. On the business end, it’s kind of dangerous. I have learned recently that you can be punished with kale (you do read Janet Reid’s Blog right?). If you are a writer, you must follow this blog. It will save you so much pain and possibly keep you from being exiled to Carkoon where you will be cursed to dwell among kale plants forever.

Like I said writing is dangerous because it  also powerful, even for unknown entities like myself. I learned a long time ago that writing could get me in trouble.

In fifth grade, I wrote an essay comparing my teacher, a nun, to Queen Mary (aka Bloody Mary). The sister punished the entire class for something one kid, not me, did. I found this quite as offensive as whacking someone’s head off in a pique. As Bloody Mary learned too late, going around beheading people will eventually cause someone else to behead you. I pointed this out in what I thought to be a most clever essay.    I was called to the principal’s office.  Sister Mary Margaret would scare the devil himself. Almost forty years later, I still shudder at the memory. I learned two things.  One, writing is powerful. Shakespeare got it right when he said the pen is mightier than the sword.   Two, do not compare a nun to a tyrant.

I do not think an agent or publisher will rap my knuckles the way Sister Mary Margaret did, but my knuckles recovered by the next day. Now the stakes are much higher. For one thing, publishing is a slow process and I am no longer young. I don’t want to be one of those posthumous authors. Even Papa Tolkien did not live to see how influential his work became. And according to a book I read recently, The Harbinger, the world is going to hell in a handbag next Sunday, September 13th. So that is bound to slow down this process.  What do agents do during an apocalypse?

I do not want to self-publish. That will not get me on that bookshelf where I want to be. I want an agent, and not just any old agent. I want a good agent. I need someone to guide me though the landmines of the business.

Writing is an art, but publishing is a business.  I need someone to keep me out of the grown up principal’s office (the super secret agent blacklist that Janet swears does not exist because she’s an agent and she has to say that). Just this week, Janet Reid’s blog addressed two very real pitfalls, the bankrupt publisher and the impatient writer. The right agent can help you avoid the unstable publisher to some extent, and the patient writer can reap the benefits of the right agent thus getting them in with that exact right publisher.  The impatient writer, however, will likely be a long time resident among the kale plants in Carkoon.

This week I got one form letter (Dear Author, eh gadz) rejection to a cold query. This is far preferable to the cone of silence.  After doing some further research on this agent, I dodged a bullet. We would not have been a good fit, and that agent-author relationship is vital to a writer’s career.  It’s a dangerous business and finding myself on a bookshelf with old Papa Tolkien will take an agent who walks on the wild side. Dear Lord, I pray such an agent exists.

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