When I started writing five years ago, I had no clue what I was doing. I had an idea and a computer. I wrote the picture book (admittedly, not very good) and researched. Through Twitter and lots of Google searches I decided I needed an agent. I was a brand-new mom and writing was born from long nights of Postpartum Depression. I also knew I’d be going back to full-time teaching in a few months and self-publishing was not an option for me. I thought “if I can just get an agent, I’ll have someone to sell my work.”
Which, in a perfect world, where publishing is predictable, that’s how it would work. However, it doesn’t work that way. I worked hard to find my perfect agent other-half, which I likened to the terrifying world of dating. But no one talked about the facts that having an agent doesn’t guarantee selling a book and that agents and authors do, in fact, break up *gasp*.
Here’s the gory truth: authors and agents break-up all the time for a multitude of reasons. The relationship isn’t permanent, just like other relationships may not be. This is tough to swallow. Especially after working diligently to research, pitch, polish, query, get rejected, tweak some more, send more queries and on and on and on in an endless loop.
My first agent found me through a contest in which, she did not request my work during the contest (I did not get a single request, but that’s a whole other post). I waited and waited. I finally got that call and I was ecstatic. She got me, she got my work, she was passionate about it. I signed on. I revised and then went on submission. But as time went on, communication fizzled out, manuscripts I sent went unread, and the relationship was no longer working for me. I decided to part to ways.
I was petrified of sending that break up e-mail. It would put me in a career limbo. The fear of diving back into the query pool was real and paralyzing. “What if I never find another agent? It took me more than two years to find this one.” But the reality was, my career wasn’t really going anywhere anyway. I also considered her a friend and I knew I was breaking that relationship too. There was nothing mean about it. There was no hostility. It was a career move. She was no longer who I felt was best for my career and I moved on. Ultimately, I hit send, because in my gut, I could feel it was the right thing to do.
I dove back into querying. I started with agents I had built a repour with, their wishlist matched my manuscript, and I thought might like my style. This time, it only took a few months, and I’d found another agent who loved my work, saw my story for what it was, and we clicked instantly. Again, I went on submission, and we worked on other projects. She was kind, responsive, supportive and a great friend. But then, she decided she needed a career change and left agenting.
I was devastated this time. I had not seen that break up coming. It wasn’t personal. I knew it wasn’t. I still don’t hold any hostility for the move she made. But it hurt. The first time, I knew I wasn’t moving forward, but this time, I thought we were making progress. It felt like the rug had been ripped out from under me when I was so close to the ultimate goal of getting published.
Once again, I’m back in the query trenches. It is so hard not to get discouraged and to keep on going some days. But I will get there and so will you. When I started this, I wish someone had spoken about break-ups. I wish someone had warned me that my romanticized notions of the agent/author marriage happily lasting forever, was just that, a notion. So, I’m here to tell you the brutal truth: it does not always last forever. The key is to not take it personally. Though everything about your work is personal, this is still a business. That dichotomy is often hard to reconcile. But breaking up is hard no matter what.
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About the Series:
Now What? is a series dedicated to navigating post-query life and the agent-author relationship. Authors from every stage of their writing career have come together to tell their stories. They understand the struggles of querying and moving forward with an agent and are here to help.
New posts go live every Friday!
Previous Posts in this Series:
Writing the Post-Query Book
How To Come Up with a Marketing Plan for Your Book
Keeping Motivation After Signing with An Agent