Friday, March 23, 2007

To agent, or not to agent

A funny thing happened to me yesterday and while I normally try to save my writer-heavy blogs for the Drunk Writer Talk blog... I just needed to share.

First, the back story. (I know, I know. But this isn't a novel.)

In January, 2005, with a very rough first draft completed, I pitched my ms THE MISEDUCATION OF APRIL HILLSON to an editor at Publisher X at a conference. She actually read the first 10 pages at the conference (different kind of pitch meeting) and asked to see more, which I immediately sent to her. Let's say in the first week of February, 2005. I also pitched to a few agents at that same conference, one of whom asked to see the full about a week after I'd sent her the partial in February 2005. (Ack! Remember the very rough first draft line?)

I went mad, worked 12 hour days and got a completed ms to that agent in April, 2005. Sometime during 2005, I found out that the editor at Publisher X I'd pitched to, and who had my partial, had changed to another publisher, so I wrote that editor submission off and concentrated on getting an agent. In July 2005, I pitched to Deidre Knight at the RWA National conference in Reno. She asked for a partial. In November, she asked for the full. And in early Feb, 2006, another agent at TKA, Pamela Harty, offered me representation. (Yippee!)

I sent a rejection letter to the agent who'd had my full by then for almost 10 months. (We had corresponded via e-mail a couple of times and she'd had a baby some time during those 10 months, slowing her down.) But that's not really the point of this post.

My new agent sent my ms to a number of editors in March 2006 and within a week we heard from one editor (at publisher X, coincidentally) that she loved it and was passing it around to other editors at the house to read. About a week later, we heard that 4 other editors at publisher X had all read the ms all the way through, also enjoyed it, but wondered about the structure and could I make some changes. I made the changes and to make this getting-to-be-a-long-story shorter, publisher X ultimately passed on the project in September 2006. (An aside. the editor then moved on to another house, asked for it again, but couldn't get it past all the hurdles at that house either. It's a tough market right now. Sigh.)

So, back to what happened yesterday? I got a package (via fed-ex no less) from publisher X rejecting the partial I'd sent more than 2 years ago. Not only did it take 2 years for them to respond, it was on a book that they'd seriously considered buying a year ago.

Bottom line? With an agent, my full ms was read in less than a week. Without an agent, a partial on the same ms took 2 years to be read. (and frankly, I don't think it was read at all.)

6 comments:

Christine said...

The problem is getting the agent. I'm going through that right now and want to pull my hair out. Yes, I have a publisher, but I do want to get into a NY house. The only way to do that is to get an agent.

I've decided to get a few books published with EC first, then write a book that would be NY house material, THEN try and get an agent. I'm hoping with a track record I might have better luck.

I don't need an agent, but I know they really help.

Wylie Kinson said...

AAACK! What a circus this business is!!

Maureen McGowan said...

Christine, it's not the "only" way. Although I guess my example was kinda claiming it was.

You'll find someone. And publishing a few books with EC is a great strategy. And lots of writers have great careers with EC alone.

kathie said...

Yikes, an agent is a necessity, no doubt.

Kathy Holmes said...

Oh, my Maureen, what a story. Makes you want to pull your hair out. But I know what you mean about manuscripts submitted without an agent being returned looking like they hadn't been read at all. I agree - I did get the best feedback from those submitted by an agent.

MaryF said...

Maureen, you entered The Miseducation in the GH this year? I judged it and gave it a perfect score! I loved it!

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