Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Selecting An Agent (Part 1)

And now we leave our regularly scheduled program… As I write this, I’m looking at Mike Hyatt’s list of literary agents. I got here via literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s Blog. If you reference the image above, which is a simplified representation of the publishing process, you will see where I am in the overall process. I chose a different route this time. It ought to be the easier route. It isn’t.

What it comes down to is that when you take this route you are asking a publisher to take a $40,000 or more risk. Unless you happen to be a personal friend of a publisher, it isn’t easy to convince a publisher to take that kind of risk. So what we do is hire someone to promote our work.

I enter this side of the process with a story I love, but also with some apprehension. The story, which I’ve been calling Cowtown Homecoming, is about a snobbish rich man. Fort Worth businessman Fox Jacobs is king of the world around him, but as the book opens he is mourning the death of his four grandchildren. A homeless woman comes to his home with a girl she claims Fox’s daughter-in-law left in her care prior to a fatal accident that occurred twelve years earlier. Torn between a desire to separate himself from people he sees as undesirable and a fear of losing yet another grandchild, Fox takes the woman and child into his home. With the help of others, Fox investigates the events that surrounded the death of his daughter-in-law while trying to keep the admitted con-artist from ingratiating herself to his son and walking away with the family fortune.

Like every author who has invested a significant amount of time in a story, I believe I have a great story, but I approach this with apprehension because of what I know about the publishing industry. Agents aren’t very eager to take on new clients, so we expect a significant number to decline. But, let’s suppose some agent does look at Cowtown Homecoming and decides that he or she is wants to represent it. Now the ball’s back in my court and I have to decide whether I want this particular agent representing my work.

An author without a traditionally published book to his credit can’t afford to be too picky. Rejecting an agent could be the difference between seeing a book published or not, but we don’t want to be so lax in our selection criteria that we will take anyone with Literary Agent written on a business card. What should our criteria be? That will have to be a topic for another day.