In my mind, “agent” was once a word synonymous with real estate. If not, then it meant someone like Estelle on Friends, wrangling up parts for Joey Tribbiani and taking more than her fair share of the paycheck.
Then, I took a novel writing class in an effort to educate myself on the one writing medium I had yet to conquer. Two takeaways from this online college course that surprised me the most were 1) A chapter in a novel is around the same length as the articles I write, and 2) Agents are almost always needed to break into “traditional” publishing.
Now, before anyone throws a preverbal stone my way, I’m not saying agents are the gatekeepers to all publishing or that one way to publish is superior to others.
What I am saying is that writing is a lot like real estate. Everyone must find what works for him or herself and pursue that route.
For instance, my husband and I have bought two homes and sold one. We have used a realtor before, and we have done it on our own as well. Each time and method posed its own set of stresses. That’s because no matter who was marketing and showing the home, it was all up to the buyers.
At the end of the day, all it really takes is for one person to like your home enough to want to buy it. Or, for one publisher to like your book enough to print it. Or, in my case, for one agent to like your manuscript enough to market it to publishers.
With a background in publishing and the desire to write books for a living, I feel that my best bet is to keep writing books and querying until I get an agent. So far, I’ve had a few rejections, but I appear to be in good company. I’ll admit that a few of those rejections hurt, especially since one came from an agent I met personally.
However, that was a good lesson in how meeting someone at a conference is not the automatic “in” some people make it out to be. If anything, it’s just a shortcut to getting your book read. Still, I made great connections at the conference and saw firsthand how the opinions of agents on what is a “good” book varies tremendously.
I thought about making the substantial changes she suggested and sending it back. Then, I thought deeper. I was better off to keep querying others and perhaps send her a different manuscript in the future. Making the changes she wanted would change my entire characters, which would change the story.
I have my husband to thank for this, as he saw my defeated look and urged me to leave the book alone.
“She just didn’t like it. Someone else will. Get over it and keep writing.”
Thank God for an honest spouse.
For a moment, I had thought about jumping through hoops just to make this agent work. Much like I would consider knocking down our kitchen wall or redoing the entire main area flooring in order to secure a certain buyer for our home.
Sometimes the change isn’t worth it.
There’s a phrase in the writing community, “kill your darlings,” which refers to making changes to something you feel strongly about that might not be needed in your book. I’m fine with killing my darlings: taking out a scene in my book or changing a character name; painting a porch railing or changing out a squeaky door. What I’m not fine with is rewriting an entire book to say/mean something totally different or turning my home into a reconstruction zone.
In some cases it’s best to go with another buyer.
So, for now I will keep calm and query on, while working on my next book. All the while, thanking God that we aren’t still trying to sell a home.