Agents are like dates (sort of)

I’m really going to have to do something to occupy my time. I’m making myself crazy sitting around the house, checking the phone periodically to see if it is working. I’m waiting for an agent to ring, you see. Waiting on an agent is like dating, says a writing friend. You have the following options:

  • play hard to get and make them wait
  • don’t approach more than one, that way you appear chaste and respectable
  • approach as many as possible, all at the same time, the more the merrier

Is there a step in the process of publishing that is actually easy? It all seems so riddled with potential land mines. Make a list of agents, write a query, write a cover letter, write an outline, write a synopsis, approach the right people in the right manner, wait the right amount of time, ask the right questions. I want to crawl into bed and forget all of it.

Treat writing as you would any other job, someone else suggest. But a job is characterized by routine. At work you are almost always aware of the things that are problematic or time consuming. In comparison, you write for an indefinite amount of time with no promise of an outcome. I step out onto a ledge in a blindfold each morning hoping the words will come.

You practice sculpting with your eyes closed, hoping to God that whatever is taking shape underneath does not turn out to look like Lionel Ritchie.

You take wrong turns. You battle doubts and little voices. At the end of it, you blindly reach out hoping that someone, anyone will want you.

I find it difficult to wait passively. At the same time, I don’t want to sell out at the first opportunity. Especially, as myย first impulse is to jump up and down and shout ME ME ME! Choose ME!.

While I wait, I remind myself that I completed a novel and that counts for something, right? I should be more confident and self assured, but I also want people to be excited about my book and my future. I hope that’s not too tall an order to fill.


  1. “But writing often seems unsubstantial. You write for an indefinite amount of time with no promise of an outcome. You step out onto a ledge each day and hope the words will come. You shape in the dark. You take wrong turns. You battle the doubts and the little voices. And at the end of it, you blindly reach out to anyone who will want you, with the pretense that there is any control at all in what happens to your work.”The above really, really resonated with me.I’m wishing you the very best of luck with your agent search.

  2. I hate to say it, but the easy bit is behind you — unless you’re terribly, terribly lucky. The submission process can be interminable and frustrating to the extreme and I would seriously recommend that you do indeed find a way to fill your time whilst waiting (I find writing another novel works pretty well ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I don’t mention this to put a dampener on the whole experience for you but, as they say, forewarned is forearmed.Regarding how best to approach the whole submission process, if you have an interested agent, DO NOT approach anyone else until you’ve had their decision. Attracting interest in itself is a great first step and not something to be taken for granted. Be prompt and businesslike with this individual. Make it clear that you are open to suggestions and that you are happy to edit etc. If nothing comes of it, multi-sub. Agents and editors will tell you that this is a big no-no, as will many writers (usually older ones who aren’t all that familiar with the modern climate) — but given the amount of time you can be kept waiting for a decision, even on a query, it simply isn’t workable for a writer to do it any other way. Not unless you want to spend five years trying to sell a novel!Like I say, this is the tough bit and I’m not in the least surprised that you’re finding it difficult. It’s a wrench, letting the novel go, even without the hostile climate that can await it. But you’re quite right, it is a massive achievement and you really need to focus on that.Another thing: agents and editors are not perfect. Also, some of them aren’t even all that well read. When they read your book, the first question they ask themselves, largely, is “is it marketable?” Many good books are not (as far as they are concerned) and, consequently, they get rejected. I’m certainly not saying that this will happen to you — I have everything crossed for you — but if it should, don’t be disheartened. Keep submitting, keep writing!Being obstinate helps! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. You’re listless? So…you’re without a list? That’s the whole problem! Make a list! (can I put any more excited punctuation into my comment, do ya think?) My advice would be to do whatever the situation calls for, and whatever you feel you should do, in your gut. I’ve learned that there is no one way to approach agents and editors, in spite of all the books and conferences that say otherwise. It’s your writing, and your career. How do you want to handle it?

  4. Nova: Thank you! And good luck with your novel. I’m really happy someone snapped you up and I hope you land a good agent soon. It is good to remember that despite all those moments of despair and uncertainty, sometimes good things happen. I know we like to write about the dark moments in our blogs, as those are the ones we have trouble dealing with. But we are fortunate to have/be having books out. Not saying it makes it any easier. But far worse, I think not to have the chance to be published.Gary: This is really helpful, thank you for your comment. I do find the control aspect of letting go, quite challenging. It is not easy to remain objective, and to continue to plow on knowing that other people are reading and judging. Either way, I’m not giving up now.Awriterthoughts, thanks so much for the positive comment. I hope the agents will come a’runnin soon. I’m glad you feel I’ve inspired you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. awritersthoughts

    congratulations on finishing your novel…that is a big accomplishment. So sit back and wait cuz I’m sure the agents will come running soon. As a fellow have inspired me to keep going. Good Luck and keep writing!!

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