The other day my five-year-old answered the phone and handed it to me. “It’s an agent,” she said.
A year ago, that might have sent me into cardiac arrest. (For the remotely curious, it was Adrian, my son’s soccer coach—clearly not an agent.)
But today I have a healthy dose of reality blended quite heavily with a smattering of perspective.
Soon after I wrote my first manuscript, I began querying literary agents. Most of you will interpret that the error here lies in the word “soon.” Sending a manuscript out to agents should come much “later.” After you’ve revised and had beta readers weigh in, read it to a critique group, revised some more. And then let it simmer for a few months, only to revise again.
The rejections came in, but I always kept one ear trained on the phone because I knew an agent would love it as much as I did. They didn’t. That manuscript is now tucked away and I have moved on to other projects.
With another round of queries out there on a fine-tuned project, I do still anticipate The Call from an agent. But even when that happens, I know it’s only the first piece in a complex puzzle. Once an agent loves my manuscript (and we agree to work together), then she or he has to sell it to an editor who in turn must sell it to his or her publishing house.
Then, assuming the editor doesn’t quit, get fired or die before the book goes to press, the book has to be sold to book sellers. Factor in marketing and promotions and you get a feel for how The Call fits into the puzzle. It’s an important piece--much like the corner piece that keeps the others in line and you can’t really progress without it. But by itself, it doesn’t really complete the picture.
So, most days when the phone rings, I figure it’s a client calling me back, my writing partner or a neighbor looking for her child. But one day, when it’s an agent-not-Adrian, I’m sure my heartbeat will quicken and I might squelch a squeal. I just don’t expect to have to summon a paramedic.