Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do & The Introduction of the SAT

I've got a guest poster today!  Anita Howard (raven1 to all you QueryTracker users) will be ushering in the first of my (hopefully weekly) SAT's - Successful Author Talk.  She was kind enough to invite me to her blog for my own guest post regarding my successful agent hunt, and we found out how much fun it is to do each other's work! She recently made the move over to Blogger and her blog can now be found here. Her own experience being slightly more vast than mine, she volunteered to do a post for us today about the difficult choices writers are sometimes faced with after that initial success.

Mindy, thanks so much for inviting me to your wonderful blog! I’d originally thought about giving a rundown of my crazy and hectic representation story. But that’s been done here already … So, let’s do something different today.

A writer acquaintance recently asked about my experience of leaving my first agent. She assumed that said agent had dropped me because we hadn’t sold anything in our two years together. I wanted to address this concern.

Truth is most agents aren’t just in it for the money. The good ones … the BEST ones … are in it for love. They sign the author, not the book. And I was blessed enough to have that kind of agent (twice now—yay!). But sometimes, love just isn’t enough.

My First Ever Agent (FEA) is and was an awesome agent and person. And no, she didn’t drop me. She would’ve hung in with me forever. But I never would’ve been able to get published with her.

When I first got a request for a full from FEA, it was for a vampire fantasy. She couldn’t get into the story, but she asked what else I was working on because she loved my writing and voice.  I told her about my WIP, a love story about a deaf heroine, the ghost that only she can hear, and the mysterious viscount who’s in some way tied to the ghost’s death. FEA was very excited and asked to look at it when I finished.   That’s the book she fell in love with and signed me for.

Throughout our partnership, we tried to sell the MS as a single title romance. The editors kept complimenting the premise and the prose, but they couldn’t get past the first person POV and the duel heroes. That goes against every rule in romance. The book really needs to be shopped as a literary gothic love story, which is what my new agent plans to do down the road.

Anyway, while that book was being subbed, I wrote two other romance MSS, but they were both too fantasy based for FEA’s tastes. So, without any complaints, I trunked them. When I got the idea for my Alice in Wonderland YA, FEA had just added young adult fiction to her list and we both agreed I should write it.

Once I finished, she loved my YA's premise, the characters, and the voice, but again, the fantasy elements threw her.  I'm not averse to revisions, but this was a matter of subjectivity and artistic differences that kept popping up. I told her I thought we should part ways because we had different visions for my books and my career.

We were both really sad and stunned at the end of that phone conversation.  ;-( To make it worse, it was the first of December. What a great Christmas present, right?

Still, we parted as friends. She emailed after that phone call and said she'd always be my fan and to keep her posted on my successes. It makes me sad when I think of it. But, I did the right thing for both of us.

Leaving my first agent was the hardest and scariest leap I ever made. I treasured her immensely as a person, and depended upon her professionally. But we were never going to see eye to eye on any of my stories other than the one she signed me for.

If any of you are considering leaving your current agent, think carefully before you make that decision. If your agent loves your work, other than a few revisions here and there, and she has the connections to get your stuff out there and bought, it’s a no brainer. STAY. Most agents are in it for the long haul. And you should be, too.

But, if you realize you’re not ever going to see eye to eye on the things that are crucial to staying true to your growth as a writer and your stories, if you’ve “grown apart” and your voice would suffer for staying—leave, as amicably as possible. Loyalty notwithstanding, you have to do what’s best for you and your career.

Good luck to each of you, whether you’re seeking representation, or have found it already. I hope to see you upon the shelves very soon. :-)


Angela said...

What an awesome story, Anita (thanks for posting, Mindy!). How hard it must've been to let go of something (someone) it took you so long to get! You had to take such a huge leap of faith; it must've been terrifying. So happy it all worked out in the end for you.

-Angela (write2live @ QT)

Bohemienne said...

Thanks for sharing, both of you! Your mss sound amazing. Hope to see them on shelves soon!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Angela, Boh - thanks for stopping by! Anita's story is a good reminder to us all to make sure you're signing with the agent who is the right career choice for you, not necessarily just that first rockin' ms!

Anita said...

Thank you Angela (good to see you, write2live!) and Bohemienne (what a gorgeous name!)...

I wouldn't trade my time w/my first agent, though. Even w/all of the angst. Because through this experience I learned who I was as a writer, and what I would never bend on in my MSS. I might need that down the road. :-)So, everything happens for a reason.

And good luck to both of you on your writing journeys!

Bethany C. said...

Thanks (again) for sharing this story, Anita. Too often we feel like we should just be grateful to have someone willing to represent us, when in actuality it's a relationship like any other. It goes 2 ways!

Mindy, thanks for snagging Anita for this guest blog and for all you do over on QT.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Bethany - no problem! I adore the writing community over at QT and AgentQuery. Can honestly say that without them I would not be agented.

Anita said...

That's true Bethany. I think sometimes we're so enamored of agents, that we forget they're human like us.

They work for us, yet we feel like we're their employees. At least in the beginning. But when the newness wears off, that's when we realize that it's more of a partnership than anything else. And for that to work, you need to be seeing things eye to eye on the important aspects of your career.

BTW, thank you for stopping in, and for always supporting and encouraging me!

Anita said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Bethany is the aforementioned "writer acquaintance" who asked about my experience of leaving my first agent and inspired this blog. So thank you, Bethany! Also, she's more a friend than an acquaintance now.

Jenn Johansson said...

Great post! It's so true. You have to stay true to yourself and it seemed to work out great for you! Congrats!

Jenny Phresh said...

Always wise and wonderful comments from Anita, reminding us that subjectivity is a two-way street. Thanks for sharing the story. I also did not know that Anita had written SO much material already. Prolific!

Darian Wilk said...

What a great post. So often we get lost in the query process and think that once we get an offer from an agent, poof, we're on the right track. But, like any relationship, it needs work and to stand on common ground. Despite how much love might be there, sometimes you have to do what's best for both of you. Great decision Anita, and I hope things go better for you this time around!

Anita said...

Thank you Jenn J and Darian! And I appreciate the support so much!

Jenny, LOL. I told you I was wordy. Bet you thought I was exaggerating, huh?

Anonymous said...

You as so right that it is almost as difficult to leave an agent as it is to leave a spouse, emotionally that is, but as someone else pointed out, this is a business relationship, and if your gut is telling you that it's not working, then you have to go with that feeling.

My agent was wonderful, so supportive and encouraging, in the business for 25 years and I know she wouldn't have wanted to represent me if she didn't feel that she could successfully find my novel a good home.

I didn't leave because that didn't happen in the year I was with her, there were a number of professional reasons, not one of which had to do with her personally, but there just comes a time when you have to make that decision to stay with someone you like that is just not what you need, or be back to square one of looking for another agent.

In this highly competitive industry, sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and hope for the best.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Well said raven. It's such a difficult business to even get your foot in the door - it's important to remember that snagging your agent doesn't mean Easy Street is paved.

Kelly Bryson said...

Wow- Thanks for sharing. That sounds so very hard, but I imagine when issues like direction and genre keep cropping up, eventually a decision has to be made. Good luck! Nice to "meet" you guys outside of QT.

Anita said...

Thanks Raven. Sounds like you and I were in kind of the same position. It's a hard leap to make, but it all comes down to what's best for the future, for you both.

Kelly, nice to meet you outside of QT, too! Thanks for dropping in. :)