I Heart Indies

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why I Love Literary Agents

I love literary agents. More specifically, I love my literary agent.
The other day, I received a call from my agent, Sorche Fairbank. I wasn’t able to take the call at the time, so she left a message. “Just checking in,” she said coyly. “Call me back when you get the chance.”

My hands shook when I pushed the buttons on my cell phone. The week before Sorche and I hammered out a marketing proposal of sorts for Picador Books, a division of St. Martin’s Press. I had stayed up late and woken up early to work on it. In between I had dreamed about it. Sorche had done likewise. We needed to marshal every idea, resource, and contact to lay before the decision-making boys at Picador. Times are tough in the publishing biz, and we needed to convince them if they shelled out to publish my second novel, they wouldn’t be sorry.

My debut novel, Days of the Endless Corvette, was published by Carroll and Graf, an imprint of Avalon Books, which was already in financial distress. Perseus Books acquired Avalon, which folded Carroll and Graf in May, 2007.

Did I mention Endless Corvette was published in May, 2007?

There are few things more distressing for a first-time author than to learn your editor, the man who chose your manuscript from the welter, who defended it to the publisher, who guided it through edits and rewrites, is getting the sack. Endless Corvette won me the prestigious Georgia Author of the Year Award, and was chosen for Western Kentucky’s One Book, One Campus read of 2008. It is still available under its new Perseus label, and under $20 ($14.95) it makes a darn fine gift for any occasion. But sales cannot be called robust.

Hence the effort devoted to our marketing plan.

In my last conversation with Sorche, she had described our “plan,” an unwieldy concatenation of bullet points, pictures, and random notions, a “hot mess.” Nevertheless, she promised to do what she could to wrest order from the chaos, and send it to the editor so he could present it to the publisher.

Which brings us back to Sorche’s message, remember? The news. Picador made an offer. I will confess, I crowed. I am a high school teacher and debate coach, and I was in the company of my debaters who were not a little taken aback by my display. I called my wife who emailed all our friends the good news. I was elated.

For about thirty minutes.

We’re expecting the book to come out in Spring of 2011, which gives me a little more than a year to prepare.

Time to get to work.

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