Sunday, November 15, 2009

Meeting my Secret...errrr....Literary Agent


It happened on Friday night. (Mission Impossible music starts now.) My Ford Flex slowly hummed as it approached the airport pick-up curb, and there she was... my agent, standing in her black trenchcoat and dark sunglasses. (Okay, she wasn't really wearing dark sunglasses, but I thought they might add to the general effect.) "Have you got them?" she asked after I rolled down my window.

"Got them," I said. Then she scanned the area with her mini-binoculars and climbed into her seat. She slammed the door. We were off -- off to the Patrick Moore Gallery in Salt Lake City. But first, we took a detour to discuss the plans. We stopped at a Rumbi Island Grill, and over two chicken and shrimps over rice, we plotted out a strategy. A strategy for me to disassemble and reassemble my novel. It was going to be a very tricky, complicated process.

After going over the plans, we put on disguises and crept into the art gallery, where dozens of chic authors dined on cupcakes and martinellis. Finally I was recognized. "Is your agent here?" several of the authors asked me, but I didn't want to blow her cover. The only problem was, she was standing right beside me.

Alright, so the true story is that this weekend I met my agent, Kendra Marcus, for the first time. This is after working with her for eight years, and after she had already sold four picture book manuscripts for me. Whoa. For me, it was a bit like being one of Charlie's Angels and finally meeting Charlie. The voice I knew so well from phone calls finally had a face, mannerisms, and a personality. What a thrill. What an honor. What a weekend! Kendra was going to be presenting at the SCBWI Winter Conference in Salt Lake City, and I was asked to be her personal escort to and from the airport.

I'm often asked if I like having an agent, and if I think agents are important if you want to be published. My answers are emphatically yes and yes! I LOVE having an agent because, other than marketing my books, I really don't want to be bothered with some of the business-aspects of being an author. I just want to write. And I like having an advocate who will be brutally honest about my work and tell me what I need to do to improve it. It's great that she'll go to bat for me and find the right publisher, and negotiate the contract details. She can say the hard things to my editors that I'd rather not say. As the middle-person, she keeps relationships between me and editors friendly and uncomplicated.

Bottom line: I don't believe I'd be published today without an agent. I salute those authors who have done it alone, because it's hard for me to imagine. I certainly would recommend that writers who are serious about getting published try to find one to represent them. A good one. A reputable one. One who "gets" their work and will help guide them in career decisions.

Yeah, but the 15% the agent receives? What about that?

Best investment I've ever made.

It was so wonderful meeting Kendra after all these years. We had a great weekend and she left me with a whole lot of revision suggestions and wisdom that I'm chewing and swallowing very slowly. Not "slowly" because I don't like the suggestions, but because I need to savor and appreciate them.

In my school presentations to kids I have always called Kendra my "secret agent." Time to fix that.

As I dropped Kendra back off at the airport Saturday Night I marveled at how much of an impact she'd had on my life and career, and how odd it was that we had only just met. Just another strange aspect of this oddball writing world.

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