THE KISS OF DEATH

Ok, I’m going to annoy some people here so let me say that I sincerely don’t mean to. I am not griping, I am not complaining, I am just wondering aloud. Too loudly perhaps since this musing is going off over the internet and one never knows where that will end up.
Let me say first off, that I am exceedingly grateful to be published. It is one of the best feelings in the world. Perhaps the best you can experience as a writer besides having a kid or a librarian come up to you and tell you that they really liked your book. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had some wonderful high-points (and no real low points) in my life recently and I try to hold onto them and savor them and not take them for granted.
But right now I am looking for an agent. I have done my research online and in source books and I have sent out 55 query letters. I have asked writer friends for recommendations and referrals. Unfortunately most of my writer friends write adult books and their agents are ensconced in their particular genre and don’t seem to associate with children’s lit agents who from all appearances are a separate breed. (And you know  hushed whisper- that kid’s books don’t bring in much money usually) so only a few brave souls want to handle them. Gone are the days when an agent would take on a client based on good writing no matter what genre it was. Like most things in life, pigeon-holing and labeling make things easier but not necessarily better. I have some ideas for some adult novels- I’ve even written a couple of them- but right now I want to write for children so I need a specific kind of representation.
I strayed a bit off the point-what I’ve been wondering as I sweat over a one page synopsis and introduction is if it’s harder to get an agent once you’ve been published by a small (yet award-winning press) than being fresh and new and wet behind the ears. I speak from experience now knowing at the same time how incredibly lucky I was when I was just starting out. I wrote a book for my own pleasure. I thought it was great. I thought others might like it too. I sent out my manuscript to 2 agents. That’s right 2. And I blush to think what an awkward and rough beast that manuscript was. But I was picked up by the 2nd agent. It was so easy and in my naivety I thought it would always be that easy.
My book came out, it garnered good reviews–recommended but nothing starred– and respectable sales but nothing earth-shaking. It was nice little debut all around. Some people have heard of me, most people liked the book, my Amazon sales ranking got up to #7000 or something and my website now gets about 13,000 visits a month. But in the big world of publishing, I did’t even make a ripple. Not even a tiny splish in the big, big pond. No foreign license deals, no movie options. I couldn’t even get British distribution which is a shame because my influences are very British and I think they get my humor more than any other tribe.
So the agent has something to hook into when they’re casting their tired eyes over my query letter. They can go to Bookscan and punch in my name or the title of the book and pull up my sales. See the units numbered there in stark black and white. How many you ask? Let’s say bigger than the pen of my aunt but smaller than the garden of my uncle. What’s a few thousand? 3 to 5? Without stretching the truth much I could say it sold a few thousand. Will the agent think anymore about me after that? Will they think to themselves,’well that’s not bad for a small press’, good reviews including a nice one in School Library Journal (except for the last sentence) and a very good one in the Canadian Library Journal- “a lot of potential here” or will they just see the numbers and send out the dreaded rejection form letter?
If I were an agent I think I would look for an author who had a notch or two in her belt, who had worked with an editor before, been through the revision process a few times, read a contract, knew a little about how the publishing world worked, understood the importance of being open and available and easy, was hungry and wanted to do better. Someone who appreciates the chance to write and keep writing and who is looking at things in the long-term. Someone who wants a career.
But maybe they want The Clean Slate, The Giant What-if, The Shining Possibility.
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