Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tales from the Query Trenches: Dream Agent

By Kristi Belcamino

Happy Sunday!

*I dropped the ball this week so I'm recycling an old blog post about being in the query trenches.*

When I first started querying my novel, Blessed are the Dead, I didn’t yet have a “Dream Agent.” I’d heard other writers talk about the Dream Agent, but I was such a newbie, I didn’t even know how to choose a Dream Agent.

Until I came across her. The more I read about her, the more convinced I was that she was my Dream Agent.

This agent killedslaughtered, took hostages, in the crime fiction market, pulling in spectacular book deals with the flip of a wrist.

And on top of that, she was hella cool.

Soon, I was day-dreaming about hanging out with her at bookish events, closing out the bar at Boucheron — and of course — me on a kick ass book tour after she sold a boatload of my books.

Her clients actually had a name, a Team Name. And they were all friends. And I was the wallflower wanting to hang out with the popular kids. More than anything I wanted to be part of her team.

But as nice as she was – and she was extraordinarily nice AND helpful — turns out that my writing wasn’t her thing.

It happens. Fair enough. We all have different tastes.

So I switched my allegiance to a new agent – this one, SHE loved me. That became my new criteria for a dream agent — an agent who LOVED me back. Screw that one-sided love.

This agent saw a future for my books. Then why wasn’t she offering representation? I was confused.

I’d been wooed and left in the dust before. I’d had two hour long conversations with agents who told me how much they loved me and then dropped me like a hot potato.

Total radio silence.

Without any explanation. Not even a response when I emailed to say I’d had an offer of rep from another agent. Fickle people these agents.

I call it the agent tease. I’ve seen this flirtation between other agents and other writers and the outcome has been nothing more than a tease – no offer of representation to seal the deal. Agents on Twitter who become BFF’s with writers and say, “Send me your work, darling. I love you so much.” And maintain a Twitter relationship for years talking about how much the agent LOVES the writer, without ever responding to the writer about the manuscript she or he sent.

Luckily, I avoided that toxic relationship.

So back to the agent who became my new Dream Agent.

Like the other agent, I wanted to hang out with her. And this agent had more in common with me than the other one. The more I got to know her, the cooler she became to me.

So much so that I wanted our families to hang out and our children to grow up as best friends. I imagined long nights in New York City having great discussions over wine and good food. Basically, I wanted us to be new BFF’s.

I think she felt the same way. But still – no commitment – just a flirtation.

So, I didn’t put my eggs in one basket. I kept flirting with other agents, sending out my manuscript, seeing if they liked me.

Then one day, my dream agent told me she wanted to talk on the phone about my book. I didn’t think too much about it (see agent above who spent nearly two hours telling me how much she loved my book and then dropped off the face of the earth).

But this time, Dream Agent offered. I was stunned. I was thrilled. I was so excited to be BFF’s with her. All my dreams would come true. Our kids would be friends. We’d exchange holiday cards and talk on the phone like gal pals.

But I didn’t accept immediately. I’m a rule follower.  I’d studied up on what to do when you got an offer – let all the agents who had your manuscript know about this. (Including the one agent who’d had it for 18 months and kept in touch with me without rejecting it. I’m NOT kidding. She liked the the book, was waiting to see what others had to say about it, yada yada.)

So I sent out emails to all the agents who had my manuscript. I told them I had an offer and was going to respond to the offer within a week and wanted to give them a chance to review the manuscript first.

Then, the ego flailing part happened – agents started dropping like flies – bowing out, wishing me luck. Holy smokes.

This scared the crap out of me. I was on cloud 9 so I hadn’t expected the crushing ego blow of people bowing out. I had no idea this would hurt. Let’s face it, rejection is rejection, any way you dice it. Even when an offer of representation is sitting there on the table, rejection still smarts. But a few agents didn’t dump me.

On Friday night, I got a message from an agent I hadn’t stalked (lucky her, I guess) who said her colleague had passed the manuscript on to her and that she wanted to talk on Monday.

And the agent who had the manuscript for 18 months also emailed to say she’d get back to me, as well.

My ego was stroked. Two other agents besides Dream Agent might like me. I felt like a schoolgirl with multiple offers to the prom. I was “popular!” Who cares about all the agents who dropped off and bowed out when I told them I had an offer. I had the love of THREE agents. My ego was restored.

That was all it meant to me at the time — because after all, I already had established a love affair with My Dream Agent. I am a loyal person. It’s my nature. So, I knew I was going to accept her offer. She knew me, she loved me, and I loved her back.

But then on Monday, I talked to the new, heretofore unstalked agent.

And everything changed.

Not only did I realize there were other Dream Agents out there, but also I knew by the time I hung up the phone with her that there was no possible way I wouldn’t sign with her.

I was, frankly, stunned.

During one phone conversation, she had completely won me over.

Her sales pitch and her personality and her attitude were everything I hadn’t even known I wanted until I talked to her. She was the one.

My choice was clear.

Immediately, I was flooded with guilt. What about my love affair with my so-called dream agent, the one who had wooed me for months?

Part of me tried to justify breaking up with her, saying, well, she could have made an offer to me months before and I would’ve signed with her. But in her defense, she probably was also feeling out the terrain to see if we’d be a good fit.

But the bottom line was that I felt awful dumping her. I was sick to my stomach before I called her back to tell her I was going with someone else. But I had no choice. Every bit of my gut and mind told me this new agent was the right one for me.

So, I made the call. It was one of the hands down shittiest moments of my writing career. I felt like a heel, breaking up with a really wonderful person. But I knew I’d made the right decision – for me and for my career.

Don’t get me wrong — I still want to be BFF’s with the other agent. I really do. I still think the world of her and would love to buy her a drink one day and talk writing, but I have no doubt I made the right decision for my career and for my writing.

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