Worse than No Agent at All (part 2)
by Laurie Alice Eakes
Read part 1 HERE
As I mentioned earlier, my story is not unique. This type of situation has happened to numerous authors, and worse. Authors have been duped into spending thousands of dollars on editing services, on reading fees, and aledged mailings to publishers. We get excited when we get an agent, and we are willing to do anything because we hear how difficult getting published is. No hoop is too fiery to jump through, if our agent tells us it’s what necessary, even if it’s mortgaing the family home. (I haven’t heard of anyone doing this, but it wouldn’t surprise me.)
An agent, who wasn’t good at her job and blamed it on the author, convinced me that I couldn’t write well enough for publication. So I took her advice and moved on. I played with ideas and part of me still had the dream, but I essentially stopped writing, went to grad school for history, liked academics a little, but research more, and went back to my office job. A couple of times, I took out things I’d written, dusted them off, and reworked a chapter or two. I even submitted something which, fortunately, didn’t sell. It really was bad and I wouldn’t want it in print.
Then tragedy struck. My best friend found out she had four months to live. She told me to go back to writing, to pursue that dream and not let that lousy agent stop me. My friend believed in me. Several other life-changing events occurred, too, and I found myself with a renewed relationship with the Lord, glad my secular stuff had gone nowhere, joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), and, by a pure miracle of the Lord, got an agent who believed in me.
I had done my research on her. She was new, so no former clients, but also that meant she was hungry. No, she didn’t have great contacts in the industry, but she was outgoing and warm and had a desire to succeed. She was also a writer, so knew people in the business. She was also working with an experienced agent. Frankly, I felt that I had nothing to lose at this point.
Ten years after that first agent told me I couldn’t write and my idea was terrible, I sold that terrible idea to Avalon Books. Family Guardian won the National Readers’ Choice Award for Best Regency the year it came out. And since then, I have sold fourteen more books. Why? Yes, I suppose I have some talent and ability, and I also have an agent who believes in me, encourages me, sticks with me, tells me when something won’t work, but also tells me when something does. And an agent who always submits what she says she will.
These are the minimal points you should expect from your agent. Not all will hold your hand. If you want that, then seek one who will. If you want one who just submits and doesn’t care if you’re dog died and your heart is broken, so long as you meet your deadline, then make sure you know that ahead of time, too. I tend to need some encouragement, someone to call me up and say, Hello, look at that award on your desk when you think you can’t write. Look at those books with your name on the spine. This isn’t for everyone and not every agent will do this for you either. I have a friend whose agent gets her good deals, then disappears. I would hate that. Well, I’d like the deals, but I don’t want my agent to disappear.
Your agent should be honest with you about your work, but should also encourage you. She (or he) should keep you up on the market and pay attention to whom she is selling. If she’s never sold to publishing house X, she may not have a connection there or like the stuff those editors do, so she’s not a good fit.
Award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes does not remember a time when books did not play a part in her life; thus, no one was surprised when she decided to be a writer. Her first hardcover was an October, 2006 Regency historical from Avalon Books and won the National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency, as well as being a finalist for Best First Book. She was also a finalist for the ACFW 2010 Carol award in the short historical category. After selling her first book in the inspirational market, she also wrote articles and essays for Christian publications. A brief hiatus in publishing climaxed with her selling thirteen books in thirteen months, to publishers such as Barbour, Avalon, and Baker/Revell.
She is an active member of RWA and ACFW, and started the Avalon Authors group blog. A graduate of the Seton Hill University Master of Arts Degree in Writing Popular Fiction, And a Bachelor of Arts graduate in English and French from Asbury College, she is an experienced speaker, and has made presentations at local and national RWA conferences, as well as local universities and libraries.
Until recently, she lived in Northern Virginia, then her husband’s law career took them and their dogs and cats, to southern Texas, where she writes full-time and enjoys the beach whenever possible.
You can find her web site and read excerpts from her books, including her February, 2011 release, Lady in the Mist, at: