Monday, May 19, 2008

Now the Good Stuff

Thank you everyone who participated in my venting blog post. It was fascinating, disheartening, frustrating, and just sad to read what many of you had to say. And it’s given me a lot of material to write for future posts. Points to address, topics to discuss, and hopefully inspiration to dole out.

I’ve also learned a lot about what frustrates you and I think I would be lying to you and to myself if I said that everything you complained about was what other agents had done and not me. I suspect there were more than a couple in there that fit me. The difficulty of listening to anyone vent—whether it’s you listening to agents or me listening to you—is that none of us are perfect, and when listening to a rant we feel that we should be. I don’t think any of us expects perfection from the other. Sure we preach it because it’s easier to say we want things perfect than that we want things nearly perfect (since the definition of perfect differs from person to person), but in truth I think what we can all agree that we really want is respect, consideration, and professionalism. Unfortunately we don’t always get it. We don’t always get it in publishing, at the doctor’s office, the grocery store, or even our own homes.

However, when all is said and done, I do know that 99% of you work really hard at what you’re doing and your query letters do show that. They are professional and submitted carefully. I hope you know that I too work very hard at professionalism, but because I’m not perfect there are times when things slip through the cracks.

Okay. Now that I’ve let you rant and you’ve listened to my rants on a daily basis, I’d like to cheer us all up a bit and spend some time looking at the good things. The things that make us smile in this business and remind us why we keep plugging away at it. Because while I might complain about the unprofessional query letter or the author who calls just to yell at me after receiving a rejection, the truth is that I really, really love what I do and to love what I do I have to love authors.

So I’m going to start. I’m going to start by sharing some of my favorite things about this business.

I love this blog. I love that it’s become a community unto itself, and one of my favorite things is when the comment boards take on a life of their own. I love meeting my readers at conferences and I love that you are all so willing to honestly share your thoughts and feelings with me (even when I might not want to hear it).

I love going to conferences and interacting with authors. One of my all-time favorite stories was during the Reno RWA conference in 2005. I was sitting in the coffee shop when another author came up to me and asked if I had talked to, we’ll call her Mary Author. Mary had been looking for me because, on the advice of one of my rejection letters, she had sent her book to Harlequin and sold her first novel. It still gives me chills telling that story. I love success and I love to see any author have success—by the way, two years later Mary did officially become a client.

I love receiving queries and submissions. Because let’s face it, they are the lifeblood of this office, and the minute they stop coming in is the minute I need to really start worrying. On a selfish level, your queries boost my confidence. They remind me of how far I’ve come (from those days when we first opened and ten submissions a week was a big deal) and how many wonderful books there are yet to take on. Sometimes the submissions become overwhelming, when I’ve been too busy to really sit down and give them the attention they deserve, but when I’m in the mood to take on a new client, and have the time to do so, there are few things more fun than sitting with a pile of possibilities (submissions) and a hot cup of cocoa.

There is only one “call” in this business and that’s “the call” when your book has sold. However, for an agent there are two calls (which is why it’s more fun to be an agent). I get to make that call to offer representation, that breathless, nerve-wracking call (breathless and nerve-wracking for me, by the way). What if you say no? What if you say yes?

And then there’s “the call” when I get to tell any author, first time or otherwise, that I’ve sold their book. Please, feel free to scream, holler, and rejoice in excitement. I LOVE it.

I have another story that makes me smile and it just happened. I was queried by an author who had an offer from a publisher in hand. We had met a couple of years prior and I knew she was a reader of the blog. While I had rejected her book before, I was happy to take a second look. I did and I still really liked her writing, but I just wasn’t in love with it, and as much as I liked her and wanted to work with her and wanted to love it, it’s not fair to her to have an agent who doesn’t feel breathless with excitement. I turned it down. She was extremely disappointed and asked a second time if I was sure. I explained that I thought she deserved better. Well, the next day she emailed again to say she had found that agent who was breathless with excitement and now she knew what I meant. I was thrilled for her.

Beyond all of that, though, I just love that on a daily basis I get to make books happen. One of my best friends is a fan of a client of mine. She came to this client’s books on her own and reads them the minute they hit the shelves. It’s really, really cool to know that I’m a part of making those books happen and that when I walk into her house I see them on her bookshelves.

So now it’s your turn. Tell us the good of this business, the stories about agents, editors, and publishing that make you smile or give you a warm fuzzy feeling. Because I think right now we could all use a smile.