At my writing group meeting last night, Carly asked me what I’ve been asking myself for the past three months: “You’ve got a fiction book and a non-fiction book; how are you going to find an agent? Do you have to send queries out to different agents for different books?”
That is indeed what I’ve been doing so far. I finished the non-fiction book, an empowering feminist diatribe cloaked in a humorous how-to book, last spring, and I just finished the novel, a historical adventure novel featuring gutsy girl anthropologists in 1926, not long ago. Agents are pretty clear about what they like, and many do not like both of these things. So I query as I can and hope for a good match.
This all made me wonder what my ideal agent might be like. Of course he or she would be funny and forceful and find every word I wrote brilliant; that’s what every writer wants. What I really want is an agent who can help me sell all that I write — and I write a lot. And I want to write more.
I’ve been freelance writing for magazines, newspapers, and web sites since 2006, which means I’ve written hundreds of articles. Most of these were on automotive topics for the New York Times, Details, Sports Car Market, and other publications. I’ve written nearly a hundred articles for HowStuffWorks.com (and related Discovery websites) alone, covering everything from Nascar sponsorships to Atkinson engines to oil drilling and driving techniques. I’ve got a solid platform in automotive writing, one that I’d like to expand into tech and science writing.
The non-fiction book I’ve written, A Car of One’s Own, builds on that automotive platform. I’ve been one of few women in the room at many car events, and I’ve been nearly ignored by salesmen in showrooms. After a decade of automotive journalism (that’s where I got my start in publishing), I realized that the intimidation women felt — no matter how much money they made or how many years of education they’d earned — was pointless. There’s no reason a woman can’t use the same shopping savvy she uses when buying a purse or refrigerator in the automotive arena. I used my connections to get interviews that back up my assertions and lend a little levity to a pain the ass process. I can make it empowering, but it is nearly impossible to get around the fact that buying a car is time consuming and annoying.
The fiction book stars Gunn Flagely, cultural anthropologist, and her reluctant sidekick Nell Kelly, archaeologist. In 1926, what may be the oldest skull in the New World is found in Oregon by Gunn’s father, also an archaeologist. Nell is shipped out West from Columbia University to verify its age — only to find the skull has been stolen. The scientific Nell Kelly is plopped into the side car on flapper Gunn Flagely’s Harley-Davidson, and the chase is on across Oregon, from Portland to Eugene to Joseph. Along the way, Nell has sex with a cowboy, Gunn gets shot by the bad guy, and Clark Gable makes a cameo.
I have two more completed novels that require revisions to be saleable, and a stack of essays and short stories that also need revisions — some more, some less. I’m not working around a day job; writing is my day job. All damn day. And I love it. This also means I’ve got a flexible schedule and mobile work life, the better to fit in a blog tour, or a physical tour of book stores, or maintaining a focused Twitter feed or Facebook page or whatever other marketing ideas will help sell books and keep my platform floating.
What I need is someone to help me get all of this writing off my desk and into the world. Print, online, tablet, and ebook formats are all cool with me. More than cool. The more media I can cover, the fewer eggs I have to balance in one precariously woven freelance basket. I am quite happy to make money writing, since that’s how I’ve kept the dog in kibble for years now. In my dream world, someone helps me to make more money from the work I produce, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, or journalism, and I share a piece of the pile with that someone. Could that someone be you, Dear Agent?
An nine-hundred -word open letter posted on my blog is an unconventional way to find an agent, and possibly a ridiculous one. It’s far more likely that I will query an agent the traditional way and that agent will visit this site while their second cup of coffee cools. That agent will either find the query and pages in her inbox plus this blog post evidence of a charming, hard-working writer worth representing (I did mention sharing my little pile of money, don’t forget) or as a sad little cry for recognition in a vast ocean of writers. It’s both, really. But my ideal agent will be the former, and we’ll have long and productive careers together, no matter what weird thing or things publishing becomes in the next decades. I’ll still be writing, and it would be great to have someone on my side while I do.