For the first three years I owned a computer, the phrases most logged into the search engineÂ Â wereÂ â€œliterary agentsâ€ and â€œhow to find one.â€ Occasionally I dropped the word â€œdesperateâ€ in there to see if Google responded to suicidal threats.
No matter how many times I asked, I was led to the same listings, the same data bases listing the names and addresses of agents I practically knew by heart. It also brought me back to familiar articles written by writers who had successfully accomplished the miracle of signing a contract with a reputable, â€œnon-fee chargingâ€ agent.
I read those articles so often I can still quote them. â€œThereâ€™s no secret handshake,â€ Jennifer Weiner said. She also said, â€œAgents are as eager to find good writers as writers are to find them.â€ Of course, I didnâ€™t believe her. Clearly, she was just part of the conspiracy to keep out the uninitiated.
Basically, every article by every writer said the same things:
Develop your craft.
Research and queryÂ agents.
And then, never give up.
Who wanted to hear that? I turned off the computer in disgust.
But the next dayÂ or the day after that, I found myself typing in the same search words, and reading the articles yet again. Since I still didnâ€™t have a literary agent, I figured I must have missed something. Maybe If I read Jennifer Weinerâ€™s article one more time,Â Iâ€™d find the secret handshake encoded between the lines.
However, in between reading articles and searching for the secret code, I was also doing some other, less glamourous things:
I was working hard...
Developing my craft.
Researching and querying agents.
And growing more determined with every rejection.
Recently, I met an engaging young writer at a reading who asked if she might e-mail me to ask a few questions about our mutual profession. Since life is good and I owe the universe a few favors, I quickly agreed.
I wasnâ€™t surprised that her first question was an echo of my former obsession: How do you find an agent?
I put together a series of links to Websites that advise authors about how to find a reputable agents, while avoiding the sharks who grow fat on writersâ€™ hopes and dreams. Then I added a couple of links to my favorite articles by writers on the subject.
Finally, I posted a link to my own blog, where Iâ€™d written exactly how I found an agent. Itâ€™s called â€œThe Time Tested Waitress Method for finding a literary agentâ€ In it, I had poured everything I knew about the quest condensed into fourteen easy steps, beginning and ending with the key point:
Write something good enough that people will pay money to read it.
A week or two later, I heard from the writer again. She thanked me for my advice, and for the links, then closed with a final question, as if asking it for the first time: â€œSo how do you find an agent?â€
This time I didnâ€™t write back. Not because I didnâ€™t understand how she felt or want to help, but because I realized she had arrived at the place where I had been for many years: the place where every writer has to find the answer for him or herself.
And the answer, the secret code, the miracle, is found in the place where the writer, whether seasoned or aspiring, discovers nearly everything of importance: in the work itself.
Patry Francis, Books Correspondent:
Patry's column, Diary of a First Novelist, published every Thursday to Gather Essentials: Books. It will detail all she knows--and is in the process of learning--about writing and publishing. Â
To learn more about Patry and her debut novel, The Liar's Diary, visit her Website.
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