Monday, December 2, 2013

The Ones That Got Away

Back from my four-day Thanksgiving vacation and diving into work.  I have a lot of manuscripts I need to work on, and a few editors to follow up with before we get into the holiday no fly zone.  I've been going a little crazy catching up with emails in my inbox, and I'm hoping to start attacking follow up calls with editors.

I can't remember what made me think of this on the train ride back to the city--it was probably because of turkey coma--but somehow I was daydreaming a little bit about how agents don't always have their offers accepted.  The general impression people have is that agents are fairy godmothers and once you land one - poof! - you're done.  All you have to do now is give us wishes to grant.  I kind of thought this too when I first started working in the publishing industry.  Usually all authors are so enthusiastic when they receive offers of representation, that the first person I came across who politely said no thank you kind of blew my mind.

Of course, the fight to get a fairy grandmother is not an easy one, but people forget that agents fight to land authors, too.  In fact, I have three authors (and a fake fourth) who are my writers who got away.

The first two are Chuck McCutcheon and Dave Mark, who I met at an ASJA conference a couple years ago.  They were pitching their non-fiction proposal about how to decipher what Washington politicians say and even though I offered, like, a day after reading it, they ultimately went with a different agent.  I recently read on Publishers Marketplace that the agent sold it to Stephen Hull at University of New England Press, who I know, and my inner voice said, "ARGH!!!  We have that connection.  WE could have made that sale!!!" 

My other author who got away is Heather Webb, who is awesome.  I met her at a conference (I think it was Backspace) where she was part of a group first-pages critique session.  Her first pages were so good that I wanted to make an offer to her then and there, but I held off and asked her to send me the full manuscript.  I ended up wanting her to make some changes that she wasn't really into and she decided to sign with Michelle Brower over at Folio.  I just met Michelle recently at the Egmont holiday party who told me that Heather's book,BECOMING JOSEPHINE, is publishing this December with Penguin, so I can't wait to buy a copy and see how the book looks.  I'm sure it will be amazing!

I read a blog post once about how agents have arch-nemeses and in the most non-serious of ways, I think that Michelle might be mine.  I've had a few authors mention that she was also considering their projects when I emailed them with requests for fulls, and after reading her bio and briefly meeting her, I have a feeling that we have very similar tastes.  

Finally, my fake fourth author who got away is Jackson Pearce.  She is the author of a YA series of fairy tale retelling published by HarperCollins and has another book called TSARINA (which sounds great!) in the works.  I stumbled upon her blog when I was an intern at Writers House.  She didn't have an agent back then, and would write about her struggle to get one and about the book she was writing.  She was a fantastic, hilarious writer and I would think to myself as I read her posts, "Wait for me, Jackson!  I'm coming!"  But of course, she found an agent and a publisher long before I ever could have made her an offer.  That doesn't mean I don't still wish she were mine, haha.

But (here's a lovely realization), for every author I didn't get, I have ten WONDERFUL authors whom I love working with!  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for all of them and in the spirit of New York, it's time for me to get back to work!  More next week.  :)


  1. Love that atomic head explosion--very appropriate for so many situations!

    While I think most not-yet-agented writers dream of being able to turn down agents (not to be mean, just because we want to have people falling all over themselves for us), I would be petrified to do it unless I had an agreement in hand with another. However, it's better to say no if you're not 100% sure that it's going to be a good match. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

  2. Hi Jeff! I'm so glad you said that because after I posted this, I wondered if people would think I was being bitter or griping. Although I would, of course, have loved to represent these authors, they all definitely landed in the right place with the agents they chose. And I had a great Thanksgiving, thanks, and I hope you did too!

  3. this is so interesting...I never really thought about agents dealing with their offers not being accepted and also what happens when the visions don't match up. the more I learn about the publishing industry the more grateful I am for such savvy people on the business side of things working so hard to make books happen. The biggest thing I learned from querying to now is how subjective it all is. When I was querying I was terrified no one would "get" my voice...I knew after I spoke to you that first time that we'd make an awesome team. you not only "got" it but you helped me bring it out even more! you're the best!

    1. Thanks Beth, I love you too! Excited to dig in to your revisions!

  4. What a great post! From the writer's perspective, I'm so grateful to you for getting back to me so quickly after I queried you. There was never a doubt in my mind because of that!

  5. I was also really excited and thankful by the speed of your response to my query. And then I checked my email excessively for days after sending my pages in. I was actually at a pub with friends when I got your email suggesting we have a phone call and I was so thrilled that it (hopefully) negated the lameness of checking my email at a pub. It both was and wasn't my finest hour haha.

  6. Nice post, Carrie! And you're absolutely crushing that stereotype that the lit industry is filled with agents-without-hearts ... :)