OK, you’re in love, but can you sell my novel?


An editor friend just called to apologize, he hasn’t had time to read my new manuscript because he’s having his roof replaced and can’t hear himself think. I said hey, no hurry, it will still be there when you find time, unless I rewrite it.

I was kidding. I’m done with the novel until I find an agent for it. I’m doing my research again.

Most literary agents seem to be young women looking for Young Adult and Romance and Queer and so on. (What is it with the YA craze in publishing? Do you know any teenagers who put down their phones and video games long enough to read?)

A lot of agents post descriptions of the sort of manuscripts they prefer. A surprising number say they won’t represent a writer unless they “fall in love” with his/her manuscript. As if falling in love weren’t a highly overrated reason for doing something, especially something business-related.

Some say they’re looking for either literary fiction or genre fiction, as if those categories are always separate and mutually exclusive.

Some are enormously successful. I recently visited the website of an agent who represents a formidable bunch of thoroughbred writers. I pictured them in her stable, being fed and groomed in luxury stalls. I could go for that.

Yes, it’s delusional to think an A-list agent will look at my manuscript and phone me, even if my unsolicited query letter indicates I’m snarky and self-effacing, in exactly the right proportions, and a joy to work with, and in the vanguard of writers who are inventing The Next Big Thing.

But one never knows, do one?

Just this morning I looked at my ringing phone and saw the call was from New York City, and my pulse quickened. Could this be love? It was a recorded message from someone trying to sell me something. I don’t know what the product was because she was speaking Chinese.

Long ago, I reluctantly concluded the best way to get an agent’s attention is through referrals. This time, lucky for me, I know a friend of a friend of a friend who knows a friend of a big-name agent in Manhattan. I’ll let you know when I make the connection.

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