Monday, June 3, 2019

How to Find the Agent of Your Dreams - A #BookEnds20 Tale

To celebrate my literary agency, BookEnds’s, 20th anniversary this year, I thought I’d relate the story of how I came to be a client of the founder, the incomparable and awe-inspiring Jessica Faust.

I worked on getting published for years; I briefly had an agent who did absolutely nothing and quit after trying to sell one book to one publisher and failing. But eventually I made it, and became a published author of Regency romances. From 1999 to 2005 I wrote Regencies for Zebra, an imprint of Kensington.

Using that as a springboard, I found a great agent at a good agency. When the Zebra imprint closed I already had a wonderful deal to write paranormal historical romances for Berkley; Awaiting the Moon, a werewolf historical romance, came out in 2006, followed by two more books in the contract… but my series was not renewed after that. It just didn’t find an audience. I was thrilled to get a contract with Sourcebooks Casablanca to write a historical mystery series, beginning with Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark. However… there was a fundamental misunderstanding between the publisher and I; I considered it a historical mystery series, but they marketed it as a historical romance series. That didn’t end well, and they declined to publish the 2nd and 3rd book of the series.

It was 2009, and, as you can see, I had been through a few rough patches in the publishing industry. I liked my agent very much. We worked together well, and I had gone with him when he left the agency he worked for. However… he was going in another direction, pursuing his love of agenting cookbook authors and chef biographies.

I knew what I wanted… I wanted (and had always intended) to write mysteries. So I talked to him (honesty and being upfront is always the best policy) and I think with a sense of relief we both came to the conclusion that I should start hunting for a new agent. I thought with my background it should be easy. So I came up with a mystery series idea (which I still love, and hope to work on someday) and fleshed it out to a proposal, and started agent-hunting.

Even with a decent list of published credits, trying to find an agent can be a disheartening process. I was careful and selective, only approaching agents who represented the kind of book I wanted to write. Of course, there was one agent who I wanted, and really ONLY her, but I wasn’t dumb enough to think I should only approach her. The one agent above all others was, of course, Jessica Faust, of BookEnds Literary.

After a reasonable time with my proposal, she wrote back that though she liked my voice, and was intrigued by the mystery, it just wasn’t quite right. Encouraged by her kind words, I wrote back, asking for advice, and asking if I came up with something else, would she consider looking at it?
First, she told me she was going on mat leave for SIX MONTHS… I was bummed. Six months? That’s a lifetime when you’re a struggling author with no money coming in. However, she also gave me some sage advice; she told me that if I wanted to write cozy mysteries (that’s what I’d told her I was writing, though I now see what I had presented to her wasn’t really a cozy at all) that I should get the first book of several series and read them.

So I did. Then I wrote (and rewrote, and re-re-wrote) the first chapters and a synopsis for the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, taking my love of vintage recipes and collecting vintage kitchenalia, creating Queensville MI, and giving it a backstory (locations in cozy mysteries, Jessica told me, are like another character… a good location could sell a series) and I waited until a few days after she was back to taking submissions; I figured I’d be among hundreds, if I submitted the first day she was back. I submitted my fresh proposal and then I waited.

The email came back pretty fast; she had some suggestions, but she loved it, and she took me on as a client in January, 2010. It was the best day of my writing career, bar abso-freaking-lutely none. From there, once we signed, she presented it to Berkley and they bought the series, and the rest is history.

I’m a lucky LUCKY writer, and I know it.
Thank you Jessica, and all of BookEnds, and congratulations on #bookends20!