Monday, December 18, 2006

Full Steam Ahead

I just got back from a Steamboat Springs, CO ski trip with my family. What a wonderful place!

I packed my laptop, so when I received a whole slew of e-mail rejections from agents I queried at the start of the month, all I had to do to lift my spirits was look out the window at the gorgeous winter wonderland I was privileged to spend the week in.

Then came my mail carrier today, toting an overflowing bin of mail up my front stairs. With so many queries and partials pending, sorting through a weeks worth of mail had me feeling very anxious. The first thing I spotted was one of my SASE's--a form rejection letter from an agent I queried all the way back in July. The next thing I spotted was an envelope with the Harlequin logo emblazoned across the top. One of their editors from the NEXT imprint requested my full manuscript. Then I discovered a third delight in my e-mail box . . . a request for a partial from a DC area agent I recently became aware of and took an immediate interest in. She was quick to respond to my query, but graciously cautioned that it may take a few months for her to respond to the partial material.

Regarding my response from Harlequin, they are one of three publishers I have queried to date, sans an agent. The first, Knopf, has had my full manuscript since mid August. The second, an upstart Canadian publisher, requested a partial of my manuscript in early December. It's an odd position to be in, to have placed my full manuscript into the hands of three different editors at two separate publishing houses, without any representation from an agent. I have every intent of using an agent if I am offered a contract from either of these publishers. But, in the meantime, I can't help but wonder how many more editors would have my manuscript in hand right now if I did have an agent to represent me.

I don't mean to give the wrong impression, that I'm not a team player, that I don't play by the rules etc. etc. I'm very much a play by the rules gal. And I fully understand why an agent wouldn't want to represent a manuscript that a writer had already shopped all around to the big houses.

I had three very good reasons for querying the three publishers that have now ultimately requested my full manuscript. The editor at Knopf clearly stated in a literary magazine interview that she is occasionally open to unagented authors if a query stirs her interest. This particular editor represents my favorite author, so I took a leap of faith and queried her, while still actively trying to secure an agent. Regarding the Canadian publisher, my friend has a book with them, and she knew they were in acquisition mode for their fall line-up, and they accept unagented queries. I submitted without an agent to Harlequin, because their guidelines clearly state they are open to unagented submissions, and I knew my book was a match for their target audience. And, admittedly, because the process of querying agents is painfully dull and drawn out. Submitting directly to Harlequin gave me a sense that I was actually accomplishing something, and not just waiting upwards of six months for some agents to respond to just my query!

In no way am I implying I wouldn't welcome agent representation; I WOULD! Now, or at the point of being handed a contract, I might manage to secure on my own. Working in partnership with an agent to help build a solid framework for my writing career is my primary goal, but in the meantime I do seem to be benefiting from breaking the rules.

In keeping with my "steamboat" theme for the month, I'm off to the post office to send out yet another batch of agent queries . . . full steam ahead in pursuit of someone to help me do something it appears I don't really need any help in doing--placing my manuscript into the hands of editors at large publishing houses. Go figure :-)

No comments: