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Sunday, May 6, 2007

6 -- Smooth Sailing With Agents

NOTE: This blog is a continuing dialog between the two faces of rilla. The identity crisis is explained (if such a thing is possible) in the first edition. Click here to read: 1 -- Introduction

Written after attending the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators SCBWI Agent's Day at Newport Beach, CA on Saturday, May 5, 2007

Rilla: So, how was the cruise?
rilla: The what?
Rilla: The boat ride with the agents…
rilla: It wasn’t a boat ride. It was at a marina in Newport Beach.
Rilla: Whatever. One of those fancy places you writers feel the need to congregate at. HOW WAS IT?
rilla: The SCBWI OC Agent’s Day was fabulous!
Rilla: And…
rilla: And, there were three wonderful agents there; Laura Rennert, Senior Agent at the Andrea Brown Agency, Nephele Tempest from the Knight Agency and Kelly Sonnack from the Sandra Dijkstra Agency, all on the west coast. Who said you had to be from New York to be a great agent?
Rilla: Yeah, who said that?
rilla: Never mind. It was a valuable experience. First of all, I got to see Marlene and Lori again. They were co-chairs of the event. And I met Nancy the third co-chair…what a job they did. They didn’t give the agents a minute of rest…put them through the wringer! We got more than our money’s worth, all right. Each agent had to speak individually, answer questions on two separate panels and rotate between five smaller groups, talking to each of them for fifteen whole minutes. Gosh, add that all up, that’s a marathon…
Rilla: Speaking of getting your money’s worth, which agent took you on?
rilla: Come again?
Rilla: You went to Agent’s Day to get an agent, yeah?
rilla: I had the first ten pages of my YA manuscript critiqued…
Rilla: I take it, still no agent…
rilla: It was a good critique. “What you have is written well, with good rhythm.” “You do a great job setting the scene, with good descriptions that blend seamlessly with the action.” I like that. Oh, and “This is an interesting idea, and I like the different cultural influences that you’ve woven into the background.” She mentioned that, “Kalpa seems a strong, stubborn protagonist…” Boy, she is that. I have real trouble keeping her out of mischief.
Rilla: Yadda, yadda, yadda, get to the point.
rilla: There were two writers on the faculty as well. Both of them clients of Laura Rennert’s and both of them came to Laura as unpublished writers. In fact, Jay Asher’s book, Thirteen Reasons Why, will only be out later this year, in October. It's his 'first debut book.'
Rilla: As opposed to his second? How many debuts does this guy get to have?
rilla: Forget it. You had to be there...Debra Garfinkle has several books by now, but her first was Storky, about a fourteen year-old boy. The writers had such inspirational stories to tell and they both LOVE their agent. “Laura’s a goddess!” they said.
Rilla: Well, wouldn’t you call somebody who got you a six figure deal on your first book a goddess?
rilla: Lighten up! Laura Rennert was unbelievably helpful. Her talk was full of information, tips and pointers and as she got to go first, she covered half the stuff the other agents were going to say. So they added to what Laura Rennert had said and then opened the discussion up to questions and all-in-all, we learned a lot.
Rilla: Guess your latest book will be “All you Wanted to Know about a Literary Agent but Were Afraid to Ask”.
rilla: Funny.
Rilla: So what did the writers have to say for themselves?
rilla: Debra Garfinkle related how before she made her first book-sale, everything went wrong…they had their house on the market and their three-year-old flushed something down the toilet and…
Rilla: What?
rilla: Hm?
Rilla: What did the three-year-old flush down the toilet?
rilla: Oh. She didn’t say.
Rilla: It would be good to know…
Rilla: Bet it was a dirty diaper…
rilla: Anyway, the whole house flooded and they had to take it off the market and ended up spending something like $11,000 to fix the problem! And they had huge, industrial fans going to dry the place and yet Debby did her one hour of writing everyday and it was the only thing that kept her sane through the whole thing and soon after, her first book was sold…
Rilla: Very touching.
rilla: Yeah, I had tears in my eyes.
Rilla: Baby! Hm, the baby. What if...I know! The baby got into a bag of his mother's sanitary napkins and started flushing them down one after the other like a slot machine...pop, flush, pop, flush, kaching!
rilla: Is there some way I can GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE TOILET and tell you Jay Asher's story? It was equally moving. He works at a public library and went out on lunch break when he checked his voicemail. There was a message from Laura Rennert. “She even said her last name, like I didn’t know who it was by now…” laughed Jay. And the message said that an offer had been made on his YA novel, his book had sold! Then there was another message from Laura. A second offer had been made on his book, even higher! So, Jay went back to work full of excitement, but he didn't want to say anything to his co-workers until he’d told his wife …so when they asked him, “How was lunch?”, he kind of looked at them funny and said, “OK”. And then proceeded to sit on the information for four hours.
Rilla: How many times did he go to the toilet…?
rilla: After work, he takes his wife to the spot on the beach where they were married and finally tells her he sold his first book. And she cries and cries.
Rilla: Yuck! There you go again. You’re blubbering.
rilla: So was he.
Rilla: I thought it was his wife who was blubbering.
rilla: Jay cried as he told the story… Twelve whole years, he said, of hopes and dreams and disappointments, of trying to get published and then wondering if it would ever happen and if the process was even worth it.
Rilla: Twelve years! Don’t tell me I have another ten years to wait before you get published!
rilla: Well, technically, I did first write my mg novel almost eight years ago…
Rilla: What, you call that writing? That first draft was horrendous! You made every mistake possible and then some…
rilla: Thought you didn’t read fantasy.
Rilla: You couldn’t call that first draft fantasy…only fantastical to think anyone would want to read it in that form. It’s been less than two years since you REALLY began to write …
rilla: Seems like forever.
Rilla: Hey! You’re not supposed to be depressed…I thought these events are meant to motivate you, inspire you, energize you…
rilla: Yeah, of course they do. But then again, I just couldn’t help looking at Debby and Jay sitting up there on either side of their wonderful agent and wondering if that would ever be me… ever?

Rilla: Hold on a minute. You thinking of quitting? Throwing in the towel? After all…
rilla: That’s the problem.
: How’s that?
rilla: I can’t. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. This IS what I do. I HAVE to write, whether anyone else wants to read it or not.
Rilla: There, there! Don’t go all mushy. You’re not alone. Of course other people want to read your work…
rilla: Who?
Rilla: Well for starters, how about this? I solemnly promise to read everything you write… There, that should make you feel better.

Some Reasons Why You Need an Agent:
Agents take care of the boring business of checking contracts, chasing royalties, handling permissions and leave you,the author, to take care of the business of writing.
Agents think strategically for you and with a view to your career as a whole.
Agents make it easier for you to find the best fit of editor for your book.
Not to mention that an agent will probably land you a sweeter deal than you could have on your own.
Debby Garfinkle has pointed out other reasons as well, see her comment below...Thanks Debby!

If you have more reasons I can add to this list, please let me know.

Useful links:
Debra Garfinkle's Website
Disco Mermaids -- Jay Asher's Blog
Read Jay's story
Barry Eisler's Tips for Writers Barry Eisler-writer -- Laura Rennert's husband.
Andrea Brown Literary Agents
Knight Agency Submission Guidelines
Sandra Dijkstra Agency

Lunch was Good! -- Joe's Crab Shack


Katia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katia Novet Saint-Lot said...

Thanks, Rilla, for this other very informative post. Maybe I should try getting an agent all over again. Sent about 10 very carefully crafted letters, last year, and didn't even get that number of "thanks, but no thank you" letters. I'm so jealous about your being able to attend all these great events, to mingle with other writers, and all that. Also, I want to repeat how well the 2-voices dialogue works for your blog. It's a lot of fun. Keep up the good work and good luck on your agent chase :)
Katia the chatter box

Rilla said...

Hey Katia,
thanks so much for chattering. Love the support. Wish you could be here too. I feel very lucky to live in an area with so many opportunities to mingle with writers and go to informative and useful events. Anytime you feel like attending one, come along and visit ;) I think it will be much easier for you to get an agent now that you have that wonderful publication, yoohoo! Juice it girl, it's worth so much more than the advance. I'm so jealous of your publication ;P

LynNerd said...

Hello Rilla,

Thanks for all the great info about Agent's Day and for all the links. How do you keep up with it all? You're so darn clever. Blogging is definitely right up your alley. I can tell you're having a lot of fun with it. I'm lucky to email back and forth to my sister every day. If I tried to blog, I doubt if I'd keep up with it. Like maybe write an entry once a year, once in a blue moon, once upon a time. You get the gist. I hate computers and they hate me, and when AI rises up, I'm sure I'll be first on their hit list because I've said I hate computers so many times, it's almost a mantra. So for me, BLOG stands for Being Left Out Geek. Only I really don't feel left out. I'd rather read your blog than write my own. So there. Please tell Rilla and rilla that I'll leave it to them.
Maybe BLOG stands for Big Lady Offers Gab? Okay, so I'm being silly. Thanks for letting me know that BLOG stands for web log. So it's blog, not BLOG, but what's the fun in that? Those computer people think they're so clever coming up with the term "blog."
Well, knock their blog off, because some of us want to throw
our computers (and all the blogs in it) through a window when they're acting up. So bloggedy blog blog blah. JK Keep up the good work. Just trying to make ya chuckle.

J said...

I think I remembered my password. We'll both know that I did if you get this note
Stephanie J

Rilla said...

Hey LynNerd,
I'm chuckling all right! I'm afraid my BLOG stands for batty, lopsided, obtuse and groggy! All at once. Bloggedy blog blah blah to you too. ;)

LynNerd said...

Ha, Rilla, you crack me up! Looks like another bloggy day today with a 20 percent chance of static predicted for this evening. Have a good day, matey.

Steph said...

Rilla! You never do things half way, do you? Great blog.

Rilla said...

Well now Steph,
that would be like you drawing only one twin...
Great to have you here ;)

Debby Garfinkle said...

I love this! You're so funny!

It was a toy soldier, we think. In the toilet. He got up early and did it, and then woke us up as water was gushing out of the toilet. Anyway...

Another good reason for an agent: There are always problems that arise (delays getting the money to the author; disagreements over editorial suggestions; a bad book cover; etc.) after a publisher buys your book. The agent can fight to fix the problems on your behalf, while you play sweet little author with your publisher.

Best of luck with your books. If they're as entertaining as your blog, you'll go far.

Rilla said...

rilla: Thank you so much, Debby, for clearing up the flood issue. Now maybe I can finally get Rilla's head out of the toilet!

Rilla: Great point about the added usefulness of agents, Debby. Maybe I can finally persuade rilla to find one and get something published!