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Joe DeRouen, Author of the Small Things trilogy: 2009-08-23

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bitter Agent Woes

On January 3rd, 2006, I queried the agent of one of my favorite authors. She said she really liked my query letter, but was up to her eyeballs in work. She asked, if I didn't have an agent in three months time, to e-mail her again. I did, and she said she wanted to look as the manuscript, but to wait another three months to send it off. I agreed, and sent it off three months later. And I waited.

Was I put off by waiting? Well, sure. Of course. But she was upfront and honest with me, and it was my choice to wait. She didn't put a gun to my head. So I waited. This was around August of 2006. I wrote her again in December of that same year, and she said she hadn't yet been able to read it. Her assistant, a junior agent, wrote me and said she'd like to read it. I agreed, and the first agent passed it off to the second agent.

And that's when the fun began. This was around the first of January, 2007, just about a year since I'd originally sent off the manuscript. The junior agent gave me the three month time frame, and when I wrote in three months, gave me another three month time frame. I am patient, but my patience was starting to wear thin. I wrote said junior agent, and she didn't respond. I waited a month and wrote again, with the same results. Eventually I wrote the original agent, who spoke to her junior associate, who apparently said, "I think I rejected it."

I wrote junior agent yet again, to confirm this, and got no response. Finally, she returned on e-mail in July of 2008. " I have been excessively tardy in replying to you, for which I profusely apologize," she said. " I am writing to see if you are still interested in having me read the material you sent me, in regards to potential representation. If you would like to withdraw it from consideration, I will not be offended in the least. Please let me know how you would like to proceed."

I wrote her back and said, yes, I'm still interested, but how long will it take?

A month later, she wrote me back, stating: "Probably within three months, which is my standard response time frame now. "

She hadn't had time to read my novel, but yet had time to post almost daily updates to her blog.

This was in August of 2008, mind you, two and a half years since I'd queried the original agent, and over a year and a half since the junior agent had agreed to read the ms. Flabbergasted, I put it out of my mind and set a reminder to e-mail her again in three months. No response, though I did get a mass e-mail telling me that she had left the employ of the original agent to start her own agency.

Finally, in February of 2009 - over three years from the date of my initial query - she finally returned my e-mail, and said that she had decided against representing the novel, because she had decided to "no longer represent horror."

I deleted the e-mail. My novel wasn't horror. It's an urban fantasy. After all that time, she still hadn't actually read the thing but had apparently gotten tired of my increasingly-annoyed e-mails and finally decided to blow me off.

To this day, I have absolutely no problem with the first agent. She was polite, informed me of the long wait, and when she still couldn't get to it she passed it off to someone she thought could. That's professional and courteous, and I really appreciated her efforts.

The second agent, however, I will always have problems with. She not only repeatedly lied to me, but she also lied to her boss when she told me she had rejected my ms. I can only imagine that she's treated others the same way. It was my choice to keep waiting for her (which in retrospect I much regret) but, by her chosen career, she's put herself in a position between the publisher and the author, a potential gateway if you will, and she has a responsibility to treat both ends of that equation fairly. In my case, at least, she failed tremendously.

It was demoralizing and depressing, to say the least. I'm not naming names because of my respect for the original agent, but I will say that if the junior agent came to me with a publishing contract in hand and an offer to represent me, I would not think twice about walking away. I certainly bear some responsibility for being silly enough to wait that long, during which time I stopped querying other agents, but I never would have done that had this junior agent not kept stringing me along. I'll certainly never make that mistake again.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Plot Points or How to Resurrect the Dead

Okay, so I'm still working on my third novel. 90,000 words and counting. But there's a problem. Without giving too much of the plot away, there are these two bad... guys, we'll call them. They've stolen a body from the morgue, a body they need to resurrect, but for plot purposes I need them to wait a night before attempting to perform the ritual needed to resurrect it.

I need a reason - a logical (within the framework of the supernatural, of course) reason that they have to delay 24 hours. I've come up with a couple of reasons - the ritual needs to happen at midnight and it's 12:30 by the time they escape with the body, it has to happen under a full moon and tomorrow just so happens to be a full moon - but none of them feel right.

Any ideas?