Getting introduced to someone else’s agent
Jennifer Jackson is answering questions about agenting, on her LJ. And today she was talking about the role of net-working and conferences. It’s worth reading, but she basically says that all the net-working in the world won’t make a difference if the book isn’t good. Then she says:
On the other hand, Elizabeth Bear introduced me to Jay Lake, who in turn set up a meeting with Ken Scholes, and he recommended Mary Robinette Kowal, who became a new client of mine last month. (That makes it Mary’s turn….) So, it certainly has its advantages. They still all had to write really, really, really, really ridiculously good books.
Which set me thinking… See, the thing is, that Ken’s introduction let me jump the slush pile. BUT if I’d sent in my first novel, Jennifer would have rejected me. The novel I signed with is the fourth that I’ve written.
The evolution goes like this:
- Novel 0: Took ten years, starting from high school, to write. It is well and firmly trunked. (Shape-shifting cat/human aliens with wings anyone? Did I mention my D&D character has the same name? Yeah… trunk. TRUNK.)
- Novel 1: Middle-grade Fantasy – Six months. I think this has potential, but there’s a flaw in the first three chapters that I can’t seem to fix. I sent this out to publishers on my own for a while, and always got requests for partials but no requests for fulls. Now. This is book one in a series. Did I write the second book in the series next? No.
- Novel 2: Science Fiction/Murder Mystery – Four months. Better. It needed revisions, so I set it aside to think about before diving into it. Meanwhile, I wrote:
- Novel 3: Urban Fantasy/Chick Lit – Three months. Good. Needs revisions… Meanwhile:
- Novel 4: Regency romance/Fantasy – Three months. Good! This immediately felt stronger than the others and I had a clear view of what changes needed to happen. So I didn’t wait on the revisions. This is the one I signed with.
The point being, that it took a while for me to learn to write something salable and that if I’d sent in any of the others, I think I would still be without an agent because those books aren’t there yet. I do think they can be, but the course I chose to take — and mileage varies — was to write novels in several different genres to see which one stuck. I have sequel ideas for all of them, but until I knew that I had a book one that worked, it didn’t make sense to invest time in a string of books in the same world.
At the moment, I’m doing revisions on Novel 2 and continuing to work on short stories. Right now, I’m at a point in my career where I have the luxury of taking a year off from a novel before doing revisions. Since I’m a better writer now than I was a year ago, waiting to revise the novels is like earning interest on my skills. Seriously. I re-read Novel 2 and it was dead easy to see where it had gone astray. The revision process is like swimming downstream.
Now, let’s say that Ken offered to introduce me before I’d written Novel 4. I knew Novel 1 was flawed, so sending it in would have been wasting that opportunity. What’s more, it would have been embarrassing to Ken.
I’m sure that someday I’ll introduce a writer to Jennifer, but I can almost guarantee that it won’t be with their first novel.