Tuesday, February 16, 2010

SWF Seeks Literary Agent for Long-Term Commitment, Good Times

The other day it occurred to me that the whole pre-publication process is like dating. Maybe this association took me so long to see because I have such a thin dating history myself, and the rest of you are thinking, "Duh," but this is my blog, so I'm going to wax pathetic for bit, capisce?

A query is like a blind date with someone you met through a personal ad or an on-line dating profile. You might be able to learn a little bit about them, or maybe even a lot, but in the end, you're still left to put yourself out there and hope he or she likes you.

When an agent asks for a partial or full manuscript, a writer sort of feels like she's just been asked to go steady. An agent is probably seeing this as more of a second date. I suppose in the world of He's Just Not That Into You, writers are like women and agents are like men. (No offense intended to either gender in this instance.)

That grand shining moment when an agent offers representation can best be compared to a marriage proposal--every writer wants one, and the ones that have an offer and just as girly-squirrely as a newly engaged women. Trust me, I know two of them right now (the fabulous J.A. Souders and Kelly Gibian) and they're giddy. They practically have the vapors. And like a terminally-single friend of a newly engaged woman, I am thrilled to death for them, but not a little jealous.

After the wonder and glamour of the engagement/agenting, the writer "moves in" with her agent, digging deep into revisions and bringing her manuscript to a high gloss. And, together, they start planning the wedding, er, going out on submission. This is when the agent beings his or her own querying process, offering up the project to editors and hoping for that nibble of interest. Or better yet, those dozens of nibbles that lead a book to sell at auction.

So, now you've got a planned release date for your book (a.k.a. your wedding date), but what you never saw coming was how many details there are in planning a wedding. Quite frankly, I'm a little fuzzy on this part, since I'm still in the blind-date phase, but from what I hear, the work has only just begun once you've got a fiancee, I mean agent.

A lot of this is probably self-evident. (Thank you, Captain Obvious.) We could probably overlay any number of application processes, or relationship-based models onto the pre-publication phase. The reason that the dating metaphor rings so true for me is seeing how I, and my writing friends approach the querying process. We really are like women deep in the trenches of dating.

We check our e-mail obsessively, we stalk prospective agents on-line, we dissect every word over every rejection with our friends. We are filled with hope when we get asked on that second date and devastated when a partial or full request ends in rejection. Probably we could all do well to read He's Just Not That Into You and realize that some writer-agent relationships are just never going to work. Both people have to be just as interested in one another. And as any sensible woman will tell you, begging, insulting or continued stalking are not welcome by the object of your affection. It's time to move on.

There are plenty of fish in the sea.

- Liz

Anyone care to extend this metaphor? Share a story of agenting heartbreak?


Kristan said...

"There are plenty of fish in the sea."

I think that's the most reassuring part, both in the dating and the querying process.

No life-long matches on my end yet (in the agenting -- I think I've found him in the dating ;P) but I'm still hopeful.

jasouders said...

OMG! This was great and I'm probably the only one in the world who hadn't put those together yet. You're absolutely right. THe funny part is, I keep telling my husband I'm in the honeymoon stages of my relationship, so while I'm giddy now, I'll probably hate it later. So, the fact that I hadn't put those together is a little concerning to me. LOL. Great blog post, Liz. And thanks for the shout out. : )

Kelly@ JustWrite said...

Perfect!! So, so true! Loving being "engaged" again...hmmm, hope my diamond is in the mail! ;)

Keep puttin yourself out there, you rock! Thanks for the shout out!

Jody Hedlund said...

Love this analogy, Liz! I think that the agent relationship is definitely a committment, and we can all hope we land a good one! I know I definitely have!

Jill Kemerer said...

Awesome post! (We used to play Mystery Date and I always got "The Dud.")

Don't you think too, that we're willing to put an agent on a pedestal and overlook every flaw as long as the relationship is going our way? Just like real life!

Thanks for this analogy!

Liz Czukas said...

You are all so great! Thanks for not leaving me out on a limb with this.

BTW, I've had the jingle for Mystery Date stuck in my head since I posted this.

- Liz

eleven said...

I know I'm late to the game on this, but I have opinions on your metaphor.

Since I got engaged on February 29th (wasn't there a movie about this recently?), I think the writer is the boy. He faces rejection after rejection for the chance to take a girl to the prom. One finally says yes, then after a few more dates, she asks the boy, often in a leap year, hey, are we getting married or what?