My Secret Agent

Posted: November 11, 2016 at 9:47 am


I had some good news last week concerning my memoir, provisionally entitled The Next Trapeze.

In past posts I described the “query” process, by which an author sends a jaw-dropping, one-page letter to a literary agent who will beg to have the honour of fielding the seven-figure offers from the big New York publishers. If you’re not Stephen King, or if your book isn’t fifty shades of S&M fantasy, your experience may be different. Here’s the regular, painful process:

1. You research a literary agent through their website.

2. The agent won’t respond to telephone inquiries. If you have a question, tough.

3. The agent won’t allow visitors to their office. If you want to meet the agent before requesting representation, tough.

4. You tailor your query letter to the exact requirements of the agent’s website and send by email. Any deviation ensures rejection.

5. The agent’s website warns you won’t receive confirmation your email was ever received.

6. The agent’s website states they will review your query letter within TWELVE weeks of receiving it.

7. The agent won’t respond to emails or calls requesting a status update.

8. The agent will only contact you if they want to see part of your manuscript. If they don’t like your query, you’ll hear nothing. Which means you’ll wait for 12 weeks,  and never be sure if anyone even looked at your letter.

In the business world, I was used to people acknowledging I existed, phoning me back, treating me with courtesy. You know, human stuff. To be fair, agents receive thousands of query letters every year, and accept two or three new clients. I wasn’t prepared to be ignored, but I imagine everyone else in the arts knows what that feels like. A smattering of agents were nice enough to send polite, “no thanks…but seriously, what were you thinking?” emails. I wasn’t depressed, just frustrated.

But…here comes the good news…one enlightened, Toronto agent saw something in my book the others missed, actually PHONED ME and offered to represent me. I signed his contract before he could change his mind.

Now it’s up to my agent and me to prepare a book proposal so mind-bogglingly clever and enticing that publishers will fight over the chance to publish it. Or something like that.

So watch out, publishers, I have an agent, and I’m not afraid to use him!

  • Janet MacPhee

    Love the update Bill and what patience you have demonstrated!! The approach would certainly not be tolerated long in the corporate world. All the best…

    • Publishing isn’t like the corporate world. In the corporate world, people call you back! I’m very fortunate to have an agent, as 99% of writers fail to find one. We’ll see where it leads. Fingers crossed.

  • Karen Tutt Otsig


    • Thanks Karen. I’ve never received a comment before which contained no words.

  • Kristine Dodds

    Happy for you Bill and good luck with the next leg of the process! I feel your past pain.. I am still tring to find a Canadian puplisher to publish my children’s book that I collobaorated on with my Dad… I must say, I’ve gotten two responses at least but both a no so far. Starting to thing self publishing might be the way to go….

    • Kristine, I feel your pain too. It’s a long, frustrating process! Self-publishing is a viable option, absolutely. But if you want to traditionally publish, I have to say that I got more interest from agents after I completed a market analysis of my book. I looked at which groups of people may be interested in my book, backed up with market size statistics. I also critiqued similar and complementary books, showed how mine was different, the same, or better. Agents and publishers love when you do the work for them.
      Best of luck,

  • Mage Norse

    I went through something similar and can relate.

    Wishing much success as you hone your life on your terms.

    • Well, thank you for your support. But tell me what you went through. You’re a writer? I’d love to hear about what you’ve done, what you’ve written. Do you have a website I could look at?