Does Having a Literary Agent Guarantee Traditional Publishing? (9th Installment)
When I began seriously writing, I also started reading numerous magazines about how to get published. I’d read one article encouraging writers to find ways to get closer to those in the industry, implying that it’s not always what you know but who you know. Therefore, when I learned that there was going to be a brand new bookstore opening in Westbury, Long Island, I decided to apply to work there part-time. That was January 1994, which I wrote about in my diary. At that time, their application was quite intense, where you had to answer questions about numerous genres for both books and music. I got hired, along with about 100 other applicants since Borders wanted to open its massive two-floor space with an impressive music department in record time. (No pun intended.)
As it got closer to the grand opening, since much of the “grunt” work was complete, the shelves filled, many of those temps were let go. I worried I’d be one of them, but over time I not only was kept on, I was promoted to full time. Being around books and helping with author events was right up my alley and over time when Borders was opening a bookstore on Park Avenue in Manhattan — Yes, Manhattan, where most of the publishers were located, I was hired as Community Relations Coordinator. However, I refused to abuse my position and try to manipulate my way into getting a publisher’s attention, even though my path crossed with many of those coveted editors and publishers. I simply didn’t want to be unprofessional, which, in hindsight, may have been foolish. That said, I did become friends with one editor at a smaller publisher, and one time while we were sitting over cups of coffee, our conversation shifted from scheduling author events to more about our personal lives. I ended up telling him about how a small publisher on Long Island wanted to publish Of Little Faith. There had been no advance and after several months of going back and forth with that editor, I decided to pull out of the deal. That particular editor was making the book something else altogether and I wasn’t willing to change it as drastically as he wanted. (After I cut my ties with him, his wife contacted me and praised me for sticking with my gut, telling me how much she respected me for doing so.) Still, Of Little Faith and Place of Angels had no representation and I decided to focus more on Place of Angels since Of Little Faith had been rejected by a few agents and I wanted to see what could happen with my second novel. If anything.
Anyway, once I mentioned that I had written a couple of novels to this editor I was having coffee with, he asked me to send him the manuscript. After he assured me I wasn’t crossing any boundaries, I sent him a copy of Place of Angels and a couple of weeks later he got back to me, telling me he loved it and that he felt it deserved to be published. However, (There’s always been a “however”) since his publisher was very small and overall only published non-fiction, he had recommended it to an agent who worked for a major literary agency in the same building where his office was. I recognized the agency and knew that they represented an impressive list. A very impressive list. To my delight, the agent also loved Place of Angels and wanted to meet with me. Imagine how thrilled I was when things were falling into place thanks to my taking a job that would help me secure what I was seeking. I met this very powerful agent who had a number of trophies on her shelves and framed accolades on her wall. She liked everything about the novel, except she felt since there were so many books at the time with titles that included angels, she wanted me to consider changing mine. It didn’t take long before Place of Angels became Without Grace and she loved it. I officially had a literary agent!
I was on my way.
Or so I thought.
I am purposely not sharing the name of this agency for reasons that will be revealed in the next installment. Stay tuned.