So on Saturday I took on a new client for the first time this year, an author named Myke Cole, here depicted doing the official photo op exchange of signed representation agreements for LATENT.
When I started my own literary agency in 1994, I could afford to take on things that were OK that I might be able to sell because I had a lot of time on my hands and had to do something with it. As the years progressed, the bad news was that I got choosier and choosier about what I might agree to represent, the good news that my track record for actually selling the things I took on increased quite a bit. So needless to say, I am taking on Myke's Latent because I like it quite, quite a bit. It's a mix of military sf and fantasy that's different from pretty much anything else but very accessible to just about any sf/fantasy fan. Joshua proposes and editor disposes, and time will tell how many publishers will come to share my enthusiasm.
A few things worth mentioning about the process...
It's not what you know, it's who you know. Myke swears to introducing himself to me at a SFWA NYC Editor/Publisher reception many years back, and I'm sure he did, but I first remember meeting Myke at Philcon in 2003. But this is definitely an example of putting a convention to good use, doing some networking, making contacts, etc.
It isn't always quick. December 2003 to July 2009 means it took something like 67 months from first meet to having an agent.
The people who get an agent and sell their actual first novel are probably the lucky ones. In some ways Latent can be seen as Myke's first novel because the first thing I read of Myke's was a very early very different novel with the same title, the same concept in very general terms, the same name for the lead character. But really, this novel is nothing like that. And there are two other partials that I read which I flat-out rejected in the meantime.
Revision is part of the process. When I finally read this version of for the first time, I liked it quite a bit. But there were two substantial revisions that followed, and then a few rounds of little smaller tweaks. The book was shortened considerably. The final major changes included a completely new beginning and some major scene changes in the middle. Excess POVs were removed. The final small changes included some things that were informed by the thought process on the second book in the series, where it seemed to make sense as that outline came together to add a thing or two to better set up the next book. All of the things I did with Myke are in broad strokes things are common parts of a good revision. Myke didn't do every single thing I asked of him, but where he was really set on doing something one way we had a really good hash out on it. I tried to be respectful of what he wanted to accomplish in the book, but he was professional enough to recognize when I had the better argument on something.
And when it comes to revision... We recently sold a book called THE STAR SHARD by Fred Durbin. I had the author do a major rewrite when it first came in. Afterwards, because I had decided my assistant would take command of the YA/middle-grade business at JABberwocky, my then-assistant Steve Mancino read the book and had some further good revision suggestions so Fred went back a 2nd time. Steve left and Eddie Schneider came on board. He got a nibble from an editor at Little Brown who wanted a revision, so Eddie took a more detailed look at the manuscript and Fred went back yet again for the two of them. Littlke Brown ended up passsing, but an editor at Houghton Mifflin said she would buy it if the author would do some revisions (a firm "if, then," as opposed to the more speculative revise for Little Brown.) And Eddie and I looked at her list of revisions, and I was like "jeez, why on Earth didn't we have Fred do this stuff four years ago," because it seemed so obvious. So as much revision as you might do just to get an agent, don't think that there might not be more in your future.
That being said, let's hope Latent will have a smoother road to ultimate publication.
I'll also be going out to market with another book this week, a new mystery by Pari Noskin Taichert called STUNG. Pari is a very good and already-established author with two Agatha Award nominations to her credit, but our goal with Stung is to move her up a notch in the mystery market, and she and I both put in the effort to get this where we wanted it to be.
Message of all of this: If you want to get a good agent, if you want to be a published writer, you need to be willing to work for it.