Monday, November 9, 2009

Author Laurie Alice Eakes on having the Right Agent, Part 1

Thank you to Laurie Alice for sharing her agent journey with us.

Laurie Alice Eakes is the award-winning author of historical romantic fiction in both the sweet-secular and inspirational markets. After a slow start, her career took off this year with the sale of eleven books in nine months.
She lives in Texas with her husband and sundry animals.

Worse Than No Agent At All

A bad agent is worse than no agent. For me, I learned this aphorism the hard way. I was so thrilled to get an agent I said yes to her representation without getting all the scoop on her. In truth, she’d come recommended by someone I respected. Things looked good for the first three months.

This post is about what can happen if you jump at the first agent who offers to represent you, or if you submit to one without doing your research on her first, research such as finding clients who have left, as well as those who have stayed, what she represents, to whom she has sold, etc. And, because I am an unashamed believer in the happy ending, this post ends on a positive note.

When my agent and I met in person, we didn’t click. Why I won’t go into, but she exhibited some behavior that set off alarm bells in my head. Of course I ignored them. She was an agent in New York with a great address--the same building as St. Martin’s Press, and I was writing secular fiction.

During the next year, I worked hard on my writing. I finished a couple of manuscripts, something I hadn’t been very good at doing. I went to a couple of regional conferences and made contact with editors who liked my stories and said send away. After these conferences, I contacted my agent and told her to send the projects. Then I waited.

She called me once a month to tell me nothing had happened. Sigh. But things took a while. In July, I went to the RWA conference in New York city. Great things would happen there, right?

Wrong. My agent never remembered to bring the list of editors to whom she’d sent my stuff. She hated my next idea.

Discouraged, I went home and didn’t work so hard on my writing. In fact, I finished nothing. I still got the monthly calls, but nothing happened—still. Finally, at the advice of some new writing friends I’d made, I wrote her and asked to know to whom she’d sent manuscripts, as I was severing our relationship and needed to let the editors know.

Surprise. She hadn’t sent my stuff to any of them, not even the ones with whom I’d made contact over a year earlier. She said she didn’t think I was publishable and should move on.

So I did. I played with ideas and part of me still had the dream, but I essentially stopped writing, went to grad school for history, liked academic a little, but research more, and went back to my office job. A couple of times, I took out things I’d written, dusted them off, and reworked a chapter or two. I even submitted something which, fortunately, didn’t sell. It really was bad and I wouldn’t want it in print.

Then tragedy struck. My best friend found out she had four months to live. She told me to go back to writing, to pursue that dream and not let that lousy agent stop me. My friend believed in me. Several other life-changing events occurred, too, and I found myself with a renewed relationship with the Lord, glad my secular stuff had gone nowhere, joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), and, by a pure miracle of the Lord, got an agent who believed in me.

On Wednesday I'll post the rest of Laurie Alice's story. She may be stopping by today, so feel free to ask questions.

47 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

WOW, what am amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it. and I am so glad this story had a happy ending :))

What questions would you recommend asking an agent before you sign then?

Jessica said...

Hi Tabitha, thanks for stopping by. There's even more to the story too. :-)

Jody Hedlund said...

Boy, talk about discouraging at first! But it looks like God had his hand in Laurie's journey all along! Looking forward to part 2! Thanks for sharing!

Tamika: said...

Wow, what a gripping story! I can't wait ti hear the rest.

Thank God for his amazing grace, that even in our storms He can produce a rainbow.

Katie Ganshert said...

Whoa! Thanks for sharing this story. The writing journey is such a difficult one. I'm not glad you went through all that discouragement, but I am glad you're using it to offer encouragement to those of us behind you in the journey.

Can't wait for part 2!!

Terri Tiffany said...

Wow! Thank you for taking the time to write this! You are affirming so many things for me. It is amazing how God has worked in your life and how you didn't give up! I want to read the rest of your story:)

Jessica said...

Jody, part 2 is wonderful. Very encouraging. :) I know though, wasn't this crazy? Can you imagine how it would feel to have your agent say your writing wasn't up to par? Eeek! I think Laurie Alice is so strong to persevere through that kind of craziness.

Well said, Tamika! :-)

Jessica said...

Katie, thanks for commenting. :-) I'm really thankful Laurie Alice offered to share her journey.

Terri, the rest is pretty cool. :-)

anita said...

Such an amazing story! Thank you for sharing it. I'm so sorry for your losses, but isn't it just like the Lord to take something tragic and use it for good?

I can't wait to hear part 2. Eleven books in nine months??? INCREDIBLE! Congratulations on your perserverance and successes! And may the Lord continue to bless your career. :-)

Jessica said...

Anita, I KNOW! I was on the loop when she announced her sales and it was just amazing. :-)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Now I can't wait for Part 2! I went to a local writers conference this past weekend and definitely understand the negative vibes thing. It was my first time meeting agents, so I assumed they would all be professional, etc. But there was one in particular who I knew I wouldn't want to approach at any cost.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Sorry to hear about your friend, Laurie. Thanks so much for sharing your agent journey with us. And thank you Jessica, for this post. I look forward to the remainder.

Jessica said...

Sarah, that's the nice thing about conferences, being able to meet agents and feel them out like that. Are you going to post some stuff about the conference?

Eileen, the remainder is really helpful. I'm looking forward to posting it. :-)

Diane said...

Powerful story so far. What a gift your friend left you to encourage you with your writing. :O)

Linda Kage said...

Amazing. I can't believe that agent didn't even send your story off. What a story. Thank you for sharing. Can't wait to continue to part II.

Angie Muresan said...

Goodness! What a tragedy is right! Never thought much about whether an agent is good or bad prior to this. I hope and pray your best friend is well. There's nothing as tragic as losing a loved one.

Cindy said...

Amazing story. It helps to hear reasons why we should really be aware of who we're submitting to or might be accepting as an agent. I am looking forward to hearing the rest of the story.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Wow, what an incredible story. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to hearing more!

Jessica said...

Thanks everyone for commenting!

Julie Dao said...

This is a wonderful story and such a good lesson for us as-yet unrepresented authors. I can imagine how easy it would be to jump at the first agent's offer. Can't wait to hear the rest!

Genny said...

There is so much to be learned by hearing the stories of others! Thanks for sharing this... I look forward to the rest of it on Wed!

T. Anne said...

Oh my gosh that's so dramatic my hairs are standing on end. I'm glad the lord guided her in the right direction what tough love though. I'm sure she embraces everything from a much more positive light now. I know I would.

Jessica said...

Tough love. That's an interesting way to put it T. Anne. :-)

Thanks for stopping by Genny and Julie!

Patti said...

Its great to have people who will share their experiences, so that we can all learn from them.

Laurie Alice Eakes said...

First, I apologize for not commenting or respnding to your precious comments sooner. I got ordering Christmas presents for my family,w ho all live far away, and totally lost track of time.

First, thank you for your kind words. I felt it was time to start sharing what had happened to me with this agent. She is not, I assure youall, still agenting, but I admit I still have nightmares about her telling me my stories aren't sellable--like every time I turn one into an editor.

Wednesday, I'll post in the comments field, exactly how God worked in helping me find my current agent. That, yes, is nothing short of a miracle. And now I can see that, though I wasn't following Him at the time, God was working to keep the unedifying stuff I was writing at the time from getting into print.

As to questions to ask an agent: What does she represent? Who does she represent? what is her percentage of submissions to sales? With which publishers does she work the most? How often does she update her clients on what's going on with them? Does she help in career-building?

There are more to ask and much as to do with what you're looking for in your agent.

Maria I. Morgan said...

Thanks for having Laurie share her experience, Jessica! Sounds very important to do your research before deciding on an agent. God works in amazing ways! Looking forward to your post on Wednesday.

Debra E Marvin said...

Thanks Jessica and Laurie Alice. A very interesting and informative post.

I enjoyed hearing about your journey, which adds to the whole "picture" of the way God has brought you through to this point. And, I think I've said this before but Wow. You are one gutsy lady with such a schedule this year.
Bravo!

Looking forward to seeing your releases soon!
Debra

Laurie Alice Eakes said...

Thank you, Debra. I've loved writing them and love the books I'm still going to write.

Golden Keyes Parsons said...

I had a similar experience with an agent who came highly endorsed by big name writers. He ended up being sued by another of his clients and is now out of the agenting business. But since then I have a wonderful agent, and appreciate her so much. It's a hard lesson learned, but I'm wiser for the experience. Thanks for sharing, Laurie Alice.

Deb Shucka said...

What an amazing story. I can hardly wait to hear the rest.

Jessica said...

Laurie Alice, thank you for stopping by and commenting. I'm looking forward to reading more in the comments section too. :-)

Gwen Stewart said...

What a terrific and informative post, Laurie Alice and Jessica. The most disheartening aspect, to me, is the agent outright misleading you. Wow, that hurts. What fortitude you have to keep on going...and the Lord saw fit to reward you for your perseverence! God bless.

Laurie Alice Eakes said...

I've always wondered why she wasn't just upfront with me that she'd decided she hated my writing. I'd still have been devastated, but would have moved on sooner and saved myself extra frustration. Yet if my struggles help even one author not suffer the same, my frustrations were not in vain and it's past time I shared this story with the world.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Laurie -

I'm so glad your story had a happy ending. Thanks for the cautions on selecting an agent.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Erica Vetsch said...

I don't blame you for being disillusioned, Laurie. And I'm glad this story has a happy ending. Congratulations on so many novels sold!

Jessie Oliveros said...

Wow, incredible story so far! I can't wait to hear the rest. I can't believe that agent submitted to no one, and didn't tell her until confronted. Oh yes, and only eleven books in nine months? :) Really, is that humanly possible. Thanks for the agent posts, Jessica!

Jessica said...

LOL Jessie
"Really, is that humanly possible?" You cracke me up! That's what I'm thinking. Absolutely amazing. :-)

Victoria Dixon said...

Thank you so much for sharing, Laurie! I'm awed by your courage and tenacity. I had a "not great" agent in that she kept submitting, but never pressed for why the publisher wasn't interested. That ended up being my job after I severed connections with her. It was a year of my life wasted in some ways, although it DID give me time to research my current book. Thanks for the list of questions! I will keep them in mind for (hopeful) use. ;D

Laurie Alice Eakes said...

I couldn't write eleven books in nine months, no. I have 2.5 years to write ten of them. One was already written.

Laurie Alice Eakes said...

Thank you, Erica. I never thought it would happen. Frankly, I thought I'd never sell one more, let alone eleven and four of them to a publisher as big as Revell.

Jill Kemerer said...

Wow, what an awful experience. I'm so glad you persevered.

Dara said...

Wow. Truly awful that there are agents like that out there, but I'm glad things are working out. I can't wait to read what happens next!

Dara said...

Wow. Truly awful that there are agents like that out there, but I'm glad things are working out. I can't wait to read what happens next!

Nancy said...

What a great story. Glad it has a happy ending.

Susanne Dietze said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Laurie Alice. I'm encouraged and enlightened by your words. How exciting to see where God has led you during this time!

Natalie said...

Wow that sounds like a terrible agent experience! I'm excited to read the rest of Laurie's story!

Janna Qualman said...

What an inspiration! Thank you.