The Dream Snatchers
Contributor
I find myself once again facing an all-too-familiar dilemma. Having nearly finished my fourth novel, Stage Daughter, my fingers now itch to hold a proof copy in my hand. I want to see how it looks and reads as a real-life book. And yet, despite having gotten early feedback from five trusted readers, and having edited my manuscript several times over from beginning to end, I am reluctant to take the next steps to prepare it for self-publishing.

Why? Because I am convinced this is my best work ever, and I don’t want Stage Daughter—like my three novels before it—to rot in Amazon Hell. A tiny part of me believes it has a shot at getting picked up by an agent who might successfully pitch it to a publisher. So when I stumbled upon Andrea Brown Agency’s website (http://www.andreabrownlit.com/), I thought I’d hit pay dirt.

Andrea Brown represented Babylon Sisters by Pearl Cleage. Like Stage Daughter, Babylon Sisters is a story about a single mom whose daughter goes off in search of a father who is unaware of her existence. I immediately began devouring this website word-for-word, engrossed by its timely tips and wise tidbits.

First, I read their “Message to Authors,” where they state, “We understand that writing is a passion, an intensely personal calling, a long-time dream for many, and frequently a lonely endeavor. We have great respect for authors, and we share the writer's passion—that is why we are literary agents.” Finally, I thought, a literary agency that actually understands what it means to be a writer and values our time!

These encouraging words are immediately followed by this warning: “We say no for many reasons. . . because we already have something similar on our list; because we know of similar published or forthcoming titles.” Conventional wisdom urges writers to seek out a particular agent precisely because she has represented comparable titles in the past. You mean, that alone is reason to reject me? Well, no worries; I’m confident Stage Daughter is distinct enough and has wide enough appeal for this not to be an issue. After all, I’ve got a biracial protagonist with lesbian leanings and an oh-so-relatable mother/daughter plot line (not to mention a devout Muslim antagonist who also happens to be a tender-hearted yoga guru).

Still psyched, I next scoured their “Five P’s of Publishing Success.” First among these is “Passion”: “You need the passion to write—whatever it is—and it gets you up at six am before work or keeps you up late into the evening. (Yeah, baby. I wake up at three a.m.!) “As Isaac Asimov said, ‘I write for the same reason that I breathe—because I have to.’" Okay, these gals really “get” me. I wish I could stop doing this (life would be much easier, believe me). Like a fertile literary mama who’s never heard of bibliographic birth control, I am driven to keep popping out torrid tales one right after another!

Encouraged, I scanned P’s three and four: Patience and Persistence. “You need lots of [them] in this business. It may take years to get your work published. Please, don't give up after several rejections. Rejection is a part of this business and you must develop a thick skin. We have seen many talented writers never get published because they gave up after five or six rejections.” (Granted, I’ve queried far more than “five or six” agents, but okay.) “It just means you aren't at the right place with the right work at the right time.”

Andrea Brown then offers these final words of advice and encouragement to wannabes like myself: “Work on your craft, and believe in yourself. It's a tough market and a tough business. Be in it for love because money is uncertain.” (Now, that’s an understatement! Nonexistent is more like it.) “Read, read, read. Write, write, write.” (Awesome! That’s exactly what I’ve been doing the past four years! I must be on the right track, no?) “Though there are some wonderful Cinderella stories out there, in truth, there are no overnight successes. Successful authors have worked very hard to get where they are . . . Sometimes, it's the first book that will sell (we hope!), and other times, it may be the second or the fourth, or even the fourteenth. It's important to look for people who believe in you.” Yes, yes, and YES to Andrea Brown—an agency that actually believes in talented writers! (As you can tell, by now I am having a self-induced blo-gasm—the blogger's version of an orgasm.)

Okay, I’m all in. How do I submit? Whom should I query? Which of these fine agents is my Prince[ss] Charming? With my query letter primed and ready to go, I read each of their individual bios and wrote down the agency’s myriad quirky submission requirements. And then, I happened upon these lines (under “Agency Books” and “Categories Represented”): “Please note: We are not accepting unsolicited adult submissions at this time. We represent juvenile books only.” You mean after all that cheerleading, now they’re gonna tell me they won’t take a chance on an unknown women’s fiction author?

I commend Andrea Brown Agency for an inspiring and informative website. Writers who want to better understand the literary agent mindset should check it out. Personally, I would have appreciated seeing their categorical brush-off displayed prominently on each page. My time is in short supply these days (as are my dreams of ever winning at this senseless game), so I could have done without all that pumping only to have my balloon shot down in mid-air.

Keep an eye out for Stage Daughter. Sooner or later—one way or another—it will see the light of day even if only a handful of faithful readers ever notice. I self-publish for the same reason that I write—because I have to.

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