Thursday, February 9, 2012

Finding The One

When I was laying awake this morning at 3:30 staring at the little green light on the smoke detector, I started thinking about how much trying to find a literary agent is like dating.
Just so you know, I'm not the world's foremost expert on dating. I got my first boyfriend when I was fifteen and it went a little something like this:

~FLASHBACK TO 1997~

Me: So, did you know everybody thinks we're going out?
Him: Really?
Me: Yeah, we hang out all the time. I guess they think we're going out.
Him: We do hang out a lot.
Me: Yeah. You're cool.
Him: You're cool too.
Me: So, you wanna go out?
Him: Sure.
Me: Cool. 
(Awkward silence)
Me: So we're going out then?
Him: Yeah. I guess.
Me: Want to go see Titanic or something?
Him: I've seen it three times already. Let's go Friday!

~RETURN TO PRESENT DAY~

We went to Titanic. We held hands. I cried when Rose pried Jack's cold dead hand from hers and watched him sink into the icy depths of the Northern Atlantic. (By the way, why did he SINK if he was frozen? I thought ice floated...whatever) I turned to my "boyfriend" and saw him doing the Ugly Cry. Bless him.

We went to a private Christian school. The only thing I knew at age fifteen was that Gay was my mom's name. (She's a twin. Fay and Gay. It was 1941 when my Grandmother named them and it meant something different back then)

We didn't "go out" for long. We didn't even kiss. But we're still friends to this day. I like him but not LIKE THAT.

At age sixteen, I met a cute guy when I was an extra on the set of October Sky. Not Jake Gyllenhaal. Though, he DID say hi to me once, and OH THOSE EYES! You have NO idea. Anyway, he threw me up against the wall and gave me the most AMAZING First Kiss in the history of First Kisses. 

The cute guy, not Jake Gyllenhaal. 

After a kiss like that, I forgot all about Jake's eyes and it was all over. We dated for seven years before I married him. I've successfully navigated my 29 years without ACTUALLY having to date anyone. 

But, I've seen EVERY Nora Ephron, Rob Reiner, and Penny Marshall film that exists. I consider myself at least somewhat educated on the subject of dating and romance. 

THAT BEING SAID....

For anyone who's written a book, you know it's the most special thing in the world and you want to find someone to sell it who will ALSO think it's the most special thing in the world. You're excited. You're putting yourself OUT there. The book is an extension of your soul and therefore you are putting your own self out there and facing the rejection that will inevitably come. See? Just like dating. 

There are different ways to find THE ONE. This one person who will love you (or your book) as much as you (should) love yourself (and your book). 

THE BLIND DATE

You've done all the research, you've got recommendations from your friends who have been out there in the world of dating (agent searching) and you know you're ready to look. You're ready to put yourself OUT THERE and let everyone know you're available. So you search the web and find a person who seems to like the same sort of things you have to offer. You both like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain. You get in touch with him or her and send out your query. You think it goes really well, but you wait for a second call, an email, a text. ANYTHING. 

...But you never hear back.

In the world of agents, sometimes no response means NO. It's the worst kind of rejection because you're always left wondering. What did I do WRONG!? Why don't you LOVE ME!? Did I eat the cheesecake too fast? You said you didn't want any! Are you mad that I didn't give you a bite? What do you WANT FROM ME! And you sit on your bed and cry big salty tears into your Ben & Jerry's, but it's okay because it just makes the caramel swirl taste better.

Then you get over it and you're ready to try again.

So you go on another date. This time, you like each other. You get along well. He or she sends you a text afterward saying, "Had a great time. Let's do this again. How about sushi next Saturday?"

And you LOVE SUSHI so you say, "Sure, sounds great! See you at 8!"

This is what I like to call...

A PARTIAL REQUEST

YAY! Your query was interesting enough to get an agent wanting more! Usually the agents will request you add in a few pages to the body of an email (NEVER ATTACH ANYTHING UNLESS THEY ASK! BE WARNED! THEY WILL DELETE IT!) just in case your ability to condense 70k words into four paragraphs isn't quite up to par (it's friggin hard, isn't it!? GAW!) You impressed your date with your charming laugh and low cut dress. 

Saturday arrives and you go out on that second date. You meet for sushi. You send out those first five chapters. But it turns out your FAVORITE kind of sushi is the Dancing Eel Roll with EXTRA BBQ Eel sauce and seaweed salad on the side. Only, your date is more of a California roll kind of chick. It's not really what either one of you expected. You part ways, amiably, at the end of the night, but the magic just wasn't there. It's disappointing, but not discouraging enough to hit up the Ben & Jerry's again.

When you get home and kick off your shoes, you're feeling downtrodden. You sit down to check your email. Lo and Behold. There's a cheerful little chime and it's announced: YOU'VE GOT MAIL! (I told you, Norah Ephron)

Guess what!? You've got ANOTHER DATE. And THIS agent wants to read your ENTIRE MANUSCRIPT!!! YES!!!

You've received what the literary world refers to as...

A REQUEST FOR A FULL

After you do a few (or twelve) cartwheels around your living room and scare the shit out of your dog with the volume of your screaming, you run to the bathroom to shave your legs and brush your teeth. At the same time. Exactly like Michelle Pfeiffer did in One Fine Day when she wanted to make out with George Clooney. 

Your date is COMING OVER. He or she wants to see EVERYTHING you have to offer. So you dash around like a squirrel on crack, trying to make everything perfect. You shove the dirty laundry under the bed. Clear out last night's take-out containers. Light some candles for MOOD.

And you click SEND.

Then you wait.

...and wait...

...and... 

wait....

You click *refresh* a hundred million times. You don't DARE leave in case you miss the reply. You're ready. You want this. You want this SO BAAAAD!

Then you look at the clock and realize only five minutes has passed. 

Is that ALL? SERIOUSLY? 

Did he get stuck on the subway? 

Is he flying in from Albuquerque and the plane was delayed? 

You check Twitter. 

He's watching Downton Abbey? What? He's supposed to be on the way to your apartment. The candles are burning! Literally! Why is he watching Downton Abbey when he's SUPPOSED to be reading your MANUSCRIPT!

So your head explodes.

It takes you hours to clean up the mess. Then you hit up the Ben & Jerry's and throw in Titanic and weep some more. "I'll never let go, Jack! I'LL NEVER LET GO!" 

And there's a knock on your door.

It's your date.

It's 2 am and you're in your bathrobe and your mascara is running and there's Whirled Peas smeared across your face but HE'S THERE! FINALLY!

So you invite him in.

Only he says, "You know. This isn't going to work. I like you. A LOT. You're a great person. Very talented. You have merit. But you just don't fit my list. It's not you. It's me. Really."

Oh.

Well, okay.

At least he was nice about it. 

And he DID say you have merit. You have a good book. It just wasn't for him. That's good right? He LIKED it. Maybe there's someone out there who will LOVE IT!

So you send out some more queries. You wrote this book. You put time and energy and sweat and BLOOD into it for Pete's sake. How can you stop after someone said it has MERIT?

Then your friend calls you up and asks if you want to go speed dating with her. You think. Sure. Why not? Couldn't hurt.

THE PITCH SLAM

You know you're ready for this. You're a REAL writer. Your book is finished. It's all polished and shiny and REAL agent says it has MERIT. So you decide to hit up a Writer's Conference. A really good one in New York City! There's going to be 60 REAL LIVE AGENTS there for you to pitch your book to. You've practiced your pitch. You've honed it down to 48 SECONDS. You are SO READY!

The Pitch Slam is mass chaos. The line is HUGE. The agents are ready and the doors open. For three whole hours you get to hit up as many agents as you can manage. For three whole minutes you get to sit down in front of an agent and receive his or her UNDIVIDED ATTENTION!

 You want them to love your book as much as you do, because after all, it has MERIT.

You're as ready as you can be and the line creeeeeeeeeeps forward. Before you know it, the bell dings and it's YOUR TURN.

What if you open your mouth and no sound comes out? What if it's like that dream where you're naked in the cafeteria and everybody's laughing and you scream at them to STOP! only the louder you scream the less sound you make? What if you THROW UP ON THE AGENT!

But none of that happens. You're prepared. You glance down at your notes once or twice, but you maintain eye contact and your face only twitches a teensy bit. Your knees are knocking under the table, but it's okay, because you're PITCHING TO A REAL AGENT.

Then he interrupts you and asks a question. You answer it, and what comes out of your mouth is even more awesome than anything you could have prepared beforehand. This is YOUR book. You KNOW these characters better than ANYONE. You LOVE this book and you've been waiting SO LONG to talk out loud about it to anyone who will listen. This is your CHANCE!

You have no idea what you said by the end of it, but it was GOOD because he's slipping you a card across the table and saying, "I'd like to see more." But you don't actually hear the words because the blood is rushing through your ears (is this what a stroke feels like?), but he said YES!

YOU DID IT! You got through your FIRST PITCH. You didn't die! You didn't fall into the abyss! And he said MORE!!!!

You stand in line again and again and again and again, and more agents give you more cards and say MORE!

By the time the three hours is up, you're a total PRO. You could waltz right up to the President of the United States and pitch him your book. No problem!

LIFE IS GOOD!!!

So you send out the requested pages....

and wait....

...and wait.... 

and wait...

....and.... wait... 

and *refresh*

*refresh*

*REFRESH*

... and watch more Titanic...

"I'll never let go!"

... then... when you're wading through the sea of empty Ben & Jerry's containers on your bedroom floor and you've gained 10 pounds... and you can quote every single word of every single Norah Ephron movie... and you've watched so much HGTV that you're pretty sure you should change careers and be an interior designer AND a real estate agent....

You click *refresh* 

one

more

time

...and it's there....

A little blue box with a white bow.

You open it up and there's a diamond the size of the Rockefeller Skating rink inside.

He gets on one knee and says, "I love it."

Those three little words you've been waiting your whole writing career to hear.

Of course you say, "YES!"

And it's perfect! And wonderful! And rose petals and glitter fall from rainbow clouds overhead! And you ride away on a Unicorn into the Great Beyond! Together. Forever.

Yes. It is EXACTLY like that.

HAPPILY. EVER. AFTER.

THE END.

Right?

Nope.

Then come the edits.

Have you ever seen Tom Hanks in The Money Pit

Yeah. That.

12 comments:

Farrah Penn said...

Omg. I've never thought of querying like this before, but it's so true! The anticipation, the waiting...and when the right agent comes along, you know it's a match well made. Great post, seriously! I love metaphorical comparisons :D

Bobby Mathews said...

Posts like this are why I like you. :-)

KarlSprague said...

Outstanding post, Sarah. Substitute Braveheart for Titanic and swap the ice cream for beer and chicken wings - and you've got the male version of the agent waiting game. There's no question - after reading one blog post - that you can write. Well. Really well. Can't wait to get hooked again - keep 'em coming. - Karl

Sarah L. Blair said...

LOL Karl, please tell me the pit stained white undershirt is striped with bright orange wing sauce and there's bits of blue cheese stuck in the unshaven scruff on the face of our male writer. Because I can totally feel that.

Sarah L. Blair said...

Ha! Thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed! :o)

Sarah L. Blair said...

Thanks! So do I. One time in college, I wrote a short story for my Latin American Studies class comparing a bull fight to life in 19th century Mexico. It made sense in the paper. I swear.

Lucy V Morgan said...

Lol...yes. It is a lot like blind dating. Painfully so.

If we're doing agent/dating speak, I suppose you could say my husband was a referral. Ahem...

Sarah L. Blair said...

Haha. Awesome. Thanks for reading

Lori Oster said...

I love this! I haven't started the hunt for an agent yet, but now I'll at least be a bit prepared after reading this post.

Hilarious.

Linda G. said...

LOL! Brilliant comparison. So very, very true, every bit of it.

(BTW, I found your blog through Kerry Schafer. I'll have to remember to thank her.)

Sarah L. Blair said...

Thanks, Linda! Kerry was so, so kind to feature me on her blog!

Sarah L. Blair said...

I do what I can, Lori. I do what I can. ;o)