Who’s got seven thumbs and just signed a top-shelf literary agent? THIS GUY!
(puts jar of five severed thumbs back in the cupboard)
I just sent off the agreement yesterday, so now I can officially announce that I will be represented by the inimitable Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky Agency Inc. Joshua’s clients include a lot of super, super talented people (Brandon Sanderson, Peter V Brett, Elizabeth Moon, and on and on and on) and I am incredibly excited to work with him and very honored that he decided to take a chance on an oddball like me.
But Why Did You Want an Agent, Habershaw?
Well, because representing yourself in the publishing industry is a challenging thing, especially when you don’t know a bad contract from a good one, have absolutely zero contacts in any major publishing houses, and are frankly terrible at selling yourself (though more about that later). I’m a writer and a storyteller; as a businessman, I am mediocre at best. I needed somebody in my corner who could give me advice and help me get the best deals that I could (and who knows what I’m worth – authors routinely either oversell or undersell their own work). Joshua is the guy who might make my modestly successful writing career into an actually successful writing career just by virtue of his knowledge and experience suddenly being at my disposal.
As a guy who managed to land a book deal while un-agented, I can tell you that it is a scary thing being involved in this industry without really knowing what to expect or how it works. I don’t think I was ripped off, mind you, but I certainly didn’t wind up with the best deal possible. A small retainer is a ridiculously good bargain if it means I can do better than I’ve been doing thus far.
Habershaw, Tell Us What Was In Your Query Letter and We Will Let You Live
Like many of you folks out there trying to score an agent, I obsessed over query letters for ages and ages. It got to be that my queries were almost like those Magic Eye paintings they used to hang up in the mall – look at it just right and you would see the genius of my novel inside of 250 words. They were awful, ungainly things created by a vast infusion of well-meaning and often contradictory advice from the wilds of the Internet. My query letters, in a word, sucked.
So, after I scored my book deal without an agent (and not for lack of trying – I queried dozens and dozens of agents for THE OLDEST TRICK and got barely a nibble), I resolved that I would get an agent for the next one and, given that I already had a book deal, I thought my odds would improve a great deal. Fast forward to this past January. I had an idea for my next project, and I had a very very rough draft, but nothing I could send anywhere. Then I happen to notice that Joshua Bilmes had an open reading period coming up. I didn’t have anything ready, but I figured “screw it – strike while the iron is hot, he can only say ‘no.'”
I then proceeded to write the most laid back, least obsessed over query letter of my career. It basically went something like this:
Hello Mr. Bilmes!
I’ve got this book deal with Harper Voyager and want to write more books. Here’s the basic idea for my project and want representation this time. You in?
Crazily enough, that shit actually worked. I happened to meet in person with Joshua (serendipity – he happened to be in my home city when he read my query) and then he and his assistant, Ben (who also rocks, by the way), e-mailed back and forth until we arrived at a plan and then BINGO – agent.
So, there you have it – a dollop of luck, a hefty helping of perseverance, and a sprinkle of madness, and I finally did it – I got myself an ally in this crazy, crazy publishing business. Another notch in my Writing Achievement Belt has been made.
Next step: somehow managing to write a breakout hit.
Hmmmm…that one might take a while.
NO GOOD DEED releases on June 21st, a mere three weeks away! If you haven’t already, pre-order your copy today from anywhere fine e-books are sold!
Also, I will be giving a talk on world-building and doing a reading at the Hingham Public Library on June 30th, 2016, from 7:00-8:30 pm. It’s free and it’s a lovely library, so come on down!
The publicity engines are firing up, so watch this blog for more updates!