Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Agent John Doe

This was originally published on my website on 10/29/10 (

As I said in my Agent Jane post, I started querying for Finding Claire Fletcher April 12, 2006 and the book was 175,000 words long. I had looked up a number of literary agents and agencies on the internet. I queried Agent Jack Doe at a particular agency.

On 5/1/06 I got a letter from Agent John Doe saying that Agent Jack no longer worked for that agency but Agent John would be happy to read my manuscript. I was genuinely surprised. From everything I'd read, sending a query to an agent who was no longer at that agency was akin to throwing your query directly in the garbage. I sent my manuscript to Agent John immediately.

On 6/23/06 I got an email from Agent John who said that in many ways the book was a home run. He did, however, have significant concerns. Then he laid them out in a lengthy email. I had known that the book was too long and that was one of the problems. The other problems he listed should have discouraged me but instead I felt excited. Reading his suggestions I could instantly see all the places where the book could be improved--greatly improved. I wrote him back and asked if he would be willing to read a revised draft of the book based on his suggestions. Agent John emailed me on 6/26/06 saying he would be happy to do so.

I revised the book significantly--changing plot and cutting it down to 132,000 words. On 8/23/06 I sent it back to him. On 9/26/06 he emailed me back saying that it was much better--he just wanted to put together a list of editorial suggestions to smooth it out. He said he'd have his comments to me by the end of the month.

On 11/2/06 I emailed Agent John to see if he'd made any progress. He wrote back that day and said he had not. I emailed him again on 11/20/06 for a status and he said he was on vacation but would get to it when he returned. He emailed me on 12/11/06 to say he still hadn't gotten to my book.

On 1/17/07 I emailed him again for a status. He wrote back immediately saying he hadn't gotten to it yet but he was opening his own agency and wanted to take me with him as a potential client. I agreed. I emailed him on 2/20/07 for a status. Agent John emailed back immediately to say he had not gotten to my manuscript yet. I waited until 4/20/07 to check in with him again. He wrote back immediately assuring me that I was still on his radar but he was very busy and hadn't gotten to it yet.

I waited six months and emailed him on 10/3/07 and again on 12/13/07. On 12/14/07 he emailed me and said that my manuscript was within view on his desk but he hadn't gotten to it yet. I emailed him again on 3/14/08, 6/13/08 and 8/27/08 to see where he was with it and got no response. I emailed him again on 10/3/08 and he wrote back that day saying that since it had been so long, he was going to pass. At the time it never occurred to me to ask him to refer me to another agent.

Although he rejected me before Agent Jane did, I knew in that case as well that he wasn't going to offer representation. Again, it was pretty clear after six months that he would never get to my manuscript. But what did it cost me to email him every few months and check in? Besides, I was still querying other agents, still working on revisions and living my life. Overall Agent John was extremely nice and gracious and for the most part prompt in responding to my inquiries. In 2010 I queried him for my second book but got no response at all.

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