Seducing an Agent
Last week an agent called me. I've been told that getting an agent to pay attention to you is more difficult than eating an entire whale with a teaspoon, but apparently these things do sometimes happen. I caught the agent's eye when she was a judge for the West Dean/Myriad Editions Writers' Retreat Contest. They're open for entries until the end of December, and I highly recommend it – for the joy of the retreat, as well as getting your work in front of some literary bigwigs. But let me get back to the agent.
She is exciting and interesting and she seems to really get me and my writing. She says things and I have to stop myself from squealing 'Yes! That's exactly what I wanted to say!' We chatted – each expressing admiration for one another but not wanting to commit to anything – and she said I'm welcome to pop down to London and see her any time (I like that she thinks 'popping down to London' is a thing I do often). She used magical words like Angela Carter and George Saunders. The next day she posted me a book she thought I'd like and said she's really looking forward to meeting me. And suddenly, as I ripped open the envelope, I realised why this seemed so familiar – it was dating.
I like her. She seems to like me. But neither one of us wants to lay all our cards out, to put ourselves out there, to be the first one to commit. Monogomy is a big step to take, and there's nothing worse than the feeling that you're more into someone than they're into you. So we each make sure to see other people on the side (my metaphor is crumbling a little here – I mean that I'm agent-hunting, and she is looking for more new authors). This is understood, but not discussed. I don't like to think of her approaching other new writers, though I know she must be. Jealousy isn't attractive in a new girlfriend or a new writer, so I will be keeping these feelings to myself.
So I am trying to take this flash of revelation – agents! they're like potential partners! – and apply my knowledge of relationships, which is scanty and hard-won. I don't know what I'm like with an agent, having never had one, but I do know what I'm like in a relationship: impulsive, fickle, impatient. When I was dating I'm not sure I ever managed to strike the right balance between uninterested and needy, but that's exactly the balance I want with this agent. Sure, I like her. But I will like other agents too. I might even like other agents better – I'll never know until I ask them out. I mean, until I send them my novel. And just as I wouldn't go on a date without wearing my best undies, I won't be sending out this novel until it's primped, plucked and made-up to perfection (this metaphor is really starting to creak now). It might not work out between me and this agent – she hasn't even seen my novel manuscript yet – but for now I'm just enjoying the courtship.
As it stands I don't know much about relationships or agents (or relationships with agents), but I'm willing to learn. Those of you who have begun or thought about beginning (or even completed!) The Great Agent Hunt – please feel free to share your experience.