The Agent Search

This was my manuscript, warts and all

By Margo Candela
Published on LatinoLA: October 14, 2006

The Agent Search

When I started to submit my novel to literary agents way back in the Fall of 2003 (I guess it wasn't so long ago, but it does feel like it) I gave myself six months to find one. I signed with my first agent two months shy of my self-imposed deadline.

Agent X was enthusiastic about my manuscript and soon it was sent out and roundly rejected. Aside from the routine reasons-"I didn't fall in love with it." "We already have something similar in production." One editor said that besides the main character being Latina, she and the book wasn't Latina enough.

Agent X then started a campaign for me to rediscover my lost Latina. Being that I'm first-generation Mexican-America, speak and read Spanish, I was a little offended. Some of the suggestions X made for the revise were pat and would have taken my manuscript exactly where I didn't want to go with it. According to X, I need to "spice it up."

In the meantime, Agent X pitched me a young adult idea. Since I had already had one young adult book done, I whipped out the beginnings of a series. Agent X wanted to send it out as soon as possible because, as X put it, "The market it hot for anything Latina." I went along with X's advice since X was my agent and I choose to believe X knew better then I did, but wasn't surprised when publishing editors passed on it.

Much of 2004 was taken up with these highs and lows, but Agent X remained positive, answered my emails in a fairly timely manner and then things got a little quiet. Not hearing from an agent isn't uncommon, especially toward the holiday season at the end of the year. Agents are busy people who have other clients to think about, as well as having their own lives. But I was already starting to think about finding a new agent, only to remind myself how hard it'd been to find the first one.

Then in mid-January of 2005 X dropped the "I'm leaving the agency to become an editor" bomb. I couldn't begrudge X's opportunity to move on to bigger and better things, especially after X promised to help me settle in with another agent. I took the opportunity to scrub some of the more disingenuous changes I had made to my manuscript on X's advice and waited to hear from my now former agent. I heard nothing until a delivery of all my rejection letters arrived at my front door. It was all it took for me to figure out Agent X had moved on to bigger and better things without me.

Equally pissed off and determined, I started my search again, this time with more care and success. People don't like to take a gamble, it's just too expensive (time and energy wise) in this business, but I made sure to mention my previous agent and where X had gone and the editors who were interested in seeing my work. I got many requests for the manuscript. At the time I was moving from San Francisco back to Los Angeles and my one goal, besides packing, was to sign with an agent before I left.

When Agent B contacted me, I was thrilled. B was with a small but respected agency who I had heard about a few years before. With a few weeks until moving day I signed with Agent B (I'll let you figure out what the B stands for) and felt really comfortable with my decision. Agent B was all-over my manuscript and I was honest about its past, no one likes sloppy seconds. I told B it had been revised since X represented it and was much stronger. B read it made some suggestions and I got to work another revise and incorporate some of B's helpful edits.

Then things got funny.

I was getting the feeling B was not going to work out even though we'd only had limited contact. But writer's are naturally nervous creatures and I tried to ignore my anxiety and concentrate on the revise, which I was very happy with how it was developing.

B read it and wanted more changes, as in a totally different book. A book I had told B straight off the bat I was never going to write. B was not happy with me and subtly, OK, not so subtly hinted that if I wasn't going to make the changes, B was going to take their ball and go home. This was not a happy time for either of us. I agonized, lost sleep and posted on various boards asking for advice even though I knew what I had to do.

I emailed B and laid it all out. This was my manuscript, warts and all, and I was standing by it and my original vision. And I waited. When B didn't get back to me, I called and left a message asking about the status of my manuscript. B emailed that there was a backlog and would "try to get back to me in a couple of weeks."

I paced around my makeshift office to calm down, composed a civil and reasonable email and told B that we had different ideas about my work and it was best if we parted ways before anymore time and energy was invested.

Lucky for me, B was just as eager to be rid of me as I was of B. Later that same day we mutually email dumped each other. This was on Thursday, August 18, 2005. By the next day I would have a new agent and talked to the editor who would buy my book a few weeks later. The same manuscript X had wanted me to tart up and B wanted me to revamp.

Margo Candela's debut novel, UNDERNEATH IT ALL, will be published January 2007 by Kensington Books. For more information visit www.margocandela.com

About Margo Candela:
A graduate of San Francisco State University, Margo Candela lives in Los Angeles where she was born and is currently at work on her third novel. You can reach her via her website at www.margocandela.com

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