(for previous installments, email Francine)
In my quest to educate myself about literary agents to sell my manuscript, Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts, I bought a copy of Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Literary Agents.
This text lists agents not only alphabetically but by genre. I studied only those agents who are interested in nonfiction books about animals. That page became dog-eared as I sent pitches and proposals to the ones who listed animal stories as topics that interested them. I learned that each agent has her own preferred method of being addressed and pitched. Some want a mere query by email, others a full proposal. Their websites each specify what those two avenues must contain.
In February 2013, I attended the weekend San Francisco Writers Conference organized by the Michael Larson and Elizabeth Pomada agency. I realized how long I had been living in isolation from other writers. Many of the attendees were writing their first books and others were more experienced and more clued into the industry than I was. There was so much information about self-publishing and traditional publishing.
I signed up for the event that allows you to speak to an agent for five minutes, a kind of literary musical chairs. Of the three agents I visited two were quite interested in Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts.
One of them I already knew from a previous experience. Kimberly Cameron several years ago had accepted my manuscript for The Fabulous Fior – 100 Years in Italian Kitchen, the history I wrote of the Fior d’Italia restaurant and the North Beach Italian community. She was very excited about it but could not sell it.
When I met her again at the Writers Conference she was equally gracious and encouraged me to send a query to her associate who for whom manuscripts about animals are of special interest. Another agent with another firm also encouraged me to send her a query.
Neither responded positively to my pitches. In fact Kimberly Cameron’s associate Elizabeth Kracht said she found my material “did not go deep enough”.
That certainly taught me something. I am writing a collection of anecdotes about my subject which I thought would entertain. My vision was one of those gift books you see in stationery or book stores. I was obviously not appealing to the right market. So I have to do more research.
I have pitched and proposed to over four dozen agents, as of this writing. Responses have ranged from:
· No response at all
· This agent has died
· Thank you, your submission doesn’t fit our needs right now.
· Please send the complete proposal (followed by no response)
I could get discouraged, many writers do. But I keep in my mind the story of Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, who reportedly received 144 rejections before his manuscript became a massive best-seller and a franchise.
I have a long way to go and, in the meantime, I keep refining my text.
“The misery of keeping a dog is his dying so soon. But, to be sure, if he lived for fifty years and then died, what would become of me?”
– Walter Scott