THE AGENT NIGHTMARE

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In 1993 I signed a contract with a literary agent.  When she said she wanted to represent me I thought I was finally hitting the big time.  She seemed as enthused about being my agent as I was about being her client.  I found her through a mutual writing friend who had just signed with her to oversee a movie deal he was working on.  His first book was being made into a mini-series for television.  He thought she was the perfect agent for his project, and to represent me, too.

A couple of weeks after signing a contract with this agent, she flew from her home on the west coast to Colorado meet me.  She spent several days with me.  I was amazed she did this and felt honored she would travel all that way to meet me in person.  It was summertime and we spend the days by the river, or biking and hiking, while discussing the way my career would proceed. We got to know one another and talked about how she was going to take my writing career to new highs.  At this time, I had just sold my eighth book to Zebra Books, a romance line at Kensington Publishing.  My contract with them read that they had the first option to purchase anything I wrote for an indefinite period of time.  My agent was appalled at the contract I had signed with them and vowed to get me out of this contract so she could find me a higher paying publisher.  I was thrilled!  I was only making about twelve cents per copy at that time and my books were selling pretty well.  I thought I might finally reach my lifelong goal of actually making a living as a writer.

When my new agent left, I sent my file folder full of numerous synopsis and possible book ideas with her.  I have always had more ideas for books than I’ve had time to write.  Being very optimistic, I was certain she would love all of my ideas and I was just waiting for her to pick the one she wanted me to finish writing first.  I envisioned this woman would make me a literary star.  She seemed like a real mover and shaker in the literary world.  Although, she lived on the West Coast, she was constantly flying back and forth to New York to meet with publishers.  Late night talk shows, book tours, and maybe even a movie, were surely in my future!   What an idiot I was.

Imagine my disappointment when my agent didn’t like the story about the first circus that traveled through the Old West?  Really, it was so unique?  But, why didn’t she like the time travel; a high adventure pirate love story set in Spain?  She really hated my romantic tale about the silent film industry when movies were first being made…it was such an amazing time in our history.  Okay, so why did she hate the paranormal story about the old Indian legend that became a reality a hundred years after its prediction?  All my friends really loved that one. Then, there was my amazing (my friends and I thought) story about the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.  Now, that had mini-series or epic movie potential, didn’t it?  Well, she didn’t think so.

My spirits were low.  Nothing I submitted to this agent seemed worthy of having her submit to a publisher.  But then, she called me with great news (?)…she could get me out of my contract with Kensington Publishing Corp. so she could find me a new publisher who would pay higher advances and royalties.  Nervously, I signed the release papers.  Now, I had no publisher and nothing worth publishing.  Or, so my agent thought, anyway.

By now, winter had set in and my agent’s teenage son wanted to spend a week with me so he could go skiing at our world class ski resort.  No problem.  I picked him up at the airport; he slept on the extra twin bed in my son’s room, and I drove him back and forth to the ski area everyday.  He had an awesome vacation.  My agent seemed very indebted to me and vowed to find me a new publisher soon.  I feverishly wrote more proposals and sent them to her.  We had some late night conversations about why they are not really up to her standards.  I was feeling completely defeated now.   How had I sold eight books on my own, which had done reasonably well,  if I was such a terrible writer?

It was about this time that my personal life was also falling apart.  I was going through a brutal divorce that had been dragging on and on, my youngest son was getting in trouble with the law, I was barely making ends meet and needed to get a second job. Everything seemed to be overwhelming me.  I called my agent…I needed to discuss something with her.  But she had a new assistant (there had not been an assistant when I first signed with her, so I was a bit surprised) who told me she would have her call me back.  My plan was to tell my agent, whom I also considered my friend, I was going to take a year off from writing to deal with all my personal issues and I would submit new proposals to her at a later date.  But, guess what?  She never returned my call.  So, I wrote her a letter and explained what was going on and guess what?  She never wrote back.  I was really hurt she would ignore me this way.

That brings me back to my friend whose book was being made into a mini-series for TV.  By now, he was starting to have doubts about this agent we had both been so excited to have represent us.  His television series had aired and was a huge success.  He had even been in Los Angeles for the filming and was looking forward to the royalties he was sure would come his way.  After all, his (our) agent said he would see a large payoff from this exciting venture.  Too make a long story short, many years and lawyers later, he finally had to accept the fact that he had signed a really bad contract with a really bad agent, and although she had received her share of the money from the movie deal, he was only getting a small portion of what he was expecting to get.  He had trusted his agent to go over all the small print, and apparently, she had only looked after her own interests.  After hearing his story, I thought maybe she had just decided to give up being a literary agent and maybe that’s why I never heard back from her.  Besides, I had too much going on in my life to worry about it back then.

My crazy life went on.  The year sabbatical somehow turned into twelve years.  Not possible!  I wanted, no needed, to write again.  I dusted off one of the Indian stories I had submitted to my agent years earlier.  How could she not like this one?  I thought it had great potential and I was going to prove her wrong.  After updating some of the scenes, I was ready to submit it.  But, was I still under contract to my agent?  She had not contacted me in over twelve years, but I had to know for sure if I was free to submit the manuscript to publishers myself.  Sure enough, my old contract with her said that if I wanted to dissolve our business contract, I must state so in writing.  Since I had not actually stated this intent when I had written her years earlier, I figured I needed to look into this further. I got online to see if she was still in business and there she was…still going strong all these years later.

This time I was no longer hurt, just angry.  It appeared that not long after she had signed with me, she had also signed with another author who had become very successful.  It’s a name you would all recognize immediately from books, television and movies.  My agent obviously decided to ignore me so she could concentrate on her new star.  At least, that is how I felt.  But, I just wanted to move on, so I wrote a brief letter telling her I would no longer require her to act as my agent and I would appreciate a response back acknowledging the dissolution of our contract.  And, guess what?  I never heard back from her!  I considered this the end of our contract.

I submitted my manuscript to a publisher on my own again.  Black Horse was the manuscript my agent did not think was publishable, but it was published by Dorchester Publishing in October 2009; White Owl was an August 2011 release.    The rights to both of these books has now been purchased by Amazon Montlake Romance.  They are available in Kindle and paperback format at Amazon.com.

Now, I feel the time is right to find an agent for my new manuscript, a Paranormal Romance.  But, as you might guess, I’m more than a little nervous.  I have no visions of glory.  I’m just hoping I will find a good agent, and they will believe in me and in my writing.  If not, well, I will just keep doing it on my own.  It’s not like I haven’t done it before.   Wish me luck!

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