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21 November, 2012

Author Jeff Rivera Shares: How a Self-Published Author Can Get a Legitimate Agent

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people who say they’re going to do something for you and they don’t. So I began my journey from agent hell to finding the best agent in the universe.

I never had a problem getting an agent. That’s always been easy for me. I don’t know why. But finding the right agent has been an awful experience for me. I’ve met some of the most beautiful sweetest agents in the world, God bless them, but being beautiful and sweet don’t sell no books. And it ain’t going to pay rent at the end of the month either sweet heart.

I seemed to attract, or as my therapist would say, be attracted to people who said they were going to do this or that for me and they didn’t. Some of them had powerful connections and relationships and even celebrity clients, but for some reason their attention was more focused on those relationships and not lil’ ol’ me. Now I can understand in retrospect, they were in the business to make money and if they couldn’t make it right away they’d drop it like it’s hot and I would be left saying, “Hello? … Hello? … Is anybody home? Remember me?”

I began writing a novel out of frustration from not selling my screenplays and found that I had a real passion for it. My first novel was called Forever My Lady. It tells the story of a Latino juvenile delinquent that struggles to turn his life around while in prison boot camp. Sort of a Latino “Officer and a Gentleman.” I self-published the novel because I wanted creative control over the direction of the novel.

Everything happens for a reason, as the age-old cliché says, and I was able to land a literary agent immediately. This was a powerful agency that touted to represent many celebrities on their book deals which impressed the heck out of me. But soon I found I was client #3223.b paragraph C and not someone they paid attention to. I had to get out of there or I was going to feel frustrated. Some people say a bad agent is better than no agent at all and I couldn’t disagree more. There’s so much more you can do on your own than being stuck with someone who wouldn’t recognize you if you passed them on the street.

I spent about a year hawking the novel on my own and did pretty well. I was able to get 8,000 new readers but I wanted to take it to the next level and here’s what I did.

No matter what anyone tells you about simultaneous submissions not being a good thing, let me tell you they don’t know what they’re talking about. Always remember it really is a numbers game: The more queries you send out, the more responses you’ll get.

I broke all the rules. I didn’t even send out a query letter. I emailed the prologue with the book cover in the body of the email to hundreds of people in the publishing industry. I didn’t even have a quick note attached. It literally was just the prologue with the book cover. I made sure nothing was attached because people are paranoid about getting viruses. I knew by sending it out to the universe the right person or people would respond. And they did. I received a number of great responses and requests to read my book from not only agents but senior editors at major book houses.
I narrowed my agent choices down to two and settled on what I like to call the best agent in the universe, Jenoyne Adams from Levine Greenberg Agency.

She really “got” my writing. And she was very enthusiastic about it. She didn’t even want me to mail her a copy of Forever My Lady, she wanted me to email her the book so she could read it right away. And she pursued me. I didn’t have to pursue her. It’s so important for you to find an agent that is enthusiastic about your writing because they’ll need that enthusiasm to sell the book.

I was very very skeptical about having an agent and I let her know that right upfront. I told her about my agent hell experiences and she listened. Having been an author before, she understood my concerns and she even offered to have me speak to several of her clients. And I, of course, took her up on her offer. Her clients spoke very enthusiastically about her and I knew no agent who didn’t have confidence in their abilities would have done that. But my one concern was that she was so nice. Dammit, I didn’t want another nice agent who didn’t do anything and I was afraid she would be one of those.

But she really listened to my vision of where I thought the book should go to. And she was patient and so down to earth. Well, Ms. Adams proved herself and within days of signing with her she had the novel sold to Warner Books.

It is very true that you can land a deal without an agent but having a great agent can really give you that push you need. My book had been on Warner’s desk for quite some time but one call from my agent and they read it over the weekend and came back with an offer. An agent also knows the ins and outs of the biz and no matter how many books you may read on the publishing industry, it helps to talk to someone who’s been there done that.

It is very possible to land an agent with your self-published novel. The industry isn’t as jaded against self-publishing as it once was. To land an agent remember it is a numbers game and don’t be so desperate to find an agent that you choose any old one. Take your time and find the right combination and you’ll be thanking your lucky stars.
Jeff Rivera is the author of the award-winning novel, Forever My Lady. To find out more, visit his official website. (Article originally published on BookMarket.com)

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