Guest Blog by Amy Spalding

August 26th, 2010 • Kate

catchattentionSince I’m out of the office this week on vacation, I’ve turned my blog over to my clients, who wanted to share their thoughts with you on a variety of subjects. I let them have free rein because otherwise, well, just trust me, it’s for the best. Today’s post is by Amy Spalding. Amy Spalding wrote her first book at age ten, but don’t let that anecdote impress you out of context. It was a melting pot of every series she was reading at the time, and she spent far more time designing the cover art than actually writing. Amy narrowly survived both Catholic grade school and public high school in rural Missouri before going on to study Marketing Communications at St. Louis’s Webster University. After graduation, Amy packed up her things, kept her laptop at easy reach, and moved out to Los Angeles. Amy is now working on her M.A. in Media Studies at the New School, where she’s watching lots of TV to see how gender is portrayed. She’s also writing her figurative pants off! She dislikes long walks on the beach but thinks fuzzy kittens are tops. Amy Spalding is single, but agented. Take it away, Amy!

Online Dating vs. Getting an Agent

Nearly two years ago, when I was hard at work querying to find an agent, I kept getting these sensations of deja vu, even though I’d never attempted to find representation before. Then, while nervously refreshing my inbox over and over and over again, it hit me. I had done this before. Because this process was basically identical to online dating.

Your search begins. You keep asking yourself, am I ready for this? But you know you are. It’s been awhile since your last relationship/revision. Your best friend/critique partner approves. So you pull up the web site and feel this wonderful sense of comfort. There are so many options! There are so many people who are looking for someone too! This is going to be quick and easy, and by the time your monthly hangout with your friend rolls around again, you’ll be able to tell them you’re in love/represented.

But the confident feeling that this is going to be a short and successful mission doesn’t last too long. You start narrowing your search. You’re not dating someone who lives across the country from you, after all!* You’re not going to send in your beloved manuscript to someone who doesn’t even rep your genre! And all of a sudden, that wide expanse of possibilities is narrowed. And it’s scary.

Slowly you get used to this limited group of possible suitors/agents. It’s not so small after all! Except now that you have it narrowed down to those you could possibly want, you have to remember something actually kind of shocking: not everyone you want will actually want you back! Oh, great. You’re narrowing it down again, because some people don’t like short guys, or character-driven stories, or curvy girls, or contemporary realistic young adult novels.

It’s scary now, how small these possibilities seem to be, at least in comparison to how open the world felt when you began. But the good news is now you’re dealing with a list of people who could actually be what you’re looking for. And so you start looking more closely at everyone in preparation to send your first icebreaker/query. A lot of them are really cool! But then – suddenly! – there’s The One. Just reading their profile on OK Cupid/Query Tracker is enough to make you fall in love/well… fall in love. You know there are lots of fish in the sea/you should be querying widely. But, oh gosh, your heart is set. Your future with this person is all you can see, and it’s going to be a good one.

Your messages go out. And now you wait. You refresh your inbox obsessively. You wonder if no word back means “no” or just “I haven’t had time yet” or perhaps “I have more important people to deal with.” You try to act normal in the rest of your life, but your brain is mostly just calculating ways to get back to your computer and see if anyone’s responded.

A few rejections come in. You do your best to roll with the punches, but it’s scary. What if everyone responds the same way, or, worse, never responds at all? Luckily, one day your inbox brings good news instead! It’s an adorably-worded response/request for a partial (possibly adorably-worded as well). Good heavens, this returned interest feels more validating and encouraging than you would have suspected! You respond as quickly as possible but without suggesting that you, perhaps, are a crazy person who has done nothing but refresh your inbox (even if that is extremely accurate).

The emails go back and forth! A first date/full manuscript is requested! And the big moment arrives. It’s time to reveal yourself/your whole book. You hope desperately the other person will love you/it, though it’s always important to keep in mind that you should gauge whether or not you have mutual feelings or are just so pleased by the attention you get carried away.

Hopefully it works out! Maybe it’s with that first person whose profile you spotted as The One so early on. Quite possibly, it’s a person completely different from what you would have imagined someone filling this important role in your life would be like. But whether or not you’re falling in love or getting an agent, it should be the right fit for both of you. And then luckily you’ll never repeat this tortuous process again.

*This bit is irrelevant to the lady who usually runs things around here, obviously.
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10 Responses to “Guest Blog by Amy Spalding”

  1. Suzanne Casamento Says:

    Hilarious. Your description feels freakishly familiar on both accounts. And you're right, I never want to repeat either tortuous process again!

    Great post!

  2. Kelly Says:

    "You try to act normal in the rest of your life, but your brain is mostly just calculating ways to get back to your computer and see if anyone’s responded."

    I'm not sure anyone has ever uttered a truer sentence than that one about this process.

    Fun post, thanks for the read!

  3. Rochelle Says:

    Such a spot-on comparison. I am always amazed at how much of my professional life can be directly compared to my dating life…I just hope I never get them confused and send a flirty email to my boss…

  4. Trish Says:

    Totally true!

  5. Karen Says:

    I LOVE THIS! As someone going though the online date now and about to go into the query process again, I SO get this. Such a good comparison.

  6. Sarah Says:

    "You respond as quickly as possible but without suggesting that you, perhaps, are a crazy person who has done nothing but refresh your inbox (even if that is extremely accurate)."

    Haha, YES. Nothing like being the overeager dater/writer.

    Great metaphor about having mutual feelings, and not just jumping at the first person who likes you.

  7. Kayla Says:

    Oh holy cow, this is funny and sad and true. I love my agent and so happy we found each other…but until I was with her, it was like living in a dry, unsexy, world…full of watching other people walk around hand-in-hand with their creative partners…

    Btw, I still check my inbox every two minutes to hear from my agent…even if I haven't contacted her first. Is this a healthy relationship? OR IS THIS AGENT OBSESSION!?!?!?!

    Sometimes it's hard to remember that agents are people too, not miracle makers.

  8. Carrie Harris Says:

    This is why I hang out with writers. Because when you say "you're a crazy person who has done nothing but refresh your inbox," most of us laugh and nod. When I say things like that out in public, people suggest medication.

  9. Erika Marks Says:

    A wonderful post! I feel like I am always equating the querying process with dating–the sentiments can often feel so similar–particularly this idea of appealing to some and not others, and getting so close with that elusive request for partial/second date and have such high hopes for the future, only to get the thumbs down. Argh.

    But as I always say too: Like dating, for those of us who want to find love/an agent and contract, we keep at it, no matter the rejections or false starts.

  10. Kristen Says:

    A perfect metaphor, beautifully put… Now let's just hope all this dating I'm about to be doing leads to a long and happy marriage!