Writing Nowadays–How I Got My Agent

One afternoon, in those dark days before the Internet, my phone rang.  It was an old cordless model with an antenna.  I snatched it up before my cassette-operated answering machine could kick in.

“This is Jim Baen at Baen Books,” said a deep voice.  “We read your novel and just loved it. We’d like to offer a contract.”

Oh.

A flurried conversation followed, one in which I tried to keep my wits together and my voice steady.  A real book publisher wanted my book!  Hooray!

When I hung up, I spun around in the kitchen for a moment.  My wife was right there, so she knew right away what was going on.  So who did I call next?  Was it my parents?  My brother?  My sister?

Of course not.  I called Marion Zimmer Bradley.

“Help!” I cried.  “I need an agent!”

I had already sold Marion a dozen-odd stories over the years, and we had developed a good working relationship, so calling her up wasn’t presumptuous, especially in the case of a publishing emergency such as this one.  Marion laughed, congratulated me, and gave me the name of an agent she thought I should call.

I called the agent in question, but unfortunately he wasn’t taking on new clients at the time.  “However,” he said, “I do know another agent who is taking on clients.  She might be interested.”

Her name, he said, was Lucienne Diver.  She was relatively new to the agent business, but was very good.  A little nervous now, I called Lucienne.  I’m not a good phone person, but I made myself become one–this was important.  Lucienne and I got on well during the phone interview, and we thought we could work together.  I had to overnight her a copy of my manuscript by mammoth express–expensive!  She read it and called me a couple days later to say she would love to represent me.  And she’s been my agent ever since.  That was a little over 20 years ago.

I got my agent the old fashioned way: by getting an offer from an editor and calling around to writers I was friendly with for recommendations.  Nowadays, writers usually fish for agents before they fish for editors.  Hell, most editors don’t even read unagented manuscripts.  How things change.

–Steven Harper Piziks
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Writing Nowadays–How I Got My Agent — 1 Comment

  1. I had much the same experience. I received an offer from DAW and then called the agent of my dreams. I’d been schmoozing with other writers at conventions, gathering opinions and perspective on what I wanted in an agent. It turned out my friends who were this agent’s clients had been telling him about me. We’ve been together over 20 years now.