I went to the library for information and found out about The Writers’ Market, a book put out each year with information on agents and publishers. I selected agents I thought fit what I was writing and sent a query letter. The first agent agreed to work with me. However, he wanted upfront money“to make the manuscript salable”. Fortunately,I didn’t have the money “required” and also didn’t like the sound of “the deal”. I found another agent in the book, and unfortunately, signed with him. He sold my first novel and co-mingled the funds. I ended up having to hire legal assistance to end that relationship.
After two unsuccessful experiences, I decided meeting an agent face-to-face at a professional writers’ conference might be a better way to find a good agent, hopefully one willing to spend time with a newby like me. Once at the conference, I attended an agent panel discussion. I kept hearing the name Jane Jordan Browne – from the panel members, though Ms. Browne was not in attendance. They all spoke of her with great respect, as a long-time, successful agent.
I came home depressed, having made no headway in finding someone to read my work, let alone handle submissions to publishers. I told Rick what I had learned. He said, “Well, why don’t you send a letter to Jane Jordan Browne and see if she’d read your manuscript.” “What? Are you kidding? She wouldn’t be interested in someone like me.” “Nothing ventured, nothing gained…” said Rick. For the next few days, I agonized over writing a query letter.
Jane’s assistant contacted me and suggested I send a few sample chapters – which I did. Jane was at a European book fair. The assistant liked the chapters and gave them to Jane upon her return to the office. She was in Los Angeles at the time. Jane contacted me and we met and talked at length. I liked her immediately. She was everything people had said about her: very intelligent, sharp sense of humor, knew the publishing business inside and out, a reputation for integrity. (She offered me a contract that protected both of us. Agents can get burned, too.)
Jane Jordan Browne managed my career for the next twenty-five years. While dying of brain cancer, she called me from her hospital bed, concerned about my career. She encouraged me to stay with her protégé, Danielle Egan-Miller. I have, and I have never regretted that decision.
In my opinion, a good agent frees the writer from the many complex and complicated aspects of the business of writing. A good agent keeps the writer fully informed so that we can make wise career decisions without giving up hunks of time from what writers are called to do: WRITE. The writer-agent relationship is built on trust – and grows into friendship.