Mighty tough. I wrote for years without an agent, and then one found me. Some time ago the site Rebecca’s Reads asked me to share how it happened. Here’s what I wrote:
“I got lucky. It’s that simple. I didn’t find an agent, she found me. I started freelancing in the late 1980s. Everything from writing newsletter blurbs to typing up copy for used car radio commercials. Whatever it took.
In the late 1990s I wrote a magazine profile of a novelist. The piece got killed, but unbeknownst to me the novelist recommended his agent track down “this long-haired writer from Wisconsin.” And so she did. A call (or email, I don’t remember) out of the blue one day. My life didn’t change overnight but the pace and quality of gigs definitely picked up.
Now my long hair is long gone, but my agent remains. I am overwhelmed and grateful that she’s out there pitching for me. I don’t call her unless there’s business to be done, but I keep her picture taped to the wall by my desk. I have drawn in a little thought balloon that says, “I wonder if Michael Perry is writing?””
I had a brief association with an agent in the early 1990s that could be charitably characterized as the classic “learning experience.” After paying her retainer and being underwhelmed with her efforts (turned out she was no more of an “insider” than I, and furthermore, submitted at half the pace) I expressed my dissatisfaction. She replied by threatening to sue me for breach of contract. This struck me as uncharitable. Thankfully, one of my pay-the-rent jobs involved writing customer service letters to disgruntled attorneys, and I was able to compose a faux legalese beauty that convinced her to turn me loose and leave me alone.
I just kept writing, cranking things out, pitching stuff on my own and self-publishing several books to sell from the car trunk.
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