Sunday, June 20, 2010

Luck is Opportunity Plus Preparation

I had an agent’s attention a couple years back. Before coming to Books & Books, Marissa had ghostwritten a couple of biographies with famous folks and had also interned at several agencies. When she found out I’d written a book, she demanded to know why I hadn’t approached her before. After asking about what I was working on and what I’d completed, Marissa suggested I contact Courtney Miller-Callihan at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, Inc.

Not only did Miller-Callihan accept email submissions - quick and easy - Marissa had seen her in action and knew she was good at her job.

I emailed Courtney Miller-Callihan at SGA the second draft of Scratch the Dead Places (horror of horrors; at least it wasn’t the first draft). She passed on it, of course. At the same time, she told me she liked my writing and would look at something different. I sent Ming and she responded enthusiastically. I sent a version with some revisions she suggested, along with an outline for parts one and two. She replied with a tremendous email that was two pages long when I printed it out.

I made the changes she suggested immediately. Then I sat on them.

When I sent Ming back, along with a short story collection called Whistling Past the Graveyard to apologize for taking so long, I was shocked to find that a year had passed since our last correspondence.

I’ve since learned how rarely this kind of feedback happens, and how well it portends. I’ve also learned that from an agent’s perspective, when there’s a long period of silence after so much back-and-forth, the agent assumes you’ve used their advice to improve your work, attempted to sell it to a different agent, failed, then come crawling back like nothing ever happened.

Timing is everything. There has to be a reason I didn’t just send it off immediately, right? I had to deal with my marriage breaking up, after all. Cheap excuse. The fact is, I wasn’t aware of those problems until a couple of months after the revised Ming was ready. The breakup prompted me to send my work out, to try and make something of my life.

Am I so afraid of failure I sabotage every opportunity?

When we first corresponded, Courtney Miller-Callahan was not listed on the SGA website. Now she is. I can only assume her plate is fuller than it once was, or (uh-oh) she’s lost interest, or (worst of all) she’s forgotten Ming. Do I follow up? Do I use divorce as an excuse? Do I take it as a learning experience and move on?

I think yes, no, and yes.

I've been preparing long enough; it's time to create an opportunity.


  1. this thing ate my comment, i think.

    I LIKE MING, is what i said before it was eaten.

    I want to pick up an aaron curtis book and read it. ASAP

  2. I followed up; no response, so I assume she's lost interest. This is not the worst thing to have happen, it just means we weren't a fit.

    At least I know I need to try another route.