Horse Trading and Literary Agents

Crash time 9:00 last night. That made 39 hours without sleep. I finally took a Unisom and went to bed. Then I woke up every hour on the hour for some reason. I gave up trying to sleep at 5:00 this morning and got up. Still very tired and going to work is going to be the pits today. Even worse, I know I will crash tonight when I get off work, but I really need to start moving stuff into the apartment. I have to try and figure out how much I can cram in there and how much I will be forced to put in storage.

I’m still in, well, not really sure what mode I’m in. Going through the motions I suppose. Ah, rearranging deck chairs on a ship that’s going down. I know in my case the ship will miraculously rise again, but it is sinking now.

I got the first six chapters revised while I was baking cookies Sunday night/Monday morning. The prologue is now going to be chapter nine. I have Thalmar investigating the death of the murdered sister and he decides to bring the spirit walker to the ruins where Aegis was killed. She will touch the knight’s blood blossom that was floating in his blood and relive his final hours. While trying to figure out how to get word back to his father to send the spirit walker, I realized I have to cut some words and travel time. So, probably from lack of sleep, I came up with a novel solution. He sends the message home with his horse, Seg. After Thalmar attaches the message to the horse’s neck, he casts a spell on him and Seg shrinks to the size of a hawk and sprouts wings. Carrier pigeon, kind of. Hey, if Saerowyn can have flying jars, Thalmar can have a flying horse.

While I am enjoying reworking the prologue, I will be very glad when all the pieces are in place. Barbara Rogan’s workshop was invaluable for getting the ducks in a row, but that meant I had to rearrange several of them so they would look pretty. Kind of like when I was on the dance team and we had to be arranged tallest to shortest to make the line look smooth. The mystery solving aspect had to be woven in much earlier so I had the two stories going simultaneously.

Another thing I was doing while trying to stay awake long enough to get cookies baked was perusing the agent lists. Aqent Query has them sorted with pertinent information.

I was struck by how similar it is to studying a horse sale catalogue. Instead of pedigrees and performance records, it’s other information, but it felt very similar. Probably because I really want another horse so I have horses on the brain. When I get settled with some land, first thing on the list is to go horse shopping.

If you all ever get a chance to go to a horse sale, do it. It’s the best, cheapest entertainment on earth. I’m not talking about one of those snob affairs with horses on carpets and people sipping wine, I’m talking about a real horse sale with horse poop, cowboy hats and horse traders.

Horse traders are born entertainers. They’ll make you laugh enough you give that extra fifty dollars gladly because the show was worth it. If there were any decent horse sales around here I would go to them just to be going. I’ll go to some with my daughter-in-law in Oklahoma when the time comes. I’m going to be in the market for a cutting horse cull probably, but there are some other things I’m looking for.

So that brings us back to the agents and horse sales.

I usually study the horse sale catalogue and mark which horses interest me. That’s based on a variety of things, pedigree, age, performance, sex etc. Agent Query is similar, I find myself going through it and tabbing which ones meet certain criteria. I’ll flip to their website or blog and do a bit more reading if I’m interested. That’s when I cull a few more or add them to the short list. One agent mentioned they hate elves. All righty. Next series involves elves and fairy dragons. (Yes, frightening that I already know what the next books are going to be when I don’t even have Paladin sold, isn’t it?) That agent won’t be a good fit.

Ok, so I go to my horse sale with my sale catalogue in my hip pocket and a wad of cash in the bank. I like to get there early so I can look at the horses before they go through the sales ring. The horses will have a hip number that corresponds to the catalogue number so you can find them. Sort of like the name tags on agents at a conference.

Here’s where the magic comes in. A horse, to me anyway, will speak to me. Not literally, but something about them makes them noticeable. I might like the way they look or move and their pedigree, but if I don’t connect on some level I don’t want them for a personal horse. If one comes up to me like he is sizing me up that immediately gets my attention. If one acts like he just wants to be left alone or is aggressive, that also gets my attention. Then I need to figure out if he’s just cantankerous all the time or not happy about being at the sale. Mainly, there is something in the eyes. Everyone can have a bad day, I just don’t feel like putting up with bad attitudes all the time from a horse or an agent.

So, if I get to a conference and an agent is doing things I know are going to irritate me to have to deal with, I can mark them off the short list. Watching their blogs is another way to get a reading on them from different angles.

All right, I’m still interested in the horse. I’ll ask the owner to take them out of the stall so I can watch them move. Agents would probably object to me asking them to walk away from me so I can watch them move, so that might not transfer into agent shopping. If I still like what I see, I’m going to feel the horse up. Agents would definitely object to that. Most anyway. Some might not.

So I put my hand out to introduce myself to the horse. I really like him to stick his nose out and smell me, perk his ears up like he’s interested and watch me. That might not be so different from agents. Introduce yourself, shake hands watch how they react. Agents probably won’t perk their ears up, but I think you can tell if people are interested in what they’re doing. Even when they are exhausted, there is still a light on somewhere.

After the horse accepts me, I start running my hands over them. I want to see how they react to being handled and how their muscle and bone feels under my hands. Like I said, agents probably aren’t going to go for this, so don’t try this at a conference. I’ll run my hands down their legs and pick up the horse’s feet. Then I move my way to the back of the horse, feeling as I go. I like good muscling and a developed inside gaskin muscle is a big plus to me. That’s the muscle on the inside of the horse’s thigh above the hock. Agents would definitely object to you running your hands up the inside of their thigh. Not recommended.

Through all this I really want to see and feel how the horse is reacting. Now, I’ve bought and owned a lot of horses who were wilder than a march hare when I got them, but there is still some level of connection there to make me want them.

While going through the agent list yesterday, it really did strike me about how similar it is to finding a good horse. You want one that will do the job you need done and also be a pleasure to work with. Some people will put up with a horse with a bad attitude if he just performs, but for me, life is too short. I want to enjoy the journey.

One lady spoke about how she is afraid of her agent. He intimidates her and never contacts her unless it is absolutely necessary. It doesn’t matter to her because he sold her book. Um, no. Not going to live like that.

I don’t need a new best friend or someone to hold my hand, but I do need a friendly working relationship. I need an agent who knows how to laugh as well as sell books.

When I was home, the horses would all start nickering when I walked out. Even if it’s just to get scratched and petted a bit, they like being around me.

I kind of want that with an agent. I want them to enjoy interacting with me and vice versa. I want to be able to saddle up and go get the job done, but I want both of us to have a bit of fun while we’re out there making things happen.

Now I kind of feel bad. I wonder if agents get tired of going through a continual horse sale with people constantly sizing them up.

On the plus side, at least they don’t have authors feeling their inside gaskin.

Yes, I’ll most likely remove this post when I actually start looking for an agent.


  1. a cutting horse cull

    Gad, we love it when you speak horse-trading jargon!

    My stepdaughter is a major supported of local “big dog rescue” groups; she’s told me of that experience you mention, of the animal’s having spoken to you. I’m not sure which is more magical, seeing the recognition in the human’s eyes or seeing it in the animal’s, but there’s definitely something I love to watch when it happens.

    About agents: When you get to the point of actually querying them, you might want to look at as well. There’s SOME information about agent preferences and such. But mostly the site is geared to managing and tracking your submissions. A really useful feature is seeing average turnaround time for queries, partials, whatever, on an agent-by-agent or agency-by-agency basis, using input from all the LitMatch users who’ve queried those agents.

  2. P.S. If this is the kind of thing you can produce going on 39 hours of wakefulness plus N hours of rotten sleep, all I can say is that I clearly need less sleep! 🙂

  3. John, that is a really good site. Thanks. So much better than my old ledger thing.

    Yes, there definitely is something about the way an animal and a human connect. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if human to human connection was so perfect?

    Oh, heavens don’t encourage me to ramble on little sleep. We’re lucky it was coherent.

  4. I am superstitious enough to believe in synchronicity, and someone on a yahoo group today recommended:

    So I am passing this on in case it is synchronicity. If you get tired of searching for an agent they do not require one. I could not find them on Preditors and Editors so know nothing beyond the name and URL and web site, but they do handle fantasy. They appear to be a traditional publisher, but they also offer contract editorial services, which is a bit unusual. They also have some unusual editorial policies. I mean, what is an adult book without any swearing and ultra nasty sex?

    The downside of a small press is, they do not have the money to pass out the six and seven figure advances that larger houses pass out like so many M&Ms. I know you are not interested in money anyway, but I just thought I’d pass that on. You can go direct to most smaller houses. Agents are mainly good for getting you in with the Seven Sisters.

  5. Hey, Beth. Yes, now we will both be sizing agents up at Surrey and looking at their gaskins and imagining hip numbers on them. I feel so guilty just thinking of them like that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *