Agent #17 – Sparks?

Okay, so I’ve managed to rationalize my antsy-pantsiness (I’ve now ruled that pantsiness is a word) and decided that SEVEN is a more magically rounded and appropriate number and I have sent out another query. And in case I was having misgivings this newest agent is #17. You see that ‘7’ in there…? Is that not proof enough to support my ‘seven is better than six’ theory?

Even though the tangent I took in approaching an L.A. based agent was successful, I’ve returned to my original game plan and queried another NY agent which probably means she’s buried under eight feet of snow right now. She’s in what looks like a nice building on a street just south of Houston. (Sidebar: Yes, I always look up an agent’s address on Google Maps because it allows me to see what their workplace actually looks like. How professional is this person likely to be when handling my book if Google Maps shows that their building looks like an early ’90s crack house?)

Agent #17 caught my eye for two reasons. On her website she says that she’s into “plot-driven fiction”. Big tick! So am I. Generally speaking, I’m not really one for novels in which the characters are genuine and authentic and all that…but nothing much happens. By the same token I’m not into seat-of-your-pants-edge-of-your-seat-miss-your-bus-stop thrillers either.  Give me some interesting characters but if they’re not doing anything I’m going to close the book and move on. My ‘To Be Read List’ is waaaay too long to spend it on books like that. (And of course naturally I’m reading a book right now that is all about the characters and has precious little plot. Am I enjoying Jonathon Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You …? Of course I am.)

The other reason why this particular agent caught my eye was that her top client is Nicholas Sparks. If they ever took a survey of people like me and asked whose career do you admire the most, I’m willing to bet a year’s supply of Darrell Lea licorice (the world’s best licorice which, THANK GOD, is available in the U.S.) that the #1 answer would be Nicholas Sparks. Not that I’m a fan of his stuff necessarily, but his writing career is stratospherically successful.

I figure the agent who handles him surely knows her stuff so I sent off my query which, in accordance with the website’s guidelines, was followed by a synopsis and the first three chapters. Almost immediately an auto-response came back that said: Dear Author, Thank you for your submission which we look forward to reading.  Please note that, due to the extremely high number of queries which we receive, we will only respond if we are interested. I’m sure being Nicholas Sparks’s literary agent means that you are inundated with tons and tons of queries every damned day of the year so it’s no great surprise to learn they don’t respond to them all…but it does make it hard for someone like me to guess at what point do you cross them off the list. I’ve–admittedly arbitrarily–decided one month is long enough although in reality it’s probably an immediate Yes Please/Oh God No decision that is made before they get to the end of your letter. It makes me wonder what Sparks’s original query letter was like…and did it mention Darrell Lea licorice…?

About Martin Turnbull

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels blog is by Martin Turnbull, a Los Angeles based historical fiction author of a series of novels set at the Garden of Allah Hotel, which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. Check him out at and Facebook: "gardenofallahnovels"
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