Agent #21 – Red Carpets versus Goat Hair Scarves

Turns out contacting agent #20 wasn’t the complete waste of time and effort (and Dove dark chocolate from the 99 Cent Store – 2 for 99 cents…woohoo!) that I thought it would be when I discovered my new email program had screwed up all the punctuation. I did hear back from them–within 12 hours, impressive!–and although the answer was a polite ‘no’, the fact they bothered to respond to such a messy query letter at all was as pleasant as finding Dove chocolate at the 99 Cent Store. But a ‘no’ is still a ‘no’ so……..NEXT!

Agent #21 was one I found in the Jeff Herman guide to literary agents. It was one of the few agencies who don’t list their physical address–not in the Jeff Herman guide nor on their website. I can only assume that this means they’re not in New York but it doesn’t really matter because the particular agent I had my eye on runs the L.A. office of this agency. The fact they have an LA office says to me that they’re big enough to warrant opening one here so they’re probably at least ‘New York adjacent’ and as far as I’m concerned, anyone who’s a commuter train ride away from Manhattan is close enough.

This agent only handles fiction, making her fairly rare in my experience, and her areas of interest include commercial fiction and historical fiction. Plus she’s in LA so I’m guessing she might be more readily open to stories about old Hollywood.

I sometimes wonder if, by ‘historical fiction’, these agents are really talking about books like Girl with a Pearl Earring (set in Holland during the 1600s) and The Red Tent (set during biblical times). So when they read about my project which takes place only 60 or 70 years ago, do they snort and think, ‘Pah! You think writing about Hollywood in the 1930s qualifies as ‘historical’? Try writing about having your period in the desert outside of Damascus with nothing but a scarf made of goat hair to mop things up with and then talk to me about historical freakin’ fiction.’…? It might explain why some of them never reply but this is an industry which operates in genres: fiction, murder mystery, thriller, suspense, narrative non-fiction, romance, young adult, steampunk (don’t worry, I had to look that one up too in Wikipedia) so when approaching these people, you help them to help you by stating which genre you’re writing in upfront.

Unfortunately it wasn’t until after I’d sent my email query off that I realized this agent is a big fan of Gone With The Wind and The Eight –two favorite books of mine–which I might have mentioned even though it could come across as blantant sucking-up.
Helping them to help you is good.
Helping you to help you is better.
Being able to buy two Dove dark chocolate bars for 99 cents is best.

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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