Agent #24 – “Let’s be realistic and do the impossible!”

I gave up on Agent #12 today. He is that rare animal: a New York agent who doesn’t accept email queries. I actually had to write him a letter! And print it out! And find an envelope and stamp! And physically post it out to him! I focused on him because he agented a successful novel called “Roses” – a multi-generational, historical saga set in East Texas circa 1914 to 1985. I haven’t read it yet but I decided that there were enough parallels between that book and mine to possibly spark the interest of the author’s agent. Well…it’s been two and a half months since I wrote to him and I haven’t heard back so I’m figuring any potential spark must have fizzled out around Elephant Butte, New Mexico.

Agent #24 took some digging to find because since the Jeff Herman guide to literary agents 2010 was published, they’d merged with another agency with a completely different name. Fortunately they’d kept the same address – in Tiburon, California – so I was able to track them down.

The website of this agency gave me a good laugh when I read a quote from one of the agents: “Let’s be realistic and do the impossible!” That pretty much sums up what I feel like I’m attempting to do. I’m trying to remain realistic about this process that at times feels like I’m attempting the impossible. Or at least what feels like the impossible. The reality is that these agents receive up to 100 query letters per day from people like me so you have – at best – maybe 20 to 30 seconds to impress them enough to make them want to read the first few chapters of something you’ve taken years to write.

This agent is one of the few ones who ask you to attach a brief synopsis (although ‘brief’ is an interpretable word; I chose to go with my one-page synopsis rather than the three-page version) and the first 50 pages of the manuscript to the email query. The whole point of a query letter is to entice an agent to want to read the first pages of your manuscript. The point of sending them the first few pages of your manuscript is to make them want to read the whole manuscript. And the point of the sending them the whole manuscript is to make them want to represent you to any publishing houses they think would be interested in publishing your work.

So when an agent asks that you include your first 50 pages, my little author’s heart skips a beat because if my query letter does its job well enough, the next step is just a click away and isn’t in danger of losing momentum like a July snowball rolling the main street of Elephant Butte. (And if you think I’m making that name up, look it up on Google Maps. It’s right next to Elephant Butte Reservoir and just north of the town of Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico. You really do have to wonder whose job it is to name places in the state of New Mexico, otherwise known as the ‘Land of Enchantment’. Hmmm, more like the ‘Land of Too Much Damned Peyote‘ if you ask me.)

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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