So, Idiot Agent #1 was history. Now what? It had been seven months since I had my list of interested agencies. Would I have to start at the beginning again? I decided that before I went through the whole submissions shebang again, I would contact the agents who'd expressed an interest and hope that that they'd remember who the hell I was.
The second agency looked good. They were based in New York AND had a fairly decent client list, one of whom I particularly admired. I wrote them and lo and behold, he remembered me. He liked what he'd read. He really liked my writing. My heart did backflips of joy.
"But..." he said.
Here's the thing about "but". Take everything that anybody says before the "but" and erase it from the blackboard. "But" is never good.
He wanted me to make some changes.
I like to think that I'm pretty fair with making changes editorially. If someone can make a solid case for why something needs to be changed, I'm more than willing to do so. More often than not, I believe editors' suggestions have strengthened my pieces greatly. Rarely have I given reasons why I don't want to make a change, don't want to make a cut. Even when on the other side of the desk, I firmly went with the belief that if an editor and a writer have equal and compelling reasons to make/not make a change, the tie goes to the writer. After all, it's the writers' name that sits on it at the end of the day.
But like I said, I'm always more than willing to hear an editor's suggestions. I'm a big fan of editors.
This was what he wanted changed.
1. He wanted me to cut my secondary protagonist, seeing him as a clichéd genre enforcer character in line with a Hawk or Bubba Ragowski.
2. He wanted me to move the story from Boston to New York.
3. He wanted me to change the characters occupation from bouncer to bounty hunter.
4. He wanted me to insert a sage, older bounty hunter for whom the main character would go to for life-lessons.
He told me to make the changes, then send him the book. I mmm-hmmed the hell out of my end of the conversation, sweating sickly the whole time, and said I'd get back to him.
My heart finished backflipping and made the dive into the empty pool of my stomach.
Here were my issues with the suggestions.
1. My secondary protagonist was nothing like those other characters, and was not only important to the story, but to the future stories I wanted to tell with those characters.
2. Location means a lot in these stories. Boston, as a character, also plays a part sociologically.
3. The fuuuuuck?
4. Isn't the sage older Yoda character a cliche?
5. Once I made all those changes, it wasn't really the same book anymore, was it?
Did I mention that he hadn't even read the fucking manuscript yet? he'd only read the sample chapters.
HE HADN'T EVEN READ THE FUCKING MANUSCRIPT YET!!!!
I spent days torturing myself over this. Should I just do it? Was I being a precious douchebag writer?
I talked it out with my artist friends, needing their opinion. Across the board, whether musician, painter; whether successful in their careers or not, their input was all in line with my often faulty instincts. The one writer said she'd make any changes any agent ever requested of her. She's written five novels. She's never gotten an agent to represent one of them.
I didn't know what the fuck to do.
I made my decision.
I called the agent, told him that I appreciated his suggestions, but felt like he had no interest in the book I'd written, only wanted me to write a whole other novel (I didn't say that he wanted me to write HIS novel for him, but I sure as shit felt it). If he wanted to actually see my entire manuscript, maybe rethink some of those (batshit ridiculous) suggestions based on a fuller understanding of the whole, I'd love to hear his thoughts.
He said, "Nah."
So I said that I was sorry, but his suggestions weren't going to work for me.
With a condescending chuckle, he said, "Well, it's your novel, " then hung up on me.
The whole time, I was sweating greasy bullets, sick to the pit of my stomach, unsure whether I was making the right move. But with that final statement, he cleared it up for me.
He was right. It was my fucking novel, not his. And if he wants to hire somebody to write his bounty hunter book, then he should hire someone to write his fucking bounty hunter book.
He wasn't offering me sweet fuck-all but maybe MAYBE a chance at representation. And what if he didn't like that novel, and wanted me to change the character to a jittery Eskimo fireman?
Since his prickish dismissal towards ownership of my own fucking book, I've never regretted the decision.
By the way, the writer that he repped for whom I held such esteem?
He'd fired the prick months before, only the prick hadn't removed his name from the agency's roster yet.