How to Get an Agents Attention

Notes from Alexis: Looking for and trying to find a literary Agent, in a small town in the days before the internet really took over.

 9-19-84

Dearest Lex,

Hope this finds you all a ‘dither and agog’ and if not, start taking Vit B-1 (100 mg every other day) as it is a pepper upper, and the one that tastes and smells like nasty vitamins. If you take 100 mg a day you will work yourself to death.

Settle yourself with coffee because I have a long story to tell – Chapter One in ‘How to Get an Agent.’

Last night I turned to a program that I never watch called “Now in Paperback.” The reason I don’t watch is not out of snobbery or disinterest, as much as the time slot. It usually comes on when a movie I want to see comes on. Well, last night there were two movies and they were both unbearable, unwatchable and totally ‘Un,’ so in desperation I turned to the arts stations.

I didn’t like the host or the editor or the critic, but the agent caught my attention so I watched. She handled herself very well with those men and that impressed me, so I bestirred myself and wrote down her name.

The host said, “What advice would you give an author in some small town outside New York area who wants to get published?” Now he had my full attention.

She replied, “Write me a fabulous letter and send the first page of the book.” I thought, “I can do that!” Don’t you love it?  I consider letter writing an art form, besides loving to write letters, I think I write good ones. All that and modesty too, it simply overwhelms one doesn’t it.

Now about a month ago I ordered a book “Inside Publishing” by Bill Adler and it came last week, but I hadn’t opened it because –  who knows why? He was co-author on “Who Killed the Robbins Family.”

I looked in his book and he listed her as a very successful agent who worked for William Morris Agency. Well that certainly demolished my “she has to need me as much as I need her” theory but I thought, “Hold the faith, baby.” So I plunged on, I wrote the letter and copied the first page and the ninth chapter (the diary) of EAB.

I found I had to go to the library to look up the address of the William Morris/Elaine Markson in the Literary Market Place and found her listed under her own agency.

I would say an agent out on her own would have a better chance of needing me. Don’t you agree? Well, you and I know ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ (a WWI song) but I have at least taken the first step. Making the decision to make a forward motion is sometimes the most difficult and the most important.

I still have six chapters to type but that’s all – if I should die tomorrow anyone could type them (as in you) for they are basically finished. Also my mind has turned back to the book ‘Webs.’ I woke at 2:30 and thought, “If I changed the male hero, the book would work fine.” So maybe it will go into Phase II.

Yes, Dad is back and no he didn’t get any big game or any little game either – zip game is what he got, but I guess he had a great time.

Have just finished Gloria Steinem’s Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions and I have fallen in love with her. She is such a sensitive person and a great writer, but I have to warn you that some of her bloodless essays are bloody, but you will love the ‘Playboy Bunny’ chapter.

Well, today is your brothers, M’s birthday, and it brings to mind a strange little story. J. and P. went to the fair this year and there was a snake show, with someone broadcasting over a loudspeaker, and J. was just positive it was M. I asked him why he didn’t go find out and he said he didn’t have any money. I asked why not just ask the people if it was M., and he shrugged. I said, “You were afraid it might be him weren’t you?” and he agreed. He is angry with him for not saying goodbye, or writing to let us know where they are or how they are doing. And M. wonders why people turn against him, and get mad.

Well, dear girl, I have much to do today as this is town day so will close and I’ll keep you posted on the agent search and any other facts or fictions that float by.

Love,

Mom

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