Why getting a literary agent is a lot like dating

In the hazy days before I met Rhys, I was pretty open about my dating life. All my friends, and the many acquaintances befriended at bar counters and pub bathrooms knew the intricacies, hilarity and outrage of my dating exploits. In a certain corner of the Internet, you'll even find a book I've  written about it under a top secret pseudonym. Thankfully, I learned a lot through those experiences, and have found myself finding parallels between dating and finding a literary agent. 

1. You need a partner, not a cheerleader. I am looking for a good literary agent because I feel we can do well together. I don't need an agent to tell me I'm special or that my writing is good. I need someone who challenges me, recognises my strengths and pushes me to be better. When I first flung myself into the dating pool, I was looking for affirmation and confirmation that I was worthy of love. That's completely unfeminist to say, but it's true. It took me a while to learn that I didn't need a man to give me permission to be loved, just like I don't need an agent or publisher to give me permission to write. And to be honest, in both cases I would probably be content going it alone. Still....

2. You will imagine a future with each one. It doesn't matter how unsuitable some of my boyfriends were, I imagined a future life with each one that glistened with all the positive fantasies I projected onto them. The same goes for agents. Based on a one paragraph bio, my imagination will fill in the gaps to create a beautiful future for both of us. When they request a full manuscript, this tendency gets elevated to psychopath proportions. 

3. You'll stalk them...just a little. It's the bloody Internet's fault. If you really want to stalk your crush, you can find out everything from your mutual friends to what posts he's liked on Instagram (French bulldogs? OMG imagine how cute it will be when he gets you a French bulldog puppy for your first home!). The silence that characterises pitching your novel just adds fuel to this fire. I sometimes check Twitter for hints on whether an agent has found my book wildly entertaining or offensive. More socially-savvy agents run their own blogs to demystify the submissions process, which I am forever grateful for. 

4. You'll have a lot of near misses. Love is a complicated, heady mix of timing, attraction and just plain luck. I've been mad about guys who seemed so right, crazy right, gush to all of my friends right, only to have the whole thing collapse a week later. I've been building similar castles in the sand with agents who love my book and take the process so far, until one day I get a regretful mail spelling the end of my encounter, leaving me to send my manuscript out into the abyss once again. 

5. But you've got to have faith. Almost six years ago, I had a joint birthday party with my friend. I was having ambiguous dinner dates with a gentleman friend at the same, who had promised me he was going to be there. This was it, I thought. He was funny, clever, he liked the same bands as I did - surely he was the one. It was a beautiful summer evening that night, and everyone came dressed to our 1920s theme. I stood at the door in my flapper dress, waiting for him to arrive. Even as I danced with my friends, my heart was holding a little onto him. He never arrived of course, but here's the best part. My friend had invited a shy work colleague that night, who I somehow never met. That colleague was Rhys. So while I was pining after the wrong guy, my guy (who I would only meet a few months later) was in the same room. 

Life really is magical, and I honestly believe that when you combine self confidence, passion and faith, the right thing happens. As I write, I am waiting for several agents to get back to me on my full manuscript. Of course, I've imagined my future with each one. Of course, I know from Twitter who is on leave and who isn't. But I also feel a sense of surrender. I did my best on this book, and have let go so I can start plotting the next one. I hope you do too.