Thursday, February 02, 2023

Episode 39: Agents

It’s a new episode of the Secrets of Story Podcast, without so long a wait! In this episode, James and I discuss our checkered history of getting agents/managers, losing them, and finding new ones. You’ll find lots of helpful hints for the unagented!

As you listen to the audio, you’ll notice that we foolishly said that you could find a ton of things on the blog, so now I will attempt to link to all those things here!
  • James recommends these websites for finding agents: AgentQuery.com and ManuscriptWishList.com.
  • James cites Bill Shunn’s book THE ACCIDENTAL TERRORIST as an example of a book that did self-publishing right. You can find it here, and you can see his blog posts around the process of putting it out here.
  • I mention that I considered self-publishing The Secrets of Story and made various covers for it with different titles (and for different audiences.) Here are some of those.
  • James mentions his short story “The Lam of Hal Hamburger” which was published in 2004 in the Chicago Reader. You can find it here. There was art by Paul Hornschemeier (who did the cover art for the paperback of ODD-FISH) that was included in the print edition of the Reader but is no longer on the Reader website, which can be found here.
  • James mentions his ex-neighbor, the author Marywinn Heider, who inherited his agent. Find out more about her here.
Here’s the query letter for THE ORDER OF ODD-FISH:

Dear [agent],

I have recently completed a young adult fantasy called THE ORDER OF ODD-FISH. I would like to submit it for your consideration.

Jo Larouche is a thirteen-year-old girl who, up until now, has spent her life taking care of her erratic Aunt Lily. Aunt Lily is an elderly ex-Hollywood starlet with a past so murky she’s not even sure how she came to be raising Jo. They live alone in Aunt Lily’s decaying mansion in the Californian desert. Jo doesn’t know anything about her real parents, or where she is from; the only clue is a note Aunt Lily found with her, a note that said she was a “dangerous baby.”

Jo and Aunt Lily’s quiet life is interrupted by some unexpected houseguests – an obese ex-KGB agent and a snobbish cockroach – who bring Jo and Aunt Lily to Eldritch City, where Aunt Lily had once been a knight in the Order of Odd-Fish. Jo’s parents had also been knights of the Odd-Fish. But they were killed, and Eldritch City was nearly destroyed, in the conflagration surrounding Jo’s strange and violent birth.

A cult called the Silent Sisters had claimed Jo was their reincarnated queen, a world-destroying goddess called the All-Devouring Mother. The Silent Sisters’ attempts to spirit away the newborn Jo led to a battle that almost demolished Eldritch City. Even today the name of Jo’s family, and the incident of Jo’s birth, is only spoken of in fearful whispers. Nobody in Eldritch City has ever seen Jo, but almost everyone believes that she is a supernatural monster. So Jo must remain incognito in Eldritch City, for if anyone other than her closest protectors knew her real identity, they would turn against her just as they had thirteen years ago.

Following in her parents’ footsteps, Jo becomes Aunt Lily’s squire in the Order of Odd-Fish. There are many orders of knights in Eldritch City, each with its own traditions and mission; the mission of the Order of Odd-Fish is to research the appendix to a great encyclopedia. This appendix aims to chronicle dubious and untrustworthy knowledge that is not reliable enough to include in the official encyclopedia. Each knight in the Order of Odd-Fish has his or her own dubious scholarly specialty, such as Useless Weaponry, or Unusual Smells, or Dithering. The knights cooperate in their research and live communally in a lodge with their adolescent squires, who are knights-in-training.

Jo explores Eldritch City’s raucous neighborhoods, makes new friends and enemies, and learns more about her scandalous parents and why her own birth almost caused the destruction of the city. But Jo’s faith in her new friends, and their trust in her, is tested when her real identity is exposed. And Jo is put to the ultimate trial when she confronts her true nature, which is frighteningly close to what the Silent Sisters had claimed.

My previous publishing credits include THE LAM OF HAL HAMBURGER, a 14,000-word short story that was featured on the front page of the December 31, 2004 fiction issue of the Chicago Reader.

THE ORDER OF ODD-FISH is 130,000 words long. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


And here’s the cover of James’s upcoming novel The Bride of the Tornado!  It comes out in August 2023 but you can preorder it here!

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