Monday, June 13, 2011

R.I.P. Jesse Blount, Friend and Agent

Around the beginning of May, just as the ticking time bomb of wedding preparations was threatening to cause a meltdown, I learned, quite by accident, that my literary agent had died in the middle of March and no one had informed me. I had sent him an e-mail and when he didn’t respond in a week or two, I called. Rather than hearing his booming James Earl Jones voice telling me to leave a message, I was connected to a female voice informing me that the number was no longer in service.

Knowing that Jesse had been suffering some serious health issues in the previous year, I typed his name and “obituary” into Google and was horrified when his obituary popped up on the list.

Talk about rocking a writer’s world. Jesse was a really great guy. We had many long conversations over the two years that he represented my work. He was a deep thinker and a true writer’s agent with a phenomenal grasp of vocabulary and nuance. He also had a terrific sense of humor. He lived in California, but he was a native of Cleveland and often threatened to make the trip home so that I could escort him on a tour of the Northeast Ohio wineries. I miss his keen wit and his illuminating correspondence.

But his passing has left me with unanswered questions and much uncertainty. Jesse was an independent agent, not with an agency. There is no one, not even a secretary, to pick up the standard and carry on. Coupled with the fact that he was gone for six weeks before I found out about it, and two more weeks before I was able to track down and contact his son, too much time and many of his records have been lost.

I was given the name of one of his friends who is mining his computer for information, and we talked several weeks back, but he has yet to get back to me with any information of any kind.

I do not know:
1.) What publishers are in possession of the current manscript
2.) What publishers responded with rejections
3.) Who Jesse was in contact with regarding the manuscript
4.) If Jesse was in negotiations with anyone

It is a bit hard to pick up where he left off or to let another agent know what avenues he was working when I have no information to impart.

The only think I am absolutely certain of is that our contract became void at the time of his death.

I have decisions to make, and I will be making them in a most uninformed fashion, because I need to get the book out there for it to do any good for anyone.

I am loathe to spend another 2-3 years sending queries to agents, hoping to snag one, and then wait for them to send even more years of queries to publishers on my behalf (Jesse had not succeeded in getting a bite in two years, that I know of).

I am also loathe to spend 2-3 years sending my own queries to the limited number of publishers presently accepting unagented material. The state of the industry is such that it seems a particular waste of my time.

I could e-publish on Nook and Kindle but marketing is still a huge issue. The fact is that this book is not going to appeal to the masses. It has to strike a chord with the reader.

I could self-publish, but funds are lacking.

I could forget the whole thing.

I was toying with the idea of commercial publishing…using space in the book to advertise certain products that would be of interest to those buying the book, but I was advised by a very wise businessman that large corporations take almost as long if not longer to make a decision about something like this than the long road to traditional publishing.

A lot of heavy-duty pondering and out-of-the-box thinking is now being done in an effort to decide how to proceed. In the meantime, I am doing some minor rewrites and edits and getting the manuscript polished up for whatever its fate may be.

Darn it, Jesse...I miss you!