For Allison Amend, author of the story collection Things That Pass for Love and the novel Stations West, the road to publication has been a slightly bumpy one. It has required tenacity and perseverance, coupled with faith in her considerable talent. An Iowa MFA grad, with several prestigious credits, and for at least ten years, no books—she diligently wrote, placed articles and stories, applied for residencies and fellowships, freelanced, taught freshman comp, while her peers openly debated why Allison Amend had not yet published a book. She'd been a finalist or semi-finalist in so many first book award contests she'd stopped listing them on her resume.
In 2004, she finished a historical novel, Stations West. A version of the first chapter had appeared in One Story in 2002. And she landed a big-time agent, who shopped the book to over thirty publishing houses, at first big, and then small. Many editors liked it; some came tantalizingly close to saying yes, but ultimately none offered to publish it. Amend’s agent suggested she put her hard-wrought novel, as they say, in the drawer. Subsequently, she and the agent parted ways. But Amend persisted on her own, finally finding a publisher for her book, despite having no representation. The novel was published in 2010, to critical acclaim, and nominated for the $100,000 Sami Rohr prize. She's now represented by Terra Chalberg at the Susan Golomb Literary Agency. (Terra Chalberg answers reader-submitted questions in The Poets & Writers Guide to Literary Agents.)
Of all authors, Amend knows the pros and cons of working with an agent. In this video, she shares her experience.