Jacob Paul, author of the novel Sarah/Sara, published by Ig Publishing in May, is one of the five debut authors featured in our July/August issue’s First Fiction 2010. The piece in the magazine focuses on the intriguing plotlines of Paul’s novel—and rightly so: Sarah/Sara is about a young Orthodox Jewish woman who takes a solo kayak trip across the Artic Ocean after her parents are killed and she is disfigured by a suicide bomber in a Jerusalem café
The novel’s narrative is gripping, but Paul also told us a pretty interesting story—about his early experiences with a literary agent—that didn’t make it into print.
“I didn’t initially intend to publish with an indie press. I found an agent for Sarah/Sara the week after I finished it. He then spent three years sending it to nine places that all wrote nice letters asking to see the next book. Meanwhile, he decided he didn't want to be an agent any longer. By the time I began looking for a new agent, two years ago, most were gun-shy about representing debut fiction. So, I had a few long, friendly conversations with agents who wanted me to try them again in 2010.
“Then, really by chance, I met Robert Lasner [of Ig Publishing] at the 2009 AWP conference.… He and Elizabeth Clementson liked the book, and I liked them. As it turns out, I could not have asked for a better publishing experience. They've sent out lots and lots of galleys, set me up with readings in five cities, arranged for me to work with the Jewish Book Council, and just generally been great to work with.”
So take it from Jacob Paul: If you can’t find a literary agent, or if your literary agent can’t place your work, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. There are alternatives.