Okay, so I guess I should have mentioned that I wrote a book. (I always seem to do things backwards). It's a Young Adult novel, with light light sci-fi elements.
Once I was finished, I started learning about the road to publication. Suffice it to say, the road is not straight and flat. It's long, winding, perilous, and sometimes it has gaps where, if you're not careful, you will plunge to your death. I don't think I'm exaggerating.
Or maybe the road isn't a road, more like a trail. If publication is similar to summiting Mount Everest, then an agent is like your sherpa. Sure, maybe you can reach the top without a sherpa, but chances are better you'll end up frozen along the side of the trail. (Sorry about all the death analogies, I'm really not this tragic).
Once you finish your novel, it's kind of like you have hand-picked and assembled all of your unique hiking gear. (Tents, parkas, ice picks, boots, etc). Now all you need to do is find your sherpa. Only imagine that the village of sherpas would rather swallow their own tongues than be hired by you. They already have enough hikers, they don't need someone with your "cliche" backpack, or your tent full of "holes in the plot." Mostly, they don't like your main ice picks, because you haven't made your ice picks very "likable".
Just when you're thinking all of your gear is the most pathetic gear out there, and you're sure all the other sherpas have been discussing your gear over lunch, and laughing about it, suddenly Sherpa Ted- one of the hottest sherpas around- appears. And he loves your gear. And he thinks your main ice pick is the absolute best, although she can be a little violent. (That's my main character, if you didn't quite make the connection).
So then you're ready to start the hike, with Sherpa Ted by your side, refilling your oxygen tanks and showing where your tent holes are, and how to fix them. Now all you have to do is hope your lungs don't give out, hope the weather holds, and hope that the summit is reachable. But you can't help noticing how the storm clouds seem to be brewing. (The economy).
Hopefully, this provides a little background, and explains why I love Sherpa Ted so much, and why I get a little mushy when his name is mentioned.
My sister author, Bree Despain, described getting an agent as getting into the top three of American Idol. Maybe I should have stuck to that analogy.