Of no blog updates, for a quick blog update: this blog has temporarily gone on hiatus, due to my own *cough* lack-of-blogging (you may have already figured that part out). I have every intention of getting back to it, but for the time being, I clearly need to write a novel that takes place in buddhist purgatory and/or finish the one about space mutants or time-traveling governesses or whatnot. And my multi-tasking has not been at its best these days.
If you’re bored, you can always read about my tattoo, or how I got my agent parts 1-gabillion, or why indie writers are the bomb. In the meantime, I will try to think of something interesting to blog about, and read all of YOUR blogs.
<<wah ha ha ha!>>Read More
A REALLY LONG POST WITH A LOT OF SUPER-SECRET AGENTS
Well, like everything I write, this story has taken about a gabillion times longer to tell than I initially planned. But, anyway.
After research and query-writing, I sent off my first ten queries to ten of my well-researched and well-reputationed and awesome agents and… silence. Nothing. For four days.
And then, suddenly, people started responding! Woo!
I got a reject
I got a request for the full manuscript, with a nice little note that “this sounds awesome, send it right now!”
I got a “I’ve just left agenting.”
I got a request for a partial, with a nice little note that it sounded interesting!
This continued for about two months. Overall, I had what I thought was a good success rate: about a third to half of everyone I queried requested materials. And on the more encouraging side, everyone who read a partial asked for the full.
This, I thought, THIS is a good sign, even if I never get an agent. Because if you get partial requests, that means you sent your stuff to the right people and your query’s good. And that’s the first big step. If you get requests for fulls off of your partials, that means your writing is decent enough to keep someone interested. And if you could do that in the first fifty pages of your book, then hopefully… *hopefully* they’ll like the rest of it.
However, nothing is more disheartening than getting a “no” off of a full. It means you sent your material to the right agent for your stuff. You wrote a kick-ass query. You’re a pretty good writer, or else they wouldn’t have read more. But ultimately, your book didn’t do it for them.
Maybe it didn’t pan out the way they wanted it to. Maybe it didn’t quite live up to their expectations. Maybe, on second thought, they thought there wasn’t a big enough market for it. Maybe, on third-thought, it just sucked.
Regardless, rejects on a full are kind of like this: stab stab stab STAB.
So, after about five weeks, I got my first reject on a full request from Agent 001 (note: Agents are not numbered by anything other than the order in which I heard from them. Agent 001 was super-fast. So she was 001). I was really excited about Agent 001. Not only was she awesome, she was SO timely and excited about my stuff that she asked for the partial 24 hrs. after I sent the query and the full 24hrs. after that.
Fast! Efficient! Publishes books I love! Super-nice! (stab stab stab)
And to add to the stab stab stab, she said (and I quote): “I have been so torn about your book– I think it is so original, and for the first section I found it unputdownable. But…” YES, THE DREADED “BUT.” I’ll leave out the rest, because it is very stabby. It was very kind, and encouraging, and she said if I revised she’d look at it again and if I had anything else complete send it on (stab).
It was SO NICE OMG SHE IS AWESOME. (stab stab stab)
In the meantime… Agent 002 asked for a partial! I was very surprised by this. I queried Agent 002 for a number of reasons: I read his blog, he seemed incredibly professional and super-nice, he reppped some YA titles. But his recent sales didn’t exactly fit with my novel and he was more of a longshot than a lot of my other prospective agents. Needless to say, I was excited.
I sent it on and a few days later he asked for some revisions. And fortunately for me, I am occasionally fast. I revised like crazy, sent out the revisions the next week, and by the time I got my revisions back to Agent 002 I had another request for a partial. AND a shinier manuscript! Yay! Thanks Agent 002! Said partial got sent out to Agent 003 on a Saturday night, who asked for the full on Sunday morning.
Agent 003 was the opposite of Agent 002, as I thought my stuff fit in perfectly with her list. Also, all of her clients kept on selling the movie rights to her book. And really, I would TOTALLY be lying if I said I didn’t want one of my books to be made into a movie.
(Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever? Seriously? You know it would!)
Meanwhile Agent 004 showed up asking for a printed partial. Whuck? I sent it, but I was surprised. Clearly my research had failed me. How did I get someone on my list who wanted paper?
So. We’re up to Agents 005 and 006.
Agent 005 was another longshot. He sounded super-cool. He was super nice and represented two authors I adore. Everyone loved him, and he might be interested in some young adult sci-fi. But his profile said the he rarely took new clients.
He responded to my query two hours after I sent it asking for the partial. Two days later, he asked for the full. He even asked about ME and whether or not I am an interesting person. I tried my very best to sound interesting. Sometimes, it’s tricky.
Agent 006 chimed in with a request for a partial. She said she was looking for some young adult sci-fi but I wasn’t sure if I fit in as well with her client list, either. But I read a number of interviews with her and decided that she sounded so awesome I had to query her, anyway. It never hurts to try, right?
And then Agent 003 emailed. I was sure it was another stabby reject when I saw the email. But it was from her assistant, asking me to please let them know if I had any other interest. Apparently, Agent 003 was off at a conference in California and wanted to make sure I didn’t sign while she was away as she hadn’t finished reading my book yet.
(Happy Dance! Happy Dance!)
Then I got totally into Agent 003. I mean, I researched everyone before I queried them. I made sure that they were ALL my top choices, and I only had 30 on my list (not really the smartest plan, but whatever). But then Agent 003 started acting all nice, and I began doing even more research.
Everyone loved her. She was so cool. She even wrote her own children’s books. Swoon.
Anyway, waaaay back to Agent 002, the agent-blogger-extraordinairre. Agent 002 simultaneously posted on his blog and emailed me that he was leaving the world of agenting. (Like, in the exact same second. He apparently had all of his emails and posts and what-not timed to go off at the same moment). I was disappointed. But still kind of in swoon over Agent 003. So it’s all cool, Agent 002. I still read your blog and I continue to think you are awesome.
Agent 007 requested my full without even asking for a partial, four hours after I sent it. She’d just finished a SEVEN figure deal for a debut author. I didn’t query her because of that, though. I queried her because she seemed really nice on her blog and it predominantly featured coffee, which is among my many lifetime loves. And what working relationship doesn’t flourish on shared love-of-caffeine?
She proceeded to make me swoon, as well, by saying: “Whoah. This sounds awesome. Please send the full right away.”
She read it that night. The next day, I got a reject. STAB stabbity stab STAB.
Seriously, this was the worst stab. She had my shiniest copy. She was SO excited. She had a website that featured coffee on it! And her reject was even nice. But she said she didn’t quite connect emotionally with the main character. Which I was mildly flabbergasted as to how to fix.
(On a side-note: my agent has really helped me work on this issue. Cool, right? It’s amazing how just a little push or suggestion can really improve a ms. But anyway.)
Agent 008 emailed asking for a partial. She was also so, SO nice. We talked about kids’ movies in our brief email. She asked for the full a few days later.
Now. Things start to get serious.
Agent 005 emailed and said he loved my book and he wanted to work with me exclusively to edit it. I did the happy dance (WHEEE!) and then told him that I can’t work with him exclusively because Agents 003, 004, 006, and 008 still have a full. He said “get ‘em back.” I said “let me give them a week to respond.” He said “cool.” (paraphrasing)
I emailed everybody else and told them the dealio: Agent 005 wanted to work with me exclusively to make revisions. He didn’t offer a contract, but he wanted first crack at the revised copy.
Not long, actually. Agent 006 emailed me. She said she saw my email about Agent 005 on the train and went “crap! I have to talk to her!” and told me she wanted to work with me on revisions WITH a contract and without provisions. Yup. We arranged a talk-date on Friday. I did the SUPER super happy-dance.
I talked to her. She’s awesome. She’s crazy-knowledgeable and is totally cool about my over-fondness for exclamation points in my email. She’s deadline-oriented like me and sees a lot of issues in my manuscript that I hadn’t even thought about. I told her I need a week to ponder her offer.
My feet hurt from dancing.
(Okay, not really.)
Agent 008 emailed back. She asked if I could give her until the weekend to read my full so she can have a chance to respond before I talk to Agent 005. I said “sure!” On Sunday she emailed to say she wants to make me an offer. We arrange a talk-date on Monday.
I talked to her. She’s also WAY cool and amazing and we have a lot in common. She’s got great suggestions, as well, and is professional and just downright nice to talk to.
I still hadn’tt heard from Agent 003. Finally, she emailed back and said my book’s not quite for her, but she’s looking forward to reading about the deal. I’m a little sad. But not really that much, at this point.
I vacillated a lot over what to tell Agent 005. I honestly wasn’t expecting to have a number of offers on the table after one week, but suddenly his request to work with me without a contract seemed like a foolish path–especially considering my experience with my first book.
Finally, I emailed him and told him as much. I’d love to talk to him if he’d consider working with me under contract. Otherwise, I’m not interested.
I didn’t know what that feeling was, but it was kind of the opposite of stab. It felt a lot like hubris, especially since this guy was really cool. But ultimately, for me, it came down to this:
Trying to publish a book is all about risk-taking. You put yourself out there at the risk of being an idiot (I’m used to that ). You spend (significant) time writing and working on a project that may or may not get published. You let people read your work who may hate it, or you, or something you really enjoy. You query agents who will reject you. Every step is a risk, including the one where you enter into a working relationship with an agent or new author. It’s part of the process and I’m not at the point in my career yet where I comfortable NOT taking risks (probably never will be:-)).
I’m a risk-taker, after all. And I want to work with someone who’s the same way.
So if you’re out there Agent 005, let me just say: I hope I didn’t come off as a total tool. I think you’re awesome and amazing (I wouldn’t have queried you if I didn’t). The books you rep are excellent and people have nothing but good things to say about you. But I worried that your lack of commitment implied a lack of confidence in moi and my work, which–although understandable, I am a random nobody–is not what I need right now.
Now. We’re back to the remaining offers.
Agent 008, wherever you are… I think you’re fabulous. If I could have had two agents I would have wanted you, too. There was absolutely nothing about you, or your agency I didn’t care for (at all). In fact, I kinda want to be your friend and hang out with you.
But after I spoke with Alyssa, Agent 006, I just felt that “click.” She left me amazingly energized about writing. I knew there was a lot to be done, and that I was a newbie, but I also knew that I could do it, and that she’d help me. She believed in my ability to revise and make things work. We communicated well and she and showed me problems I had never really thought about. She was wildly organized yet still enthusiastic, and excited, and had the same (future novel writing) interests as me. We were a team.
I signed with her the next week, and THAT, my lovely four readers, is the actual end to this 5-part tale.
For now, anyway.Read More
BECAUSE I LOVE BOTH KATY PERRY AND E.S. POSTHUMUS
Hopefully this post won’t come off as sounding hypocritical as I have adamantly pursued the traditional-publishing route with my writing and have no plans to self-publish. But I did want to weigh in, regardless, because I’ve run into this “us vs. them” attitude floating around the interwebz regarding traditionally published authors vs. self-published authors. And I just don’t think it’s productive.
(Not that I’m published in ANY way whatsoever. But anyway.)
Here’s the thing. There is nothing (nothing!) that will deter my unabashed love of Katy Perry. There is also nothing that will deter me from wasting entirely too much time browsing CD Baby for my next-favoritest album. There is room in my life for paying $1.29 per song for Teenage Dream and Firework on iTunes and dropping $8.99 on two unheard-of bands that sound like E.S. Posthumus (one of their songs is on the soundtrack to my book, ya’ll). One does not necessarily obviate the other.
In fact, every time I get on CD Baby I end up spending more than I intend to. And then they send you a free album for every few you buy, and then I find a NEW band I like, and then… you get the idea. It appears that reading and listening to music (and watching anime, and eating cupcakes, etc.) are two things that I possess an infinite capacity to consume. And the more I do it, the more I do it.
It’s kind of like the era of Napster, a glorious wonderful shiny time when music [sampling] was free and pink bunnies roamed the landscape, skipping through fields and meadows of wildflowers. I downloaded some stuff. Yes, I admit it. But I also bought the albums for the artists I loved–and more music than I ever had before. One great song isn’t enough. I wanted the whole album. And then I wanted to go to a show. And then I wanted MOAR music and more shows. And ultimately, I wanted to support the artists. Even the already-famous ones.
So I kind of have this happy fantasy in which self-publishing does the same. It may take more work to find a self-pubbed book you love–there are no gatekeepers to guarantee it’s well-edited, no agents to find its niche in the market, and some duds out there–but if you do, you’re a loyal customer. And if you’re me, you’re still going to buy that Katy Perry album, too.
Because you know what? Suzanne Collins is awesome. And so are a lot of writers out there who never got their big break the old-fashioned way. There is room in my brain for both. Yes, my wallet has limitations on it, but I still shop at Amazon for backlisted classics and at Flyleaf Books for signed copies of local authors’ books.
So in honor of the era of napster, I’d like to share five reasons you should support self-pubbed authors. Because how sad would my college-ipod be without Beulah?:
1) There are great authors out there who don’t publish the old-fashioned way. Maybe the market can’t support a huge advance. Maybe they don’t have a timely topic. Maybe there’s another book out there similar to theirs that didn’t sell for no reason in particular. Maybe they tried it the traditional way and didn’t like it. Or maybe they never even pursued that path. Whatever the reason, their work doesn’t fit into the traditional market. It doesn’t mean their book isn’t well-written or interesting.
2) Writing is a process. We’re all at different places in our process, and we all learn different ways. Even if you see an uber-crappy self-pubbed work out there somewhere, it doesn’t mean that particular writer may not learn. We’ve all written uber-crap (I certainly have). The trick is learning the difference between uber-crap and uber-awesome. That takes time, and we all have different tools for doing it. I would like an agent and an editor and a copy editor and etc. etc. etc. to help me get my act together. Others want to put their work out there, get feedback, and go from there. Same goal, different approach.
3) The difference between a published author and an unpublished author has just as much to do with LUCK as it does skill. I feel very VERY fortunate to have landed an amazing agent. With my first book, which I think was pretty good (although I am bias ), I had no such luck. I hope that my current work will make it to bookstores and allow me to really indulge my writing in the future. But there are no guarantees. Any creative endeavor is a subjective experience and it’s important to take into account the impact of luck and happenstance on success. It’s also important to realize that there are people out there who are talented, who work hard, and who won’t ever be able to publish a novel the old-fashioned way.
(I just shuddered when I wrote that, ya’ll. *shiver* I’m an eternal optimist, so I hate to admit this possibility. Oh well. If my book never gets picked up by a house, at least reading this post will make me feel better. I hope.)
3) Creative endeavors really are subjective. I mean that. That’s why I’m repeating it. I really, really do. There is a current trend in writing to make things a certain way. As it so happens, I agree with most of these trends. I prefer Hemingway over Faulkner; efficiency over language for language’s sake (most of the time). I like things action-packed and fast. I want symbolism so subtle I don’t even think about it until two days after I’ve read the book. I like unrequited love, cutesy-ness, double-entendres, sword fights, zombies, and girls that kick-ass.
All of this is fortunate for me because I think it helped me land an agent. But I also love Victorian Lit., which has overly-complex plots and musings about clouds and and an inordinate amount of surmising. I love poetry, and enjoy Walt Whitman chatting about Captains and Keats getting all emo about urns. One of my favorite books is about a guy standing on a bridge. And I find Thomas Pynchon interesting, but I never make it through more than ten pages. We all have preferences. And there are enough books in the world that we can satisfy them. Limiting yourself in any way is your loss.
4) Writers are a community, and I don’t think there should be a hierarchy. This one is tricky, but I think it’s true. I don’t expect anyone to treat me like Stephen King or J.K Rowling. But you know what? Before they sold millions and millions of copies of their books, they were unpubbed, too. You should treat every writer you meet like the next big thing. Not for personal gain, or so that when they’re famous they’ll write you a blurb (although that would be cool. OMG that would be SO. COOL. But anyway.).
But because writing is a Cool Thing and isn’t it cool that we share this Cool Thing that we love to do? And isn’t it neat that we can connect with total strangers over this Cool Thing? And isn’t it Cool that all of humanity shares this desire for narrative structure (sorry to get meta, there) and that we feel so strongly about it that we feel the need to spend hours and hours and on a pursuit that may never do more than keep us up at night pondering plot problems? Yeah. COOL.
5) It’s fun. In all honesty, I’ve just begun to scope out some self-pubbed books I want to read. But I’m having fun, and every single self-pubbed author I’ve run into on Twitter has been awesome. And even when I scope a dud-book on amazon, I still feel pretty optimistic about the world-in-general. Writing is fun, and getting excited about writing is fun, and the more people read the more people read and the more people write the more people write and there is an exponential growth in literacy and the quality of the human experience shared and blah blah blah (did I mention how I’m an eternal optimist?). Sharing is part of human culture. So let’s do it.
Download a few self-pubbed titles next time you’re on Amazon. And then pick up the latest debut YA from S&S. You know you wanna.*
*(Also: if I had a book out to pimp, this is where I would say “please buy my book, too!” I’m not too proud to ask, ya’ll.)Read More
BINGE-WRITING HABIT: 1000, BLOG BINGE-WRITING AMELIORATION PLAN: 0.
So in my queue, as we speak, are twenty half-written blog posts weighing in at about 1000 words each. Yep, twenty thousand words about random stuff I will probably never publish. I’ve been pondering and pondering WHY I can’t seem to get my act together and actually finish any of these, and I’ve landed on a number of things.
When it comes to opinions and informative stuff, (1) all of it has already been written and doesn’t really add anything new to the conversation and (2) there are many more people out there with far greater experience than me in their fields/profession/life etc. who are vastly more qualified to weigh in.
When it comes to personal stuff–fun stories about my kiddo or writing news or recommendations I have–I am less hesitant, but I do worry about over-sharing. Does anybody really want to know about my bedtime stories? And what my new-favorite blog is? Or the magical joy that is crock-pot cooking?
It occurred to me that these are pretty much the same reasons I stumble upon for writer’s block. I only get it when the possibility of publication *actually* rears it’s ugly/fantastically-gorgeous, Fight Club-Era Edward Norton-shaped head. When I’m just writing, for fun and without any audience other than myself, I can crank out thousands of words. When I start to consider the possibility that others might take a look at it, I slow down. So blogging’s instant-publication carries that weight with every word.
So I’ve tried to come up with a number of ways to combat blog-block:
1) YES, all of it’s already been written. But it’s never been written by me, and although I don’t have much expertise to speak of regarding most of the things I’m talking about, I’m adding a new perspective. (Mine.)
2) There will always be more-qualified and more-experienced people. ALWAYS. So thinking I’m going to gain some magical feeling of personal expertise is futile. Anyway, ignorance is coolio, man. It means you’re still learning.
3) Everyone who’s run across my blog has been SUPER nice. Like, super nice. And it’s fun to meet them (hey, guys!). So blogging doesn’t always have to be about contributing something meaningful to the conversation or what-not. It can also be about participation; finding cool people who share your interests, and giving them a nice, non-commital way to hang out. Or not. Whatevs, people. But I do appreciate it when you stop by .
4) This is also for me. I’m trying to practice writing in small bits on a regular basis, rather than staying up until 3:00 am and cranking out 15K. And sharing is good practice, too, right? No one is under any obligation to read this blog and it’s okay if they don’t. It provides value in the mere fact that I’m doing it.
5) And last but not least… it’s fun, and it’s nice to talk about things with an imaginary audience that I might otherwise not get to. Like how most zombie stories can be read as metaphors for consumption and show up primarily in times of economic scarcity. Or how the broken ships in Shipbreaker may be allegories for the literal destruction of relationships that the post peak-oil world Bacigalupi created. OH! Or how the presence of aliens in pop culture are a really positive sign–they’re the ultimate “other,” the thing only defined by it’s lack of human-ness, which means that the rest of us are starting to view ourselves as a people unified by our humanity, and not divided by race, religion, or nationality. Or how Bleach is my newest Best. Anime. Ever. and everyone who hasn’t seen it yet should because the entire series is on Hulu and you don’t have to sit through those filler episodes.
And now I need to actually write all those posts.
Baby steps, people. Baby steps.Read More
FINDING A PROSPECTIVE LITERARY AGENT
I had every intention of (finally) writing the classic “how I got my agent” post today. After all that query-work from the last writing-related post, one would think I’d be ready. But not quite. I almost forgot about the ever-important WHO to send your query to stuff. It seems like this should be quick and easy, considering the time and energy one needs to put into writing a very simple-looking query. But it takes longer than you think.
Especially if you’re me, and you’re a tiny-eetsty-witsy bit OCD about things, and you need to know everything there is to know about an agent before you query them. And then you need to make a chart with six handy headings: the agent’s name and contact info., their agency (link embedded), what they’re looking for, their submission guidelines, their response data (no response = no, 6-8 weeks, etc.), and a blank space for when you queried them and what they said.
That way, if they actually call you, you won’t be like “whuck? who are you?” Because that is my usual response when someone–ANYONE–picks up a phone and calls me.
(1) Anyway, I guess that starts with agentquery.com. Agentquery.com is the most comprehensive list I’ve found of literary agents. You can search the database by the genre they represent. There are about four hundred majillion agents who represent young adult. There are a lot less that represent sci-fi. I looked for agents who were looking for both.
So once you find the majillion literary agents who represent your genre, check to see that they’re accepting unsolicited submissions. Make sure they accepts email submissions (I don’t do paper. I mean, sometimes [I've recently learned it's indespensible for later-editing]. But I am pretty much 100% positive I wouldn’t get on with someone who uses paper. I know this about myself, so I didn’t bother querying anyone who doesn’t do everything electronically). If they’re a fit for all of the above, put ‘em on the list. Include their contact information, agency website, and submission guidelines.
Now the only problem with agentquery is that despite it’s breadth, it’s not *always* 100% up-to-date. I don’t think this has anything to do with the site… they’re amazing and keep tabs on everything. But literary agents are people, and as people, they don’t keep us apprised of every tiny thing they do and when their tastes and whims change. So you need to double-check all this information. Start with…
(2) Their Agency website (you should already have a link! in your chart!). If not, five seconds on google will do it. Are they actually asking for what agentquery says they are? Are they still agenting? If the answer is yes, then check their agency’s submission guidelines. If they match agentquery’s, cut-and-paste them into your chart. If not, I usually use agency guidelines above any other. Because they WILL be listed differently in different places.
(3) Okay. You’re prospective agent is still accepting submissions and *even* wants the kind of stuff you’ve got. Yay! Now it’s time to get on Publisher’s Marketplace and look up your agent. (Yes, you need a subscription. But you can do it for a few months and then cancel if you don’t find it useful anymore. Chances are, you will. It’s a great resource.) Check your prospective agent’s recent sales.
If they haven’t sold anything in your genre, make a note of it. Did they just start agenting? If so, keep them. If they’ve been around for twenty years and their profile doesn’t say something like “I’ve been around for twenty years but I’d really like to break into X genre,” cross them off your list. Did they sell a book almost identical to yours last week? Cross them off your list. Have they recently sold stuff in your genre, kind of like your book but not exactly? If so, keep ‘em! Cut-and-paste those books’ descriptions into the “what the agent is looking for” column. Onwards….
(4) Time to hit the internetz. The internetz is the place where you can learn all kinds of things that aren’t true. But you should hit it, anyway.
First get on Absolute Write and check the Bewares and Background Checks forum. Look up your prospective agent and see what people say about him/her. 95% of the time, it will be positive. Sometimes it will be glowing.
4% of the time, someone will say something nasty that you can easily recognize as the classic sour-grapes syndrome (“they rejected me! they are so evil!”). The mods usually get rid of these types of posts pretty frequently, but if you run into them don’t immediately cross this agent off your list. Just wait. Someone will usually step up to defend them.
o.5% of the time, your prospective agent will be a bad seed. Usually these are professional scammers. Chances are you’ll figure that out before you get to this stage in your research.
And then there is the 0.5% you need to watch out for. These are reputable agents who work for reputable agencies with recent sales. Most people like them and no one’s really nasty. However, you may run in to things like this “I used to work with him/her! PM if you wanna talk.”
This may sound innocuous. IT IS NOT. There are certainly times when this is true–people aren’t the right fit and things don’t work out. But from my limited experience, people either love their agent or they hate them. They rarely feel “meh” about an experience. If they did, they wouldn’t be on the AW boards talking about them. People on the boards who want to discuss things privately are reasonable, professional people who had a bad experience. Because they are reasonable, professional people they aren’t going around bad-mouthing anyone. But they’re their experience was bad enough that they feel the need to warn you.
(BTW, these percentages ARE COMPLETELY MADE UP. Just estimating here, folks )
Here you can either PM the original poster and get the scoop, or cross this agent off your list. I’d go for the former. I know time is short. But I really do believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. What if there’s some super-awesome agent out there who got a bad break? Who is wonderful 99% of the time but had something go awry with one deal? I do think you owe it to them, and yourself, to find out. Set up an AW account, if you don’t already have one, and PM away.
Hopefully it’s all a big misunderstanding. But if the original poster says they withheld funds, bartered a bad deal, etc. etc. run for the hills. Lot’s of bad things just happen. That’s the nature of business. But when people steal your cash? That’s premeditated, baby.
After AW, do a little googling. You’ll probably turn up a number of agent blogs or interviews. Read them! Is your information still up-to-date? Is your prospective agent a meat-eating NRA member and you’re vegan? Look for someone who fits with your work AND your personality.
(5) The List! You’ve got a list! Woot! Hopefully you’ve trimmed it down from about 200 to 70 or 80. Now it’s time for some organizing. Check over your chart, and look at the “what the agent’s looking for” column. Find the people who fit the *very* best with your material. Hopefully, you’ll have at least twenty.
Of those twenty, check response times. The first ten queries you send out should all be best-fit early-responders. Why? Well, if everybody says no, you know your query needs work. If they want partials, you’ll be super happy, but also get some quick, valuable input back if your work still needs some revisions (which you can take into round two).
So after you’re list is together, organized and happy, start sending! I’d go with the usual ten-queries-per-month. (I say that, but then I was so gung-ho with my queries I sent out about twenty-five in six weeks.)
Now… wait. Chances are, your MOST wanted soon-to-be-best-friend-of-an agent will send you a form reject from his/her assistant. That’s cool, though. Remember how the internetz is filled with things that aren’t true? And how agents are people? No amount of research is going to gaurantee anything. But you may find that it will help your chances. And that’s all you can do.
Anyways, this post has somehow turned into something potentially useful. Gasp! Clearly, I need to get back to waxing nostalgic about things no one else is really concerned about. So next time… yeah. More of that.Read More
Me: Can you say the word “moogamoo?”
Me: Ularu [big, neat rock in Australia]?
Me: Can you say “nope”?
E: …I can’t!
Me: Can you say “I can’t”?
Me: Can you say “Nope, I can’t”?
E: …I WON’T, Mommy.
Me: Can you say, “Nope, I can’t, I won’t”?
E.: … I don’t want to!! (**hysterical giggles**)Read More
So at the beginning of 2010, after I visited the folk-singer psychic-healer coffee-obsessed lady, I wrote another book. I had a very grand scheme to write a book in a month, a la my own private Nanowrimo in March. I even bought a book, A Novel in a Month, took notes on it, and put together a schedule for plotting and revision and word-count and and all that great stuff.
This was in February. I did not actually start this book until the end of March, and I didn’t finish it in a month. It took me about three, and by me and my son’s birthday at the end of May, I had another draft.
If Query-Process No. 1 had taught me anything, it was that I shouldn’t send out something until I was sure it was ready. Really sure. So I let a few family members and friends read it, made some revisions, and then did it again. I stopped working on it for a few months and spent all my free time swimming in the killer mid-summer heat of the South (yay!). I read some other books. And then I re-read my revised manuscript, pondered all of the remaining problems, and decided it was time to query literary agents, anyway.
Of course, querying meant that I had to construct the all-important query.
If you’ve never heard of the all-important query, there are many, many resources to get you caught up. There’s a nice little overview on agentquery.com. There’s Queryshark, where literary agent Janet Reid posts query critiques regularly. There’s Nathan Bransford’s Post(s) on Querying, which has links to everything else on querying. And finally, there’s Query Letter Hell on Absolute write, where people post their queries for critique.
All of these sources say (essentially) the same thing: a query is a short, 200-300-word letter designed to get an agent to look at your material. It must include:
1–a “hook”–something to interest the agent in your material, usually a short description of the book
2–the book’s title, genre and word count
3–your publishing credits or platform, if you have any
HOW you go about doing all of this–and how you go about doing it in an effective, clear, and concise way–that’s the big problem. It seems like it would be simple. You’ve written thousands of words already, what’s 200 more? But therein lies the problem. Thousands of words describing your book are much easier than 200. Especially 200 that an agent somewhere will look at for approximately 3 seconds and decided yay or nay on in less than that.
Needless to say, there are a whole lot of resources out there to craft a query. The reason? Something to do with stuff like this, from Richard Levangie’s Blog (which I just discovered, like, ten seconds ago):
Kathleen Ortiz, at Lowenstein & Associates, reports that her agency received 12,819 queries in 2010 and, from that, requested 478 partial manuscripts (a 3.7 percent success rate for the mathematically challenged). After reading the partials, the agency requested 87 full manuscripts, and offered representation to just seven authors, five of whom accepted. (So 0.05 percent of queries were successful.)
So approximately one-half of a person, per year, gets through the Slush Pile and gets picked up by a literary agency.
I do think this statistic is slightly skewed, though (as all can be). This imaginary half-author is not competing solely with other qualified query-ers. Because this statistic does not account for The Uninitiated. Query letters from The Uninitiated read as follows:
At the turn of the 17th century Alessandra van Doorheaven goes camping in the fraught wilderness of North America. She is a governess but she doesn’t love her life, she wants to find her true love on the plains of the unsettled American wilderness.
But when she meets Journeyman, a strange, unlikely man with great height and a strange accent, she abandons all of her dreams in rustic Spanish-America and falls deeply in love with him. The only problem is that he is a time-traveler. He’s come from the future to find her in the past. And he wants to change her future by taking her back with him to his present.
When Alessandra arrives, though, things are not as she expected. Journeyman is not just a man but a totem of his people and they have completely destroyed the U.S. and rebuilt it as a teeming underground metropolis. How will Alessandra survive in the underwater future, with only her governess training to help her?
THE WALK FROM THERE TO THE HERE is part memoir, part noir-thriller. At 375,000 words it is complete and has great series potential.
I have never studied history but have an intuitive understanding of the past. I’m also extremely well-read and I am confident my novel is much better than everything else that’s ever been written.
I have attached the first thousand pages of my manuscript to this email. Please respond as soon as possible. This manuscript won’t be available for long!
Oh, and there are pink bunnies and dancing flowers in the background. And the font is really large, in big ole scripty-format.
Now, I’m not trying to be snotty. Especially when it comes to writing. Writing is a SKILL–even writing fun stuff about aliens that you read on the beach–that takes time and practice that I will forever be trying to figure out. But like any skill, one needs to ascertain their specific level before they can take the next step. And when you have a HUGE discrepancy between your perceived level of mastery and others’ perception of your mastery, you gotta problem. (Case in point: the made-up query, above.)
I am convinced that The Uninitiated are just that… people who just haven’t yet figured out what their skill level is, and henceforth have not yet ventured into the realm of trying to raise it (cause, yeah, really? Wouldn’t a book about a time-traveling governess be kinda cool? I think so). And these people *must* send lots of queries before they’re ready. Right? They must. I am convinced.
So The Uninitiated send lots of queries. The Crazy sends lots, too. Great writers who have good queries who are querying and agent who doesn’t represent their genre send queries. Great writers who have good queries who are querying an agent who last month signed somebody with the same idea send queries. Great writers who have good queries who don’t have a market for their work send queries.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that if you’re a decent writer with a decent query who’s sending a query to an agent who represents your genre, your chances are greater than .05%.
All thanks to The Uninitiated. And The Crazy.
So I did some research on agents and I workshopped my query letter on Query Letter Hell. After some revising I came up with something I was more-or-less happy with, and modified it to suit each agent I queried. This is the one that landed me an agent:
Dear Mr./Ms. Agent
Maria Graham is accustomed to unfamiliar territory. As the daughter of two military officers, she’s spent most of her seventeen years as a transient. But in Section R there’s no sky, no earth, and no new place to go to if things go bad. For the first time in her life, Maria doesn’t have the comfort of the next town.
Her captors claim she and her ninety-nine companions are on an alien vessel, taken there to protect them from forthcoming events on Earth. Beyond that, information is sparse. No human has ever seen an alien. They’re encased in atmosphere suits and refuse to give information about themselves or the purpose of the human abduction.
Maria isn’t surprised when the first riot happens, but she’s baffled when she risks her life to protect an outnumbered alien. She can’t save the alien but she learns they can be killed. They’d also rather die than risk losing a single human. Armed with this new information, Maria knows the humans have more bargaining power than they think.
She can’t seem to win the trust of the abductees, so she tries to win the trust of the aliens. Maria grows closer to them—one, in particular—and more detached from the human population. When she figures out what Section R is and what the aliens want with her, she finds herself facing a dilemma she never expected: to save her people, and return home, or to save the species that imprisoned her.
A ROOM OF STARS AND ASHES is an 82,000-word work of young adult fiction. This novel is a stand-alone work with trilogy potential. I contacted you because I believe my book fits in with your interests—it’s YA sci-fi with a big helping of gothic elements, including a Rebecca-esque killer braid, a few towering infernos, and an enigmatic love interest.
I’ve attached the first five pages of my manuscript in the body of this email. Thanks so much for your time!
Of course, before that happened, I had to wait a bit. I do hate waiting.
(but now I have FAR exceeded my 1000K blog-post limit, so I guess I’ll write about that next time!)Read More