How I Got My Agent, Part Dos

The first part of the story is here.

Writer friend PB Rippey assured me last Friday’s post was not too detailed on the finding-an-agent topic. So I shall soldier on.

The next day Brandi and I spoke on the phone, and she was just as enthusiastic as she’d been in her email. She shared her ideas for revision, which I liked, and asked about my plans for the sequel. Whoops. Other than some scrawled brainstorming in my diary, I had no plans. But she took that in stride, and listened to my incoherent babbling about the brainstorming.

Actually, my diary looks way worse.

I asked for a week to let the other open queries know about her offer so they could make their decisions. I was thinking the agent who’d given me the revise & resubmit request might offer. Alas, it was during BEA, and that agent was too busy to read my revisions. She also didn’t ask for more time, which makes me think she might have been less enthusiastic about my book, and enthusiasm is a big piece of the Agent Pie – I want someone who loves my book so much they just can’t wait.

Brandi gave me two references, and both of them raved about her. (You can meet one of them, Oksana Marafioti, in her interview here.)

By the middle of the week, I was convinced Brandi was the one, and I got a little cranky waiting to hear back from the last two agents because I just wanted to email Brandi right away to say yes. But I’m kind of a rule-follower, and if I tell someone they have a week, I feel like I ought to give them the whole week.

Finally, it was time! I took a deep breath, drafted an email to Brandi, proofread it maybe a dozen times (I proofread nearly everything, but missives to agents get multiple proofreads, and sometimes need to be vetted by author friends before being sent. I am nothing if not paranoid careful).

So now we’re working together! Brandi promised a list of edits by the beginning of July, and by golly, she sent them. And they’re great – really making my book stronger. While I think about her questions I’m getting tons of ideas for the next book (yeah, more scribbling in my diary), so this is working.

I’m working. Even with the little tiny baby and the preschooler with me all day. The minutes I steal during not-so-quiet playtime are precious, and then when it’s time to get back to momming, I get back to it, refreshed and ready to read “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and Babybug magazine all over again.

Revision notes – mine, not Brandi’s.

Yes, getting an agent is only part of the road to publication. There’re more challenges to come. But finding an agent – and not just any agent, but one I chose two years ago – is a dream made real.

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Not enough success story? You can head over to Miss Snark’s First Victim and see yet one more iteration there. Because the fun never ends! (Actually, I think that’s all. Until Brandi sells my book.)

How I Got My Agent, Part 1

Okay, so details (by popular demand. Okay, two friends asked me to do this. And they’re very popular).

Everything you ever wanted to know about my finding-an-agent story, and probably a few things you care nothing about. (I’m stretching it out because I love reading long “How I Got My Agent” posts. I could just live in ’em.)

The tall iced decaf caramel macchiato I was sipping while I checked my email on that fateful day.

First, this is not my first completed novel, nor my second. It is my third. And I half-heartedly queried the first two manuscripts. No, that’s not true. I zealously queried the first and suffered roughly ten rejections, all of which, if they said anything helpful at all, said, “This premise is overdone.” So I scrapped that book. The second manuscript garnered a couple of partial requests, and I started dreaming of how I’d want to look in my author cameo in the movie version of the book. (Especially in light of the fact that the advance from selling the book would be enough to hire ten personal trainers and I’d not only be twenty pounds lighter but also super-toned.)

Alas, no.

So it was with excitement, yes, but a heavy dose of cynicism that I started querying in December. At the urging of my (fabulous – she made me say that but it’s totally deserved) friend Kristen, I entered the Baker’s Dozen contest on Miss Snark’s First Victim’s blog. My excerpt received a full request, and a few other agents were interested, so that jump-started the query process (and smothered some of my cynicism). Two friends referred me to their agents as well. None of that panned out, and I was very sad, but I kept querying. I got a few more full & partial requests, but no takers.

I considered the very short nuggets of feedback a couple of agents gave me, especially in two areas: plot & pacing. I revised the first half of the second act of my book (eternal thanks to Katherine Longshore for the marathon brainstorming session), took out a subplot and a supporting character, then queried more. One agent gave me a reader’s report with revision suggestions, and I did those, too.

Brandi Bowles, with Foundry Literary + Media, was a cold query – I didn’t know much about her, other than an interview I read on Krista Van Dolzer’s blog two years ago. After reading that interview, I immediately added Brandi to my Giant Table o’ Agents. What I liked about her: she likes urban fantasy and literary fiction. In my head I’d been pitching my book as Earth Abides by George R. Stewart meets The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood meets witches. I love lyrical prose with a commercial appeal, and Brandi’s tastes reflected that. (And yes I know I’m flattering myself way more than is deserved with the Margaret Atwood connection, but she is my writer-idol, after all.)

Sample of my Giant Table o’ Agents – I’d highlight requests in bright blue, rejections in red. It took me awhile to decide on a color for the offer. Can’t go wrong with hot pink, though.

A month after querying Brandi, she requested the full. I went slightly nuts, but maybe not as crazy as I could’ve been, because I’d had a baby five days before. What was really cool: Maverick distracted me from worrying. I sort of forgot about querying and submissions in the haze of new-baby-ness.

So it was with great surprise that a month later, I received the email every writer dreams of, from a super-awesome agent who told me how much she loved my book, and offered me representation.

There was gasping. I couldn’t scream, because my one-month-old was sleeping in the next room, and nothing puts a damper on celebratory jigs like a cranky newborn. I am so glad I got Brandi’s email on Memorial Day, because Homes was home and I could share the news immediately.

The sunglass smiley is the cool icon you get when you record an “offer” on querytracker.net.

This post is already too long. So, next week…The Call.

8 Ways to Handle Rejection

I’m going to write a bad word. Mom, stop reading.

If you’re a writer, rejection is like shit. It happens, and it always stinks. The variable is what we choose to do with that rejection. I’ve found the options are endless, and some are more constructive than others.*

[*Once again, I realize I am not the most-equipped person to hand out writing advice. However, now that I’m querying agents with my third novel, I feel moderately equipped to hand out this advice on rejection.]

1. Weep. Best done in a private setting, but I won’t judge you here.

2. Trash talk. This is also best done in a private setting, like a TOP SECRET HUSH HUSH Facebook group or something along those lines. I’ve also found that my cat is very trustworthy and never repeats a thing I say.

3. Every agent and editor says something along the lines of “this is a subjective business, and I’m sure someone else will feel differently about your horrible story.” Test that theory, I say, and query again! One writer told me that for every rejection she received, she sent out two more queries.

4. Comfort yourself in the bosoms of addictive substances, such as alcohol, chocolate, or computer solitaire.

5. Do textual analysis on the rejections. Compare them to one another, or compare multiple rejections from the same agent (for different – or drastically revised – books, I hope). I find myself obsessing over word choice and placement like I haven’t done since the first “Will you go out with me” note I received in seventh grade. (My response was yes in 4th period and then, by 6th period, no. I pray agents and editors will be kinder and less fickle than I once was.)

6a. If the agent or editor gives you feedback, thank them. And then consider their suggestions. Seriously.

6b. If the agent or editor compliments your work, take it and RUN with it. Quote it on your bathroom mirror in red lipstick. Copy and paste it into a Self-Esteem Booster document that you keep in your writing files.

7. Trust your friends and family. If they say you’re fabulous, believe them. If they offer words of comfort, accept that comfort. It’s difficult to hear NO from agents and editors, so be kind to yourself by accepting compliments and praise from everyone else.

8. Best piece of advice I’ve ever heard on rejection and querying is to immerse yourself in a new project immediately. It’ll keep you from obsessing quite so much over the project you’re querying/submitting. And will hopefully keep you from Twitter-stalking agents and editors (confession: I tried this for a couple weeks. Biggest. Waste. Of. Time).

On the bright side, it’s not (or won’t always be) all about rejection. Not for me, not for you, not for anyone. There are positives in it, too. And even if you’re getting rejection after rejection after rejection, keep plugging away at the next project. Find your passion there, not in your email inbox.

Does anyone else have ideas and tips on how to handle rejection? What works, what doesn’t?