Gearing Up To Get An Agent!

I’m participating in this blogfest, run by Deana Barnhart, author and super supporter of other writers!

There are a number of ‘events’ happening over the next month, including pitch contests, but step one is to answer the following questions and to give a quick and dirty bio. So here goes…

Me on Me!

I’m 3 weeks away from my 40th birthday and am one of those annoying people who is actually excited about it. I’m also mom to a beautiful, brilliant and precocious 4-year-old daughter (and to the sweetest labradoodle), happy wife for 7 years and counting, a freelance writer, and a 9-year cancer survivor. In my spare time I run, bake, read, and write fiction — I’m in the querying process for book #1 and just started book #2, so I officially have a WIP (cue cheering!). One day (soon) I hope to be represented and published, and the plan is to keep writing until that day comes. Nice to meet you! { Also, I overuse exclamations ! and smiley faces : ) }

Where do you write? Absolutely everywhere! Kitchen table, backyard, couch, coffee shops…basically wherever I can find a spot for my laptop, I write.

Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see? My 4-year-old’s tin tea set and her Baby Alive doll. Oh, and my 4-year-old. This is my life : )

Favorite time to write? I prefer super early in the morning (5:30am – I have an early riser).

Drink of choice while writing? Coffee in the a.m. / Wine in the p.m.

When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence? This is why I like writing in coffee shops – I like some white noise. I find a completely silent house distracting!

What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it? A conversation I had with a source when I was researching a magazine feature, and my own personal experience.

What’s your most valuable writing tip? Every writer should read two books, in my opinion: The Elements of Style (Strunk & White), and On Writing by Stephen King. Hands down the best out there!

Agent blogs I love

While I continue querying (and thinking about book #2), I thought I’d post a few links to my fave agent (or previous agent/turned author) blogs. I have spent many hours perusing these, and gathering helpful hints and tips. With everything from query letter deconstruction, to industry insights, to wish lists, to writing tips, these blogs are worth a look.

Nathan Bransford

Marie Lamba

Adventures in Agentland (Natalie Lakosil)

SlushPile Tales (Lauren Ruth)

Query Shark (Janet Reid)

Carly Watters *Canadian agent

Agency Gatekeeper Jessica Sinsheimer

Confessions Suzie Townsend

Glass Cases Sarah LaPolla

Have a favourite agent blog to share? Would love to find more!

Good news; Bad news

If. I’d. Had. Any. Idea. How. Torturous. Trying. To. Get. An. Agent. Would. Be. I. May. Have. Stuck. With. Short. Stories.

(Not that short stories are any easier to get published, but you certainly put fewer hours into writing them.)

Back to the BAD NEWS. No, I did not get a rejection today (it’s not Friday). What I did get was some (valuable yet hard to figure out how to fix) feedback on the query I submitted to the Agent’s Inbox contest. Specifically, that it’s confusing as hell (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist). It’s not the not liking it/not being hooked by it part that’s stressing me; it’s the idea that maybe I’ve missed something critical in the 70,000 words I’ve written. Maybe the story just isn’t there after all.

I think I’ve mentioned I’ve rewritten my query well over 100 times? Looks like I need to head deep into the triple digit rewrites. Le. Sigh.

But the GOOD NEWS is that while my query was ‘confusing’, my sample was ‘loved’ — specifically the voice. My voice. (Deep breath out…relief) Voice is such a tricky thing, and I’ve read loads of agent commentary on how critical it is to a project’s success. So I’m going to hang on to the “loved the voice” comments like a life preserver while I try not to sink under my query rewrites.

The hubby asked me earlier if I was frustrated (yes) or upset (no). Of course I knew this was going to be tough. And I haven’t even gotten to the stacks of rejections yet! So I need to regroup and work this $#$%!@ query out. Because a confused agent is never (ever) going to request pages.

And if they don’t request pages…well, you know the rest.

Book. Shelved.

So this is my pep talk to myself. Do not stop. Have faith you will nail it (maybe on revision 201?).

The short stories can be Plan B.


Tough skin

Well, it’s Friday. Otherwise known as ‘rejection day’ for my inbox. Must be a day where agents clean out emails and slushpiles, because I always seem to get rejections on Fridays.

So my stats after this latest reject: 7 queries sent. 5 rejections. 1 still out in email la-la-land. And 1 request for a (hip hip hooray!) full manuscript. With my one positive response, I’m running just over a 10% success rate, which apparently puts me in the ‘normal’ querying category; some might even say ‘good.’

Honestly, the rejections haven’t broken through my thick skin (yet). I never expected every agent to say yes. I’m thrilled one did, but I know there are plenty more rejections coming to my inbox. In the meantime, I’ve made some big changes to my manuscript. I’ve added plot, and cut out cheesy writing and anything that felt excessive. I’ve completely changed the first, and last chapters. I’m toying with a title change. I’ve added a character. Increased the bad news factor for a few others. I’ve killed a few of my ‘darlings’. I’ve revamped my query, yet again. I’ve listened in on two webinars, one about writing awesome first pages (hence the first chapter changes) and one about the dreaded synopsis (which I will blog about shortly, if I survive the process).

Both the webinars came with a critique element, so my first two pages (before I revised, though) are sitting with an agent, and my synopsis is getting a critique next week. I’m also entering this query contest, where I expect (hope) to be torn to shreds. I welcome it. Otherwise, how will I learn? How will I become a better writer?

I remember an interesting convo I had on a few months ago. It was around receiving feedback on WIPs. I was amazed at how many writers didn’t want to be critiqued, or felt they weren’t ready. Bottom line? Take the feedback and make your work better. Ask to be critiqued, even if you have one page complete and you think it kind of sucks.

Because no one is born with tough skin. You have to grow the layers.

A query coffee date

I have sent out seven query letters. My plan is to send out about 80, which means I’m pretty much still a query virgin.

As for the agent response, it’s about as expected: three form letter rejections (two within 48 hours and one within 10 days, on a Sunday night); three no response; and one tiny nibble of interest, with an agent requesting my full manuscript. Everything I’ve read suggests a 1% request rate is common. So if an agent gets 500 queries in a month, they’ll request more from about 5 of them. Stiff odds, for sure, but there are plenty of agents out there. In fact, I have a list of over 250 who represent women’s fiction. (Read: Don’t. Give. Up. Of course this is hard, otherwise everyone would be doing it.)

So a nibble is exciting. But it is far from a book deal. Let me explain. Before I met my husband I dated, like most of us do. I went on blind dates. Coffee dates. Dinner dates. Weekend dates. And I did a few rounds of speed dating. Ultimately I wanted to get married. So I knew the only way to achieve that was to date. A lot.

But the road from coffee date to the alter is fraught with challenges. Most of the guys I had coffee with did not make it past date #2. Similarly, most of the agents I query – including the ones who request a full manuscript – will not be taking me past our coffee query date. That’s the reality of the industry. But all it takes is one agent to see potential and take a chance.

Good thing I like coffee…