Hello everybody. Long time no see. I doubt anyone’s been languishing at my sorry lack of posts, considering the world bursting into flames and all, but I need to get away from Twitter-space and I’m still not done processing the whole procedure, so what the hell – I’ve got an agent! A real literary agent with an agency and a track record and great ideas for my book and stuff!
I’ve blabbered a little bit about my novel before, so I thought I’d skip that blabber and go straight to the blabber about my querying experience. There were things I did that, in hindsight, were an excellent idea and I would recommend to queriers. And things I did that were definitely not so excellent.
I actually started my querying process by entering contests. The first five pages contest and the first line contest, held by Adventures in YA Publishing, helped me hone my work on a detailed basis and got me in the door with a couple of agents. PitchWars got me fantastic feedback from amazing people, and PitchSlam did the same – and put me into contact with the inestimable Kurestin Armada, who now represents me. Contests are ways to connect with other writers and get honest, helpful feedback about your work. Every contest I entered, I got some kind of feedback from at least one of the judges, even if I didn’t ‘win’ or ‘place’ or even make it past the first round. I would heartily recommend that queriers start with contests to help make their submission material shine. Other authors have also found critique partners through contests – so you never know what you’ll get out of it!
After PitchSlam finished at the end of September, I started querying in earnest. I’m not sure why I thought this was a good idea, but I sent out a query a day. No, I don’t recommend this. It’s kind of a dumb idea. I never got a breather or the chance to analyse what worked or didn’t work about my submission materials. I researched all prospective agents in advance, and again before sending off their query, but it proved to be a big time sink and I was kind of burned out by December. I also made some dumb mistakes – I put in the wrong agent’s name at one point! – and that’s something to keep in mind, too. Maybe if I’d slowed down, I’d have caught the error. It’s important to send out queries on our schedules and not any one agent’s, but maybe not like this.
I never knew how I’d feel about an agent’s reply until I got it. Requests for more material always made me ecstatic, of course, and usually I could take rejections on requested material with optimism and a healthy dose of perspective. Form rejections sometimes stung me, especially when I queried agents who had a manuscript wish list that included my exact novel concept. Many agents say that a rejection has less to do with the author than the agent. Maybe they just don’t connect with the writing, or can’t bear to ask for more work when they’ve got a lot piling up already. That was what I tried to focus on as I prepared the next query, and the next, and the next.
Some people will say that the opposite of love is indifference; I think that’s why some form rejections (or no responses) hit writers so hard.
I thought the hard part of my journey would be over once I got an offer of representation. Other stories of querying and representation that I read made everything seem so simple, like I’d get some lightning bolt when the right agent called. That so not happened. I got multiple offers of representation, all from agents that I would have been ecstatic to say represented me.
To any agents that might read this, y’all are a classy bunch. I never had an unpleasant interaction with any agent at any point in the process, and trying to choose a first among equals left my head spinning more than once. But when I got a chance to settle down and think things through, point by point, Kurestin shared my vision for the book and suggested revisions that filled me with energy and enthusiasm. I’m stoked to have signed with her and I can’t wait to share the rest of the journey – just as soon as it happens!