Tags: agent search


Breaking it Down Part 2

Here's more of my journey mumbo jumbo...
When we last left our heroine, she'd begun her first real somewhat readable novel. (OK, switching to first person. Referencing myself in third person feels funny). I took my sweet time with this novel (SGH), working on the rough draft sporadically for a good year, largely because I had a baby and moved to AL. I also continued to send out a few picture books. My rejections became more personal. I went back and forth with a few editors, but the close calls never ended in a cigar. Which worked out well because I didn't want a cigar, I wanted my books published.
Once the moving/baby dust settled, I spent the summer revising and finished SGH in early fall. I had a few friends read it, joined a new awesome crit group, and got more involved with my online communities.
I really researched agents this time and sent the query out little by little. My query yielded tons of requests. With a return like this, I was close to certain it was "just a matter of time" until I found that perfect fit. In a burst of optimism, I bought some expensive sparkling grape juice to have on hand when the call came.
I waited.
And waited.
And waited.
The grape juice turned to wine.
I developed a love/hate relationship with my email, which was continually hit with form rejections, enthusiastic requests, one line "not for me's", well-thought out explanations of why it didn't work (all conflicting), rejections starting with "I love this story" and ending with "but...", requests for more work,  requests for revisions (almost 3 months of back and forth emails with an agent that amounted to nada), requests to talk on the phone, requests to not call again (kidding!) and... silence. Silence.
I took a break from querying that winter to mope and compose emails to me my friend LIsa with titles like "What's so bad about quitting?" She somehow remained my friend and always wrote something nice back. As encouragement, I read stories about authors who had clawed their way out of the submission wilderness. And I ate lots of Christmas junk.
Then I got an email from two different editors saying they were readers of my blog (people READ MY BLOG? What!!??) and liked my voice. Would I mind submitting some of my work? Gee. Huh. Sure.
I reassessed SGH. All I needed was one editor to connect with it. So I took what rang true from the rejections and sent out the revised manuscript. I opted to wait on querying some more. After all, I still had some aged fulls out and a very respected agent open to seeing a revision. Except, I found the blog of a brand-spanking new agent, Sarah Davies, on VerlaKay's writing board. She was experienced in the biz, savvy and funny and had worked on books similar to mine. Ah, heck, what's one more query?
But that wanting still snuck up on me. A twinge when I walked into a bookstore and saw all the published books. That longing when another window of opportunity closed. The despair when a big rejection came. I had a long talk with my husband about balance and attitude and endurance and going to bed just a little bit earlier :). I drank that bittersweet grape juice and let go of all the things I couldn't control.
Meanwhile, I went back to work on a cute little story I'd abandoned some time back, Princess for Hire (started writing it "for fun" while querying Practice Novel). Working on this was entirely different from SGH. SGH was an emotional journey, while Princess was a rolicking, riotous romp. And although the business side of me knew it was the more marketable of the two and would be a great thing to send those agents who said they'd look at something else, I wrote it for me. I wanted to explore all the crazy plot options and character quirks that came with a high concept idea.The more I wrote, the bigger the world became. And when I shared bits with others, they laughed.
I got a call in February from one of the requesting editors. She loved SGH and had shared it in house and wanted to revise it with me so she could take it to acquisitions, along with a little bit of Princess 4 Hire.  I explained the situation to the agent who'd wanted to see revisions and she asked for the still rough P4H. That same week, my inbox was hit with a rejection on a stale full which included a request to see this princess novel I'd mentioned, as well as a full request (both novels)  from Sarah. The other editor who'd contacted me via my blog wrote a sweet email to see how the princess story was going. Revision agent wrote me the day she started P4H to let me know how much she was liking it and to set up a phone call. All this for the story I almost didn't write because I didn't think it was serious enough. Turns out, people wanted funny. And my HS Spanish teacher told me being voted class clown was a bad sign of my future. Ay Carumba, Senora whatever-your-name was.
I accepted an offer of representation from Sarah. She left for Bologna to talk up my book while I finished my SGH revisions. In early April, my books went to acquisitions and...
got a "we'd like to see it later."
Somewhat devastating, as I really loved this editor, but not a complete no and I had an agent to cushion the blow. This ended the exclusive for this house, so Sarah and I decided the best course was to get Princess in top shape and shop that as my debut, leaving SGH for later.
She worked closely with me over the next two months on P4H revisions. On top of that, we included a three paragraph blurb for a sequel possibility (I wrote it as a stand alone, but realized there was more I could do with it if given the chance), then sent it out late May. Within two weeks, we had news that a few houses were interested. Sarah called from NY after a meeting with a publisher to let me know they'd be putting an offer in. I was going to be published. Wrote a post about that, so insert joyous, reflective moment here.
The next week, we got more offers and one or two requests for revisions. The week ended with a best-offer auction between two phenomenal houses. I accepted a three-book deal from Hyperion with UK rights going to Egmont a month later.
Whew. OK, so I skimmed a little at the end, but I've already covered that part. I sign my contract come Monday, and then the next part begins--from acceptance to published book. Look for reflective post on that in 2010.
Must pack. NY recap next week!

i love

Good News/Bad News

#1 The Good News: So far, I am one hundred percent devoted to my why-the-crap-did-i-buy-such-provocative-bathing-suits-last-year-when-I-was-all-trim-and-fab-though-now-I'm-tub-and-flab? Special K (lose six pounds in two weeks) Diet.
The Bad News: I only started it this morning.
The Really Bad News: I'm lying. I just ate a Choxie chocolate  that I purchased for seventy five percent off at Target. Chocolate and a bargain! And when I say "a", I mean three.
The Worst: Ok, five. But they're really small.

#2 The Good News: I keep getting all these emails telling me not to shop at Walmart because it is evil and killing our society and... well, I didn't read the whole article. Which is fine, because I don't like Walmart so much as Target.
The Bad News: What if I got an email like that about my beloved Target?
The Really Bad News: What if I had to choose between saving Target and being patriotic?
The Worst News: I think I've already made my choice. I mean, CHOXIE chocolate for a dollar!

#2 The Good News: I've had a few agents express interest in my current WIP, saying things like "It's the best idea I've heard in forever!" and "Huge cinematic potential!" and "Sounds really fun!" and "I'll sign you based on the idea alone!"
The Bad News: They are usually saying this while rejecting another manuscript, which is a wonderful, delightful idea in and of its self, thanks.
The Really Bad News: I made that "sign you based on the idea alone!" one up. Obviously, because if that was true we wouldn't be having this conversation. But it's what they were thinking. Trust me--I speak agentese.
The Worst:  I don't speak agentese. If I'd did, I'd know how what "characters who care too much" and "structure not firm" means and how to fix it.

#3 The Good News: I've been trying really hard to go green lately. Like, I'm reusing grocery bags and bought those twirly light bulbs and keep things unplugged and turn off all the lights.
The Bad News: I don't know much about carbon imprints, but I'm pretty sure one of those holes in the ozone is because of my excessive email checking. And my use of aerosal in preparation for a Bon Jovi concert.
The Really Bad News: I drive an SUV. And I'm not selling it any time soon. I know! But I don't drive it far. Unless you count cross country three times in the same year far. 
The Worst: I got a news pop-up telling me that Lake Mead (by Hoover Dam) will dry up by the year 2021 if the conditions in the southwest don't improve. Lake Mead is the major water source of my old stomping grounds, Las Vegas. And my first thought when I read the article was not that all my family and friends are going to die of dehydration, but "Man, guess we can't wakeboard there anymore. Bummer."

#4 The Good News: That's all I've got, but I wanted to go out on a positive note. Um... go team?

Ah, the High's and Low's

This was in my inbox today...

Thanks for giving me a chance to read the first few chapters of SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD. I really love the premise here, and your query is one of the best I've seen, so I was excited to read this one. I'm sorry to say, though, that I ultimately just didn't find myself sucked into Payton's world as much as I'd hoped, so I'm going to step aside on this one. You're a very talented writer, though, and I'd be happy to hear from you on future projects.  Thank you again for sharing your work with me, and your patience while I read. 
So I pull up my query organizer, woefully add the reject, then think, hmmm, I wonder if she read the revised version I sent her later (long story that involves an act of stupidity, so I'm not going into it here) Checked my email again, and about half an hour from her first one, I got this... 
OK wait, now *I* am the embarrassed one, because I just cracked these open and realized that the vague sense of "not quite" that led me to just email you has been totally resolved in the revision. Ignore my earlier email, and may I see the rest of the manuscript?
Happy Turkey day to me :) (and you, too)
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When someone else gets the call...

      In high school, whenever the whispers of Homecoming began, everything relationship-wise, both with girlfriends and members of the opposite sex, shifted. A few weeks, even months before the dance, everyone would start scoping the scene and asked the following questions: Who did I like? Who did I have the potential to like? Who liked me? Who were the old faithfuls, the guy friends who would come through in a pinch. The list would be mentally prioritized by a complex system that involved the guys interest in me and other girl's interest in him. Oh, and his heighth. Although this equation somehow didn't work with my 5'5" Prom date.
      Then, the first girl would get asked in some crazy way, and the game was on. In my school, guys didn't just ASK, they flew a banner on the back of an airplane or decorated their date's room or sent a singing telegram. And I'd go on hyper-alert, never sure when I'd find flowers on my desk or a sign in my bedroom.  
      My junior year, it felt like everyone was getting asked but me. Some of my friends had the security of boyfriends, some the security of being incredible flirts. I remember one friend got a massive boquet from the boy I thought might ask me in the middle of English. And I cried and pretended it was for another lame reason. I was so jealous of all the girls who didn't even have to work at it! Who always had a date, and sometimes has multiple suitors. I started crossing names off my list, wondering how much I'd have to pay my brother to take me. I thought my turn would never come.
      Well, it did. I went to Homecoming with a great guy, a guy who had a good combination of friendom and flirtocity. Then the next dance came up, and the agony began again. Sometimes, it got in the way of friendships. Sometimes, it broke up potential love matches. All this for a couple awkward photographs with a cheap cityscape background, a few slow dances and fancy dinner.
      I wish I could have cared less then. I wish I would have been more confident to go after who I wanted. I wish could have been happier for all my girlfriends, even the disgustingly popular and cute ones.
      I wish I didn't make other people's happiness about me.
      The good news is, though, I'm mostly over it now. A friend recently asked me how I feel when "it" happens for someone else, someone who used to be in the same camp as me. (and this can be applied to any of life's changes--marriage, pregnancy, job promotions, whatever) And my answer is---I can now recognize other people's success and not worry about my own. Lately, tons of authors are matching up with their perfect publisher or agent or getting great deals and reviews and I'm finally at the point where my reaction isn't a twinge of jealousy, but happiness.
     Just happiness.
     Happiness that someone else is beginning to realize their dream. It's their reward, their conquest. It doesn't make me any less special or cute or talented or whatever. It isn't about me.
      If we can't let go of those comparisons, it's not going to end with the deal. Someone else will sell more books. Someone else will get better reviews. Someone else will make more money. As the great LIndsay Lohan said in Mean Girls, "All we can do is try to solve the problem in front of you."
      My date will come, hopefully in a Patrick Dempsey-esque package. But for everyone else, I'm happy for you. Get out their and dance, dance DANCE! 
      You deserve it.

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