Monday, June 24, 2013

How I Got My Agent

If you're like me, you love "how I got my agent" stories. Preferably fairly lengthy and with all the details. I've long dreamed of writing this post, and I'm going to take my time drag it out milk it for all it's worth tell all.

First, though, the spoiler: I am beyond overjoyed to announce that I have signed with Peter Knapp of The Park Literary Group. And I do mean "beyond overjoyed." I have not simply "found an agent." I have found a MATCH. But not to get ahead of myself.

Backtrack to December, 2011. That's when I began querying a MG dystopian speculative novel, probably most accurately called post-apocalyptic, if we're splitting hairs on terms. When I started writing it, I had what I thought was a wonderful idea (I still have a huge soft spot for it, as do several of my CPs, one of whom maintains that it's her favorite of my books). And I wrote the book with that Wonderful Idea front and center in my consciousness -- but not so much the realization that a futuristic, dystopian, call-it-what-you-will trend was burgeoning in the marketplace. By the time I finished the book, the cry, "I am so done with dystopian" was beginning to ring loud and clear in the industry. I began to worry. "But those dystopian books are YA," I reasoned. "This is MG. Why couldn't, why wouldn't, a successful YA genre be adapted to MG?" And in a whinier mood: "I wrote it cuz it's a great idea, dagnabbit!"

So, on December 28, 2011, I began querying agents. Yes, during Christmas vacation, yet on January 2 I had a full request in my inbox. I sent out more queries, and got more requests. Rejections began to trickle in. "I didn't fall in love the way I'd need to, but I'm sure another agent will feel differently." Well, no, they basically all felt that same way. :) I researched more agents, sent out more queries. The request rate began to drop off. I researched more agents, sent out more queries. The response rate even to the queries dropped off. For some of the agents, of course, I had higher hopes than others, because they seemed like quite a good match, or the tone of their request had seemed especially chipper. Yet, over the course of 12 months, every single one of those queries, partials, or fulls either limped back home with an R or disappeared into the void. I sent my last batch of queries on October 31, 2012, and at year's end officially retired from querying the book. Now, since there is occasional math in this blog, and I like the stats and know that many of you do too, here they are:
  • Queries -- 85
  • Partials -- 16
  • Fulls -- 8
  • Rejections -- 14 personal, 25 form
  • Offers -- 0
  • Time span -- 1 year
But while I was querying this book, I was writing another: a MG mystery that I'd started around 2005 and then interrupted to write the dystopian plus the start of a MG historical. Deciding that the mystery was my best shot, I got back to it in earnest in January of 2012, was ready for beta readers by February of this year, revised, and sent my first query letters for the new book on May 6, 2013.

I was both excited and nervous about getting back into querying. Every query represents new possibilities, but the process can be so grueling. I started out querying those who had liked but not loved the previous book, and/or those who had said they'd gladly look at more work. The result? Form Rs. I really zeroed in on agents who were asking for my type of book, which was a much easier task with a mystery than it had been with a futuristic. I sent out a few more queries. No thanks. I went into a bit of a slump. The new book, which I thought was better than the previous and more marketable to boot, was meeting with a deafening silence. No initial flurry of requests like the dystopian had gotten. Yes, it was a bit early to be panicking, but I felt like I was seeing the handwriting on the wall: every response will always be an R, and that will never change.

More agent research. I began to look very closely at Peter Knapp. Hmm. He wanted what I wrote. We had a LOT of the same tastes. Everything I could find about him online spoke well of him, from his interviews, to his critiques in WriteOnCon forums, to his Twitter account, to his other clients' "how I got my agent" stories. This is going to sound crazy, and easy to say in hindsight, but I thought something like, "If this is not a match, I'm not sure how to find one." Then I went to his blog and found its title: "The Emperor of Ice Cream." What? Books AND ice cream? I began to hear Twilight Zone music. I told myself to keep a lid on it, and sent him a query on May 30.

On June 10, I checked email on my phone and there was his name in my inbox. Now, I've developed a pretty thick skin, and, outside of the aforementioned slump, I've learned to let most Rs bounce right off. But there are those you know will sting if they come back as Rs, and this was one. I took a few deep breaths, leaned on the wall, and opened it. It was a full request. One that sounded like he really had enjoyed the sample pages. I imagine I was wearing a silly smile as I fired the full back through cyberspace. This was a Monday, and I even dared hope he might find time during the following weekend to read it. A girl can dream, right?

One week later, the morning of Monday, June 17, my critique group met. Afterwards, I checked email on my phone again, and there was his name in my inbox. Heart-attack time, right? Well, it might have been, but right above that email, time-stamped something like 13 minutes later, was the subject line "Peter Knapp is now following you on Twitter." Suddenly, my heart had wings. If he was now following me on Twitter, how bad could it be? I opened the email. It was a long, detailed, complimentary letter about my book, which he had read the night before, and could we talk on Tuesday? Yes, we could! And we did, for an hour and a half, and it couldn't possibly have gone better. As I had no other partials or fulls out, I was free to accept his offer, and, after a great email exchange with one of his clients, I did exactly that. Again, here are the stats:
  • Queries -- 12; Pete was the 12th. Did I mention 12 is my favorite number? For real?
  • Partials -- 0
  • Fulls -- 1
  • Rejections -- 0 personal, 4 form
  • Offers -- 1
  • Time span -- 6 weeks
I am so excited. For now, and for what the future will bring.

So this is what they mean by "a match." And what they mean by "trust your gut." The RIGHT agent is so worth the wait.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I'm Doing Camp NaNo

I've never done November's NaNoWriMo. Mostly because I don't care to rush through first drafts, but also because November, what with Thanksgiving, the start of Christmas shopping, and only 30 days, just isn't the best month for me. The usable time would end up to be about two weeks, if that.

I once did NaNoEdMo, though. I think this was in something like March, which was much better, plus I was editing, not drafting, which is easier for me to make good progress on than is the churning out of actual first draft words. So when I heard from an online friend about Camp NaNo coming up in July -- a chance to do NaNo at a different time of year --  accompanied by the magic words, "You can set your own word count goals," and "Does someone want to do this with me?" and "We could be in the same 'cabin,'" I did a reckless thing: Within the next half hour, I signed up.  I say "reckless" because I don't make decisions on the spur of the moment very often. Not to say I didn't hesitate for even a second; I did. I thought July might be too busy, since our family visitors are leaving just before the 4th (so I won't get to start till the 5th) and we have kind of a lot of appointments that month, and I just made the decision to open up to doing paid critiques again. Fortunately, sense smacked me in the brain right fast: "If not now, when? You're waiting for the perfect month? Like you don't know better by now?" So I quickly gave the "no time" excuse the boot. And, seeing as I am right now planning a new book, and should be ready to start writing, oh, long about the beginning of July, the timing was too perfect to ignore. All I needed was a little peer pressure, and the leap was taken. :)

I'm not going to write 50,000 words. Nope, that would just make me freeze and discourage me. I set my goal as 15,000. I'll be thrilled if I can have that many words down by August 1. Plus, I find that setting low-ish goals and trying to beat them works better for me than setting them too high at the start. So -- anybody else want to join? If you want to do Camp NaNo, you can sign up here.

***Edited to add: With what has come onto my plate (lots of goodies) since I made the decision and wrote this post, I considered reconsidering, i.e., dropping out of NaNo. But no. I'm going to stick with it and do what I can. :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In Which Marcia Does a Commercial

Ahem. I hope my bloggy friends will excuse a bit of shameless self-promo today. After several years of letting my freelance critique and copyediting service take a back seat to writing and teaching, I have decided to again give it more of a front-burner position on the stove of life, as it were.

Short version: I am currently filling critique slots for the months of July, August, and September. I critique complete MG and YA novels primarily, but will also consider NF and work for adults. I also do copyediting on books that have gone through developmental edits and are ready to be polished for publication. All the info, including services, rates, and my qualifications, are up on my website.

Thanks so much for listening, and have a great day of reading and writing! :)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Do You Have Favorite Letters (of the alphabet)?

I blogged recently, here, about favorite words. That led me to some thoughts about the elements that make up words: letters. Do you have favorite letters? I do. They are: G, J, K, L, Q, W, X, and Z.

Why? Well, I guess I just like how they look and sound. They're, I dunno, cool.

And as I thought about it, I realized that for me certain letters have certain characteristics. C is feminine and pretty. H throws his weight around. M and N are boring. P is a tad highbrow, mostly self-proclaimed. And A is always red. Later, I learned that viewing letters as having personality is one possible aspect of synesthesia. Seeing them in color, each letter always having its particular color, definitely is. Some, not all, of the letters have color for me, but I find it highly interesting that, while all the other letters vary in color from one person to another, most all synesthetes who see letters in color see A as red.

How about you? Do you have favorite letters? Why are they favorites?