Getting Published Part Two: The Agent (OR the day I got a root canal)

Today’s Tea: Earl Grey

You should know this about me: I love spreadsheets. It’s probably the reason I enjoyed animation production, which is 50% organization and 50% bossing people around (I’m pretty good at that too).

I finished my first draft of STRAY in 2011, but didn’t start querying until the following year, a good eight drafts later. Again, make sure that you love your story, because oh my god, you will be so sick of your manuscript at this point. This is an excellent stage to seek out some really great critique partners (CPs). Some people like to have the same select few read each draft of their manuscript, but I personally found it very helpful to have different people reading it at each step of the way. Having completely fresh eyes on each revision gave me a really good idea of what needed work.

There’s no real way to know if its time to start querying, but when you think you’re ready (after you’ve revised a few times), I recommend putting aside your manuscript for at least a month. If you read it again and still feel that you’re ready then it’s time to give it a go.

I used that month to research agents and the querying process and I was thrilled to realize the most efficient way to keep track of agents would be to create a super awesome, seven-column, overly involved spreadsheet*. I loved that spreadsheet. It was insanely detailed. 

Then I turned to my query letter.

Query letters are hard. They are hard like first drafts are hard, except they are a totally new beast. Books let you spread out over pages and chapters, with queries you have to fit everything into two or three paragraphs. Oy.

Like my manuscript’s first draft, my first attempt at a query letter was terrible, horrible, no good, very bad and was sent out to the overwhelming response of crickets. Nothing. Nada. No interest. So I scrapped it (notice a trend?) and started over.

The internet is an incredible resource for querying authors. There’s a list of my favorite publishing websites on my EXTRAS page, but if you’re at the querying stage, go immediately to Query Shark and read the entire site. Seriously. The entire site.

After more research and more query rewrites, interest started trickling in (as I obsessively kept refreshing my email inbox). A first chapter request here, the opening fifty pages request there and then finally, a full manuscript request!

I tried not to get my hopes up. I had already gotten rejections from agents requesting partials, so I sent out the most recent draft of STRAY and did my best not to think about it.

A lot of authors will talk about “the call”, when an agent calls you to offer representation. I got “the email” to set up “the call” and let me tell you, it was awesome. I also had to get a root canal that day, but the call was WAY better.

*For those who don’t possess my deep, unwavering love for creating spreadsheets, you will be happy to realize that if you use querytracker (an EXCELLENT website for those looking for an agent) it will build a spreadsheet of agents for you. It’s brilliant.

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