Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...

Some of you have been waiting an EXCRUCIATINGLY long time to find out how I finally landed THE ELUSIVE AGENT--AGENT--AGENT (Is there an echo in here???)  Here it is.

After taking a five-month hiatus from querying, I finally worked up enough nerve to start the process again. But this time, I was going to go in armed and ready for battle, and, as you have already been informed, I lurve me some internet research. So, I hit the interwebs (yes, I said it) once again. I typed in seven simple words--how to write a great query letter--and hit the "enter" button.  What popped up was exactly what I had been looking for.  This.

I had no idea who Noah Lukeman was, so I googled him, of course, and found out that he is an agent to best-selling authors and the head of his own agency. Best of all, he has a really good reputation. The more I read of his simple ideas on how to write a great query letter, the more they made sense. So, I followed his advice. I started off with what I hoped would be a great hook, cut the synopsis down to four (he suggested three) tight sentences, listed the pertinent information (genre, word count, etc.), and got rid of the names of the characters. This last bit of advice really made sense to me. You know how a person associates certain things with certain names, ie: THAT was my ex's name--I HATE that name? Why wouldn't certain names conjure up some weird thoughts in the minds of agents, too? I didn't want that, so I dumped them.  I then posted my query on a forum to get some feedback. After one particular person who is a YA writer agented by Writer's House (they rep Stephenie Meyer--think TWILIGHT-- and the estate of VC Andrews, among others) gave me the thumb's up, I sent out a test batch.  BINGO.

One of my first responses? Seriously…this is the best query…ever! With that was a request for the first three chapters, and a thank you for making my day!   I must admit, the thought flashed through my brain that the woman was pulling my chain, but when I reread the e-mail for the fortieth time, it finally dawned on me that she wouldn't have requested chapters if she didn't really like it. I allowed myself to have a little squeal of delight and share my good news with loved ones. A few days later, she requested a full. From query to three chapters to full. This was a good sign. A VERY good sign. Soon, a few other requests for full manuscripts came in, and I happily e-mailed them off.  Then the waiting began.

After gnawing my fingernails down to useless stubs over the next six weeks, I got THE e-mail. My query fan agent wanted to arrange a time to talk to me. ME. About my story. Over the phone. GULP. My mind flashed to some posts I had read from a woman who had just been offered representation by this same agent, and then the post made by her husband a few weeks later letting the rest of us know that his wife had an aneurysm and died suddenly.  RIGHT AFTER GETTING AN AGENT. How ironic. I immediately went to my favorite forum to get advice, AND to calm my fears. Do agents call to let you down easy? Should I ask questions? How do you prevent hyperventilation? Will I have a heart attack and die while talking to her? What if I say something stupid? If she offers, what do I do about the outstanding manuscripts?

The day finally came. I got out all my notes, my questions I’d ask, had my laptop queued to my manuscript, made sure my cell phone was charged, laid everything out on the dining room table, and I sat, and waited, trying not to hyperventilate. Ten minutes after the time she was supposed to call, I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen. did. I swallowed and answered on the second ring. An hour and a half later, after she went over everything she loved about my story, she offered representation. She told me to take my time deciding, and guided me on what to do with the other agents who had my manuscript. She was very clear that this was a major decision that could have a profound effect on my future, and that I needed to weigh all the options. I, of course, wanted to scream, YES!!, but I didn’t. I thanked her, told her I’d get back to her in a couple of weeks, and hung up.

After screaming and doing cartwheels into the next room (mental cartwheels, mind you) and dancing around with my family, I called my sisters, and my mom, and my best buddy, Jan. I got on facebook and announced it to the world. I got on my favorite forum and announced it to my writing buddies. Then, I let the other agents who had my full manuscript know I had an offer. Within a few hours, I got an e-mail from an agency I had been salivating over for the last year. I had sent it to them, knowing it was a long-shot. When I first began my querying adventure, I queried the owner of this particular agency with my original, horrendous query letter, and didn’t hear back from him. It stated very plainly on their site that they only respond to queries they’re interested in. I didn’t blame him for passing. I wouldn’t have requested a manuscript from that letter, either. But now, there was a new agent in the game. And she was interested. VERY interested. She asked for a few extra days to read it. I couldn’t believe it! Of course I’d give her some time to read it. My fingers trembled as I wrote back to her.

Was I about to receive a second offer of representation?