Saturday, July 22, 2006

Just What Can I Expect from My Agent for 15%?

First of all, thanks everyone for the congratulatory wishes! So sweet of you. Sadly, we were rained out at the zoo, but we still had a fun day. (Though mommy is no contest compared to elephants.)

I also wanted to point out this fabulous blog post by my friend, Lauren Baratz-Logsted. She talks about managing expectations as an aspiring writer. (And yes, she mentions my blog, but that's not why it's so good!) Here's the blog.

Now, back to the questions:

Should one expect an agent to do edits of a book? And if so, how much editing do they really do?

This is a tricky question. Why? Because you should never expect your agent to help you fine-tune your ms. If you do, you probably already realize that the book needs work, in which case, you shouldn't yet be sending it out.

That said, yes, most agents will walk you through some changes. How in-depth these changes will be depends on a) how much work your ms really needs (through the eyes of an objective resource - not your mother, who has already doled out lavish praise), and b) how much time the agent has to devote to you.

When my agent offered representation for TDLF, she said that we could send it out "as is," or that we could really make sure that every last detail was perfect... a light edit of tweaks here and there, and then it would go out. Obviously, I chose the perfection route. And as a result, my actual editor (once the book was sold) had very few changes for me. (Something that truly freaked me out. I mean, it finally hit me that people would be reading what I wrote...I'd figured that my editor would take an ax to it, then put it back together, thus reassuring me that it was truly ready to roll.) There's also the sad reality that editors at publishing houses have so many other demands on them these days that they have less and less time to, you know, actually edit. So many agents truly put the ms through the ringer before it goes out.

Am I At My Agent's Mercy?

Did you have any say in which houses your agent contacted on your behalf?

Yes. But I should say that this was an important factor to me when choosing my agent, so I knew that I would from the get-go. Certain writers have no desire to be part of the submission process or to be kept abreast of it. They'd probably love to be repped by Miss Snark. I, however, like to know the nitty-gritty - both the good and the bad - and thus, looked for an agent who was more collaborative. (I should also note here that I'm sure that Miss Snark wouldn't want someone like me as a client - she's said as much on her blog - so I'm certainly not slamming her here. It's just a reality and what works best for different personalities.)

So, when I was speaking with agents, this was one of the questions I asked: will you let me know which imprints you submitted to and which editors? Not only did my agent happily agree, she asked for my input, since I'd been through the submission process before. I already knew the names of a few editors who loved my work (and a few who didn't, ha!), and she readily submitted to them. Just one reason that my agent and I click so well.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Paying It Forward

No, this isn't the post where I pontificate on that abysmal Kevin Spacey-Helen Hunt flick, but rather the post where I take a moment to talk about doing something generous simply because it feels like the right thing to do.

I've been thinking a lot about this concept as of late, not least because in the past month or so, six very, VERY benevolent authors have offered to read TDLF and provide blurbs for it, for no reason other than I sent them emails and asked them to do so. These gals are surely busier than I am: they're established novelists with undoubtedly complicated lives who didn't know me from Adam, but they all took the time to write me back and say, "send it over, and if I like it, I'm happy to provide you a blurb." Sure, they get some free PR on the back of my book and my website and wherever, but really, that's not why they did it. I suspect that they did it because they were each once debut novelists themselves, and they're happy to lend a hand to a newbie such as moi. And I just think that's so f-ing cool. (Not that I didn't spend countless, countless days - and nights - anticipating nary a blurb would float in because they would all loathe the book so damned much. Seriously, ask my agent and editor, I'm not lying. It wasn't pretty.)

Anyhoo, their generosity was part of my inspiration behind this blog. As an experienced magazine writer, I'm not often in the position of having to ask for help, and when I did, it was humbling. To have received such an overwhelming chorus of support from these amazing, established writers was both inspiring and touching. And while they didn't do this for any sort of pay-back, I hope that in some way, I can reciprocate. Maybe that just means that I keep paying it forward by helping out you guys or helping out someone else, I dunno, but I really, sincerely appreciate their kindness. So...big shout-outs to
Cara Lockwood, Val Frankel, Jen Lancaster, Claire Cook, Pamela Redmond Satran and Johanna Edwards. These ladies rock. (And stay tuned for more shout-outs because our fingers are crossed for a few more.)

In other news, I'm taking a breather from the Q/A for the day because a) I have a pressing deadline today and b) I'm taking my son to the zoo. Whee! I love the zoo, really, I do. Especially when it's not 100 degrees, and there aren't all sorts of crazy and foul scents floating in the air. The weather should hold up, and I love watching him get all worked up over the monkeys or seals or polar bears. (Seriously, they have polar bears in the middle of Central's so surreal, not unlike an episode of Lost until you realize that you've actually paid an entrance fee to gawk at these animals because, you know, you're in a zoo. Reality check.)

And it also seems that a few friendly gals here on the blog have outed me. :) No...not outed, outed me, especially since I wasn't really keeping it a secret, but yes, I'm nearly 20 weeks pregnant! Which probably explains the odd John Krasinski dream I had last night. Not that kind of dream...don't worry...but yep, he was there, and we were in college, and I was new, so he became my best friend until I realized that he was in love with me, and I was in love with him, and so I burst into the men's bathroom in the middle of the night to tell him. Hmmm, I probably shouldn't watch The Office right before I go to bed. (Not that I'm complaining about having the lovely John show up nocturnally.)

So, anyway, back to the subject at hand, paying it forward. Do something nice for someone this weekend! Even if it's putting away your husband's stinking dirty dishes (what? does that sound like it's from personal experience?) or calling your mom when she's driving you batty. As they say on My Name Is Earl: karma. It's all about the karma.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

To Email or Not Email: That is the Question

Your exclusive email queries in searching for Agent1 surprised me. Did you follow the same method in finding Agent2?

Yup. I'm an email-only type of gal. Whether or not I should admit this, email (and IM) are really my primary sources of communication (does that make me pathetic? maybe...), and when on my agent hunt, I decided that I wanted one who felt the same way. So...I stuck solely to agents who accepted email queries.

Now, before you jump up and down and tell me that I eliminated an entire batch of grade A agents, let me share a little secret with you: a lot of the agents who list "don't accept email" on, do, in fact, accept emails. This doesn't mean, however, that you should fire them off at random, unless you want to incur the wrath of Miss Snark (who hates them and won't accept them), should you happen to fire one off to her. No. What this means is that you have to do your homework. Go to an agency's website. Is the agent's email listed there? If so, then have at it. Google said agent. Often times, you'll find interviews with him or her that cite his or her preferences. This is how I discovered that Deborah Schneider really and truly WILL NOT take emailed queries - no ifs, ands or buts - and thus, she received my sole snailed query. (I never heard back.) Go to, search the forums and see which agents other aspiring novelists have had success with via email. (Type in "e-query" and you'll find a thread that echoes much of my same advice.) Go to and read archived Q/As with agents to gauge their preferences.

I also did some additional research and discovered, unsurprisingly, that people had higher response rates to e-queries. AND I liked being able to put a return receipt on my note, so even if I didn't hear back, I knew that the agent had received it, which reduced my anxiety. I mean, if it passed in front of their eyes, that's all I could really do. The rest? Out of my control.

Now, don't send this note to Miss Snark and say, "she told me to do this, and tell her that she's wrong." I know how much MS hates emails. I do. Really. And I know that what I'm telling you goes against her countless posts on the subject and thus, is ripe for controversy. But plenty o' agents say "don't email" as a way of weeding out the riff-raff. The question is: are you the riff-raff or are you going to dig deeper?

(And now, I'm going to duck to avoid flying tomatoes.) So - thoughts? Rants? Have I gone terribly astray by countering MS's advice?

Got a Bite: Should I Keep Fishing?

My son is the author in question here. He wrote and self published his first book in May 2005 (young reader book). Finished a spy novel November 2005, and I have been sending email queries since then. We think we might have a bite from an agent. Asked for the complete manuscript and received it last week. After she received the manuscript she sent me an email with the question, "I need to know whether the ms has been sent to any publishers; if so, to whom. Is it currently with any other agents?"
I replied the truth and said no one has the full manuscript at this time and only one other agency had asked to see the whole manuscript back in December. Should I continue to send out emails? The vast majority of emails have not replied back. Of the roughly 4% I did receive back, it is always the same story; good luck but too busy to take on new clients.

A note right off the bat: it's none of this agent's damn business how many other agents are salivating over the ms. FYI, for the future. If she wanted to ask for an exclusive, which I'm totally opposed to, that's one thing, but she's feeling out her competition by putting you in a position of full disclosure, and I don't like it. Agents assume that you're getting other reads - that's what queriers do - and I don't see why she "needs to know," other than to be nosy.

Ok, whew, with that out of the way, yes, yes, YES, by all MEANS keep submitting! One bite, and I'm sorry to say this, is NOTHING. Do the math: of all of the letters you've sent out, 4% have been interested. Now, what are the odds that this sole agent is going to love the ms so much that she'll want to sign your son? Certainly not 100%. Certainly not even close to 100%. I say this not to be rude but to be realistic. When you're on the agent hunt, you have to get your ms in front of as many readers as possible. I wasn't content unless 5-10 agents had my work, whether as a partial or a full, at any one time. Someone dinged it? Out went another query (or five). Because, the odds were, that only a small percentage - if that - would fall in love with it enough to want to rep it.

Agents have to be absolutely SMITTEN with a ms to offer on it. Don't bank on this one swooning. Not because she might not, but because if she doesn't, you're up a creek without a fishing rod and no bait. Instead, keep the rod in the water, and if she bites it, well, then all the better. Besides, consider this: isn't it better to have two offers than one? The more agents you dangle bait (i.e. queries...I'm getting carried away with this analogy, me thinks) in front of, the more likely it is that you'll land another fish.

Whittling Down the Agent Options

How did you narrow the agent market to find the ones you did?

A lot of cross-referencing. I started with
Publishers Marketplace (get thyself a subscription stat), and searched for agents who had sold books that I'd loved or who had a lot of success in my genre (women's fic/chick lit). And I flipped through books on my bookshelf to see who I had repped them. (Check the acknowledgements page.) I also hit and searched by agents who repped my genre, THEN went back to PubMktplace to see what deals they'd done. From there, I filtered through and to garner any personal feedback or experience with an agent, and I also googled the agent to see if her name popped up on any articles, interviews, etc. Oh, and of course, went to the agency's website.

I also knew that I (most likely) wanted a woman, that I wanted her to be relatively young (no, I'm not an ageist! I just thought that someone who was my age-ish would better relate to my writing style and the story), whose career was ascending but who wasn't yet a big shot (ergo, I didn't query Binky Urban because I thought I'd get lost on her list), someone who had an established track record of sales (the more sales, the better her contacts, and as I've learned, contacts make up a lot of the game), and someone who, whether through reading her bio or whatever, I thought I might click with.

I'm fortunate in that my agent met (and surpassed) all of the above criteria.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Crafting the Perfect Query

Noah Lukeman -- agent/author -- claims a good query is only three paragraphs. Yes, the brevity would be an attention-getter, but would it be enough?

I know that I said I was going to deal with queries today, but this is going to be the only question I'm going to address on the subject today. I have a few others in the queue for tomorrow. But I think this is a critical one to start out with because, after all, if you can't write a kick-ass query, you're pretty much DOA.

So, to answer the above question, well, Lukeman is certainly on to something. Will you be crumpled and tossed into the garbage at the mere sight of 5, 6, or 7 'graphs? No. But will you lose an agent's interest if you run on too long? Yes. Just think of it like this: let's say that the average agent gets 20 queries a day. These are from random strangers and said agent might not give a hoot about reading the emails, but knows that she must if she wants to find new talent. Now, you tell me - how likely is it that she's going to read every last word of your six paragraph query? More likely, she'll skim it, especially the last few paragraphs, and lose interest half-way through. I say this NOT because your query sucks but because it's human nature. Consider how many emails YOU get a day. Now tack on another two dozen, and you could see where brevity could work in your favor: make your point and make it concisely. It will only help your cause.

Further, as discussed yesterday, good writers need to know how to self-edit. If you can't compact the teaser of your book into a fairly targeted query letter, the agent is going to wonder how on earth you can write an entire book that comes in under 100,000 words.

So what makes a good query letter, beyond brevity? A quick but engaging summary of the overall plot. This does not include mentioning secondary characters, your protagonist's entire backstory and spilling all of the details of the thrilling finale. It means, as I said, a quick and engaging summary of the overall plot. You'll also want to give the agent a sense of your voice. The bottom line is that if you've come up with a story idea, someone else has most likely come up with something similar (see Kristin Nelson's blog from 7/17) ...and that someone else might very well have pitched this agent. What can set you apart from that person (or another book that's already been written and released that touches on the same plot)? Voice.

Here's the letter I used for TDLF. Rereading, it looks like it's 4 graphs. No one complained. :) It highlights what the book is about without giving too much away; it engages the reader from the get-go (at least, I think it did!); and it gives a clear sense of my overall voice as a writer. Whether or not your query is three paragraphs or seven, I don't think that you can go wrong with these elements.


Dear XX,

Natalie Miller had a plan. She had a goddamn plan. Top of her class at Dartmouth. Even better at Yale Law. Youngest aide ever to the powerful Senator Claire Dupris. Higher, faster, stronger. This? Was all part of the plan. True, she was so busy ascending the political ladder that she rarely had time to sniff around her mediocre relationship with Ned, who fit the three Bs to the max: basic, blond and boring, and she definitely didn't have time to mourn her mangled relationship with Jake, her budding rock star ex-boyfriend.

The lump in her right breast that Ned discovers during brain-numbingly bland morning sex? That? Was most definitely not part of the plan. And Stage IIIA breast cancer? Never once had Natalie jotted this down on her to-do list for conquering the world. When her (tiny-penised) boyfriend has the audacity to dump her on the day after her diagnosis, Natalie's entire world dissolves into a tornado of upheaval, and she's left with nothing but her diary to her ex-boyfriends, her mornings lingering over the Price is Right, her burnt out stubs of pot which carry her past the chemo pain, and finally, the weight of her life choices - the ones in which she might drown if she doesn't find a buoy.

The Department of Lost and Found is a story of hope, of resolve, of digging deeper than you thought possible until you find the strength not to crumble, and ultimately, of making your own luck, even when you've been dealt an unsteady hand.

I'm a freelance writer and have contributed to, among others, American Baby, American Way, Arthritis Today, Bride's, Cooking Light, Fitness, Glamour, InStyle Weddings, Lifetime Television, Men's Edge, Men's Fitness, Men's Health, Parenting, Parents, Prevention, Redbook, Self, Shape, Sly, Stuff, USA Weekend, Weight Watchers, Woman's Day, Women's Health, and,, and I also ghostwrote The Knot Book of Wedding Flowers.

If you are interested, I'd love to send you the completed manuscript.

Thanks so much! Looking forward to speaking with you soon.

So...more on the query process tomorrow. Those are my intial thoughts. Have at me! And if you have other questions about query letters, fire 'em over or post them here.

Pre-Novel Publicity: YES!

I wondered what you think of the practice of publishing novel excerpts as short stories in literary or popular magazines -- do you think this is helpful marketing -- do agents or publishers take more of an interest if this has been done?

In my opinion, this can rarely be a bad thing, as long as you read and reread the rights that you're granting the magazine. (I.e., you don't want to sign away ANY rights that hinder you from publishing the book in its entirety elsewhere.) Look, agents get hundreds of queries a week, so if they get yours, and it reads "My Genius Novel was excerpted in Zoetrope," you can bet your bootie that it's going to make your query stand out. Why wouldn't it? It also reassures agents that someone else thought your stuff was top-notch, and no agent wants to miss out on the opportunity to find the next diamond in the slush.

Of course, whether it's worth spending your time submitting to these magazines rather than fine-tuning your ms or your query letter is a subjective call, but if you want to, I say " go for it."

Where Can I Converse with Stephen King?

Would you happen to know of online venues where novelists hang out?

Yep, head over to Backspace. For a nominal annual fee (I think it's $35), you'll find a lot of bestselling authors hanging out in the forums, offering up advice and support. There are plenty of aspiring writers on the forums as well, so it's a nice balance of elders (in experience, not age!) and newbies, all of whom co-habitate well and bounce ideas, queries and questions off one another. I've gleaned a lot of invaluable knowledge from the forums. So far, it's the best online meeting place for authors that I've come across. But if readers have other suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

And So We Begin!

Before I start answering the questions, I just want to give a BIG shout-out to my fellow writer, Diana Peterfreund, whose book Secret Society Girl is launching TODAY!! Yahoo! I've pre-ordered two copies from Amazon (one for me, one as a gift), and given the great reviews it's been receiving, I recommend you do the same.

Now, down to the nitty-gritty. Thanks, first, for all of your questions, both on the blog and off! I'm going to answer a few a day, contingent on how much other work I have, and contingent on whether or not I know the answer right away. If not, I'm turning out outside sources (agents, other pubbed writers), and will post when I hear back from them. Also, I'm not necessarily answering in the order received: if you've asked five questions at once, I'll probably break them up so I can satisfy a few different folks per day. But fear not, I PROMISE that I'll answer them all! And while I'm placing some ground rules, go ahead and shoot me any magazine questions you might have. We'll do a little mix and match with the Q/A...and I'm just going to keep the blog focused on this until we all get bored. (Or run out of questions!) :)

The Revise: How to Make It Less Torturous
How much of the book changed during the revision process? (And if you have any tips to make it less painful ...!) (From Swishy, who's blog is side-splittingly funny. Check it out!)

This question made me lose sleep last night. Seriously. The second part doesn't have an answer, but I'm tackling it right out of the gate. I'm going to stick to talking about THE DEPT LOST/FOUND because that's the one that sold. TDLF went through, I think, two fairly decent rounds of revisions. When I say "decent," I mean adding in an extra side-plot, making the heroine slightly more sympathetic, tidying up the ending, and (drumroll) cutting the first five chapters (yes, really!) and restarting the book right in the thick of the action.

NOW. That sounds like A LOT. But, and this is partially where the answer gets complicated, along the way, not too much of the story itself changed - I knew the story that I wanted to tell from the beginning, and I refused to be swayed from that. But from a reader's (not author's) perspective (and these are often two very different things), certain elements were missing. My agent helped point those out, and I was able to go back into my creative well and figure out how to fill those holes. (And I should add, learned how to write a better novel in the process - I surely won't repeat those mistakes the next time around.) For example, my Type A heroine needed to be more relatable, so I created an obsession with the Price is Right. I think that if you're sure of the story arc and the saga you want to tell, the revisions will only strengthen the book because you'll think, "oh, aha, of course, that makes perfect sense, and I know how to do that pretty easily." It's only when you're UNSURE of where you want the book/story to go that you run into problems and the revisions get messy. Does that make any sense at all? In sum, with each revision, the book grew stronger, more honed, less expository, and a better flowing read. But through it all, it was still the same story of a young woman who is thrown into chaos and is forced to overhaul her life.

Now, that said, how do you make revisions less painful? Beyond having a clear idea of who your characters are and what they would or wouldn't do, and a clear idea of your story (as mentioned above), I think it's critical to take your ego out of the equation. As a magazine writer, I'm used to constant edits, so revisions for me weren't that big of a deal. I never took them personally, and I never (well, rarely) grew so attached to a paragraph or scene or set of words that I couldn't edit or cut them. And this is key. If you're too attached to what you've written, you likely won't see it objectively, and objective is exactly what agents and editors are. What you might see as brilliant insight into your heroine's mind might be boring the pants off the rest of the readers. And if they collectively tell you that, you know what? Lose the section. When you go back and reread it a few weeks later (which is important - put down the ms for a while, then go back to it with a refreshed mind), you'll recognize that your book is stronger for it.

All of this said, there are certainly times to put your foot down. Agent #1 wanted me to cut a diary element of the book. I knew the diary was inherent to understanding what my heroine was going through, and I refused. The book wouldn't have been the same without it. But on just about everything else -smaller things that really didn't affect the overall scope of the book - I was willing to hack away. And I suggest that you do the same. More often than you realize, you can cut something out and lose nothing.

How Do I Get My Foot in the Door?

You admit that your previous writing credentials probably helped you (a lot). OTOH, I have nothing to "show and tell" and am stumped as to how to overcome that obstacle. Any thoughts?

I do have a few thoughts, which I'll offer, but since this isn't my area of expertise, I tapped the brain of my venerable agent, who kindly put forth a few tips as well. But, since you asked, here are my thoughts: yes, my magazine experience probably garnered my query a closer look, but, BUT, once I shot off my partial (or full), it didn't help me for a damn. If the agents didn't like what they read, they couldn't have cared less if I'd been the editor of the New Yorker. So, with that in mind, regardless of your experience or day job or lack of publishing credits, you need to write a kick-ass query, which means you need to avoid using overwrought cliches (Miss Snark has posted on the ones that drive her up the wall - search her archives), spell-check it (yes, you'd be amazed at how many people don't), and most critically, write a finely honed, engaging book, one that grabs the agent's attention from the very first page. (See above as to how I axed the first five chapters. Everything that happened before chapter six could easily be summed up in the pages that followed.)

Now, my brilliant agent's thoughts: "Yes, all of what you said is great. (AWS: she's talking about my advice.) I would add that they do their homework. When I get a submission that says, for example, 'I know you recently sold Allison Winn Scotch’s novel, and mine is in a similar vein, …or 'I know you are looking for female memoirs,' that makes a difference. The internet has made it a lot easier for people to find out what agents are looking for or have sold, and I, for one, pay more attention to a blind query that comes in with some thought to whom they’ve sent it. A lot of this is common sense, but you'd be amazed as to how few people do it."

I've Been Dumped

I've Been Dumped: Where Do I Go From Here?
Hey Allison, yesterday I commented as an agented writer, and today I am unagented. Kind of the same thing that happened to you. My agent is pregnant doesn't feel she can manage everything in her life and have me revise my second novel for her--she liked it, but said it seemed small and quiet. My head is swimming. I admire you getting right back up there and querying. I know I need to do that, but I'm almost paralyzed. Did you just start back through your original list? Thanks for the help.

Oy boy. Been there, done that. First of all, take a deeeeep breath. Then, perhaps, reach for the liquor cabinet. (Or go for a super, duper long run, which is how I dealt with my own anxiety.) Oh, boxing classes help to.

Okay, with that out of your system, and if you're sober enough to type, get right back on the saddle. (Which is why I'm answering your question today, rather than putting it in the queue!) Yes, the very first thing I did, within one freakin' hour of deciding to leave agent #1, was ruffle through my files and contact all of the agents who were interested the first time around, even though they hadn't signed me. Actually, what I had to do first was craft a query letter, but I was so high on adrenaline that I wrote it in about 30 minutes (seriously) and knew that it was a zinger. (I'm going to talk about query letters tomorrow, and I'll post the one I used for TDLF.)

So...I contacted the previously interested parties, and about 90% of them wrote back to me within a day and were interested in reading. From there, I was off and running. With just that teeny, tiny bit of reinforcement, I stepped further away from the fear of being unagented and closer to the realization that I'd find someone who would be a better match for both me and my work. I think it helps - just a little - if you think of the agent query process as a treasure hunt. A stressful one, but a treasure hunt nevertheless. I enjoyed researching agents: for that each one hummed with potential, I saw so much possibility. I was determined to find the right match. And this really fueled me. Let it do the same for you.

And know this: getting dumped was the best possible thing that could have happened to me. It's simply not fair to be shackled with an agent who is half-hearted about your work, nor is it fair to the agent to have to submit something that she's not fully behind. Think of this as unloading your dead weight. You'll find someone who can buoy you rather than bring you down, and from there, you can thrive.

Monday, July 17, 2006

My Story, From Saga to Sale

Here We Go: My Story, From Saga to Sale

Okay, so as I mentioned below, I thought I'd take this week (or however long people want) to share my story about how I landed the book deal for THE DEPARTMENT OF LOST AND FOUND (Morrow, May 2007). From there, please feel free to send me any questions you might have about the query/agent/publishing process, and I'll do my best to answer. If I can't answer, I'll try to tap into a friend or resource who can. You can email me at (if you want anonymity) or just post your question in the comment box. we go.

It all began about 4-5 years ago: I was a relatively successful magazine writer (more on that next week - happy to answer those questions too, so fire them to me whenever they strike), but wanted to branch out, so I started banging out a ms whenever inspiration struck. Like a lot of aspiring novelists, I got half way done and more or less gave up. Another year went by, and I added some more, but I couldn't finish the damn thing. (This is at least part of the reason that agents demand a completed ms from you: who knows when and how you'll finish it!) Finally, in the summer of 2004, just before my son was born, I figured that if I didn't finish it then, I'd NEVER finish it, so I joined an online writers' group, got my butt in gear, and cranked it out, wrapping up the ms two weeks before my babe popped out. So this was in October of '04.

In January of '05, I started querying agents, (exclusively by email, I should add), and I signed with one in late-Feb. (And yes, I do think this was a rather short query period, compared to the average, but I'm guessing that my magazine credits helped open doors that might not have otherwise been opened. But all of my queries were blind, regardless.) Anyway, the book needed a lot of work - first novels are VERY hard to do perfectly and often very rough, even when you think it's genius (trust me, I did) - but my agent really helped me overhaul the whole ms until it was ready to go. We sent it out in late-April and received glowing, glowing notes. Alas, glowing as they were, they were rejections. Several editors asked for revisions and a resubmit, but my agent thought it was smarter to simply write a second book and go back out with it, since most of the editors - even those who rejected it flat-out - asked to see my next work. Sigh. And *$%^!. That's pretty much how I felt. Oh, and demoralized too. Let's not forget that!

But by June, I was writing again, and by August, I was actually done with the next ms. (This was a personal subject, so it was very easy for me to write.) My agent and I went through several rounds of revisions until she said she was happy with it. She just wanted to get one more read within the agency. So imagine my surprise when she called me a week later and said that she didn't love the book, that she thought it would do "more harm than good for my career" to send it out, and gave me three options: 1) we could revise book #1 and send it back out, 2) I could start on another ENTIRELY NEW book, or 3) I could break the contract and seek other representation. Sigh. And *$%^!. That's pretty much how I felt. Oh, and demoralized too.

Actually, this time, I only felt demoralized for about 1/2 a second. See, I KNEW that this book was excellent. I KNEW that it was 10x better than the first, and that my agent's opinion was just one opinion. (Granted, I also had some outside readers' opinions as well, all of whom told me the book was great.) So...I made the scary but still thrilling leap of parting very amicably with my agent and getting back on the query bandwagon. As soon as I walked away from agent #1, I knew it was the right thing to do. I felt liberated and fabulous about leaving a person who only half-heartedly believed in the book (she admitted as much, so I don't think it casts her in a bad light to say this) and was determined to find someone who loved it as much as I did. Because the book was so much stronger this time around, I received a lot of agent interest immediately. Within three weeks (by early December of '05), I had several offers of representation and signed with my current agent who, quite possibly, loved the book even more than I did.

From there, we did some minor tweaking over the holidays, and she sent it out on January 3rd of 2006. Ten days later, we had four offers - wildly exceeding my expectations - and accepted the offer from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.

So...that's my story. Certainly, there are a few lessons in there about I learned along the way. One has to do with accepting advice from others (without a doubt, agent #1 helped me hone my writing); another has to do with trusting yourself and your instincts; a third has to do with knowing when to let go (book #1) and when not to (book #2); and..on and on.

Okay, so that's my (long) story. Now, fire away any and all questions! If I can help and answer 'em, I will!