Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Great Agent Search

Hello there everybody! My name’s Amy, and I’m one of the contributing bloggers here on OPWFT. Many of you are on that seemingly never-ending search for a dream agent I’m sure, and I wanted to share with you my personal journey that led me to mine.

When I finished my novel The Tortures of Blight, the first thing I did was go out to my good old Barnes and Noble and buy the 2009 Novel Writer’s Market to see what I was supposed to do next. It was within these pages that I realized if I really wanted to build a steady career from writing, (eventually of course- getting published is only the icing on the cake) I would need to write this weird thing called a query letter in order to snag another weird thing called a literary agent. The book vaguely outlined how a query letter should look, and I whipped out a very, very horrible draft of one. Of course, I had no idea how horrible it was and promptly sent it out to a completely random agent that was listed within the Writer’s Market. Now, it’s important that you know my query broke just about every single rule in the book. I groveled, I begged, and I spent about two paragraphs telling the agent that even though I am not a published writer, I have passion and have been writing since I was small and have always loved books and yada yada yada yada.

I didn’t include my word count. I didn’t include the names of my characters. I didn’t describe the plot. I simply spent a whole page giving away the fact that I did very little research on what a query letter should really look like and included three thank yous for the agent’s time. (Yes, three. I believe the exact sentence was ‘Thank you, thank you, and thank you again, so much, for your time.’ WOW just reading that over again is quite embarassing, but I’m here to show you all the warts I guess.)

Needless to say, in the ignorance of being a newbie I had hope that my (one) query letter would snag a request and I’d be seeing my completely unrevised novel in print very soon. Yes, I was even silly enough to believe that I wouldn’t have to make many revisions, if any. Tee hee, right?

Imagine the heartbreak when two weeks later, my SASE was returned to me holding only my original query with the words ‘Not for me’ written in very impatient handwriting at the bottom corner. That’s right, I didn’t even get my own piece of paper for the rejection. It was so bad that she just wrote on the query. I can’t say I blame her, but of course I cried and cried and thought that I would never find an agent and that all hope was lost.

Sob story aside, something amazing came from that slap in the face. My shame drove me to actually research the agents I was sending to, which lead me to the website Absolute Write, which lead me to what is lovingly dubbed as Query Letter Hell- a blunt and often stinging critique forum for query letters. My original query was torn to shreds immediately, as were the fifteen or so drafts that followed. After seven months of revising the letter and 60 rejections, I received my first and only request for a full. All the horrible emotional lows I had experienced for the past seven months were made worth it in about ten seconds when I got that magic email asking if my now agent could call me on the phone to talk about my manuscript.

The journey was insane, but I learned many important lessons. Among them, I learned that nothing in this ‘business’ is set in stone. What many agents may love, others may loathe, especially in the querying process. Well meaning critiquers will make suggestions that will hurt, not help, your query letter. Others will make suggestions that save the whole thing altogether. In the end, there is only you and your work. Rejections have absolutely no reflection to your quality of writing, and although they are very discouraging at times you must never let them define you. Agents are people too, people with likes and dislikes and personal interests. They are NOT robots who scan a letter and have the magic ability to automatically deem something ‘worthy’ or ‘not worthy.’ Everyone’s journey is unique.

It’s been crazy so far, but I just got my revisions in the mail today and am excited to better the manuscript. I’ll keep you all updated on how submitting goes, and I hope everyone has an amazing day!

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by former OPWFT contributor Amy. To see the original post and reader comments, please click here.

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