Category Archives: Agent

A Matter of Queries and Representation

What a week and a half it’s been!

I apologize in advance for any meandering, poor spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors you may find in this post. I don’t sleep well on a normal day (what is a normal day anyway?). The past 10 days my abilities to ward off restful sleep have been exceptional. This is a superpower you do NOT want.

Before I get into my big news (and it’s big, let me tell you, it’s BIG), let me give you a bit of background.

I don’t query randomly. Every single agent that I’ve ever queried is someone that I genuinely think would be a great fit for both my writing and, more importantly, me. That’s of course all based on the limited information I can gather by Googling, reading interviews, stalking on Twitter, and chatting them up.

There are a LOT of fantastic agents out there, of all stripes (and spots, and paisley, and I suppose houndstooth…).

That said, everything has to click in both directions. I have enough rejections from those same agents citing “wonderful writing/world building/characters/other words describing stories” but they just didn’t “make the connection” (or some variant thereof) to wallpaper my office and some surrounding surfaces.

They came fast and fairly consistently at first. I’d query, and then receive a rejection the next day or week.

I went back and rewrote my base query letter (I tweaked it a little for every agent). Responses went from generic forms to personalized responses (not all of them, but some). I even had a few requests for partial submissions.

Following that path I continue to tweak and tinker my query, all the while continuing to get further input on CROW’S BLOOD from my awesome Alpha/Beta Readers (including my wonderful wife, who put up with so MANY drafts) and Critique Partners (Colten,
Rachel, and Clare) and worked to make it better.

I entered CROW’S BLOOD in contests. You know the best part about contests? The community and support that comes out of them. They’re a fixed point. Everyone entering is (in theory) at the same point of their writing process and/or career as you are. They know what you’re going through, they’re doing it too.

Renee Ahdieh chose to mentor me in Brenda Drake‘s Pitch Wars. With her helpful pokes and prods I polished CROW’S BLOOD even further. Trimming out a few scenes that were so necessary in my head (I’d done so much world building to support them!) that weren’t actually needed in the book. She’s also a master at spotting my Shatner Commas and teaching me to identify them as well (I’ve removed 3 from this paragraph alone).

Last week I got wind of an agent I really liked reading my full… MY FULL!!! Excitement warred with dread. What if he didn’t like it? What if I didn’t stick the landing? I wanted to scream (politely) “If you find anything drastic, I’ll fix it!”. But I didn’t. Because I am a professional! (stop laughing!)

I waited, and slept poorly, and waited.

Thursday was a normal day (there’s that “normal” word again). Things teetered on the edge of going oh-so-perfectly and/or blowing up spectacularly at my day job. I was packing up to go home when my phone sounded the “email in the writing mailbox” notification (it doesn’t say that, but it is distinctive).

It was an Offer of Representation! He wanted to have “The Call”.

I hyperventilated for the first (and hopefully last) time in my life. I had an offer! From an agent!!! I remember thinking “Ok I need to get my head on straight before I reply so I don’t come off as a complete idiot…” I barely remember the drive home.

After dinner (I have no idea what, or if, I ate) I painstakingly crafted my reply. It took me 35 minutes to write and edit that email.

“I’d love to chat.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that was about the level of awesome I was functioning at). We scheduled for the next morning.

The call was awesome. I acted like a complete noob while trying to be all professional and cool. The agent in question handled the situation like I was a sane and perfectly functioning adult.

He answered all of my questions and asked a few of his own (which I think/hope I answered).  I let him know I had some other Fulls out and needed a week to get those settled before I signed (because it’s the right thing to do), which he was completely cool with. We ended the call, and I sat there, stunned, for a good 30 minutes before reaching out to the other agents with my full.

Here we are, a week after that call. I’ve badgered several agents with questions and clarifications, and I’ve communicated and settled everything with each and every agent that had my full, a partial, or even a query. I won’t go into details on all of that here, they’re not the point.

Today, I’m proud/pleased/excited to say:

I am now represented by Leon Husock of the L. Perkins Agency!

P.S. Leon said to save some of my celebratory antics for when we sell CROW’S BLOOD.
To which I say:
Leon, this is nothing. When that happens, the world won’t know what hit it!

I’m going to sleep now.

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Filed under Agent, Alpha Readers, BookB, Critique, Ego, family, Feedback, Grammar/Spelling, Id, Motivation, Query, Research, Revision, Validation

Querying Like a Madman

Apparently that’s what I’m doing. Not because I’m firing off dozens of queries from my automatic query-cannon (I have one, it’s got an extended magazine and a techno-gadgety scope thingy), but because I’m not sending out dozens.

I’m sending five.

Five at a time is apparently whack-a-doodle crazy numbers and I’ll “never” get an agent that way. That’s what I’ve been told by an anonymous agented third party (who I’ll allow to remain anonymous for the sake of their um, anonymity).

I’m not sure when querying became about simply getting an agent, any agent. That doesn’t fit with my (possibly misguided) view of how things should work. Querying, to me, is about finding the right agent. Finding an agent that fits well with how I work, what sort of stories I want to tell, and most importantly, finding an agent for my writing career.

It means I can’t take just any agent. It means I have to stalk research each agent and carefully select who I query, then personalize that query to them. That takes a LOT of work on my part. It’s a similar amount of effort as to what I put into building a character backstory and system of rules for the world I’ll set a book in. 99.999% of that effort never touches the finished pages, but I need it there nonetheless.

I can’t imagine doing it any other way, I think the stress of having more than five queries out at the same time would kill me. If that makes me some sort of oddball, so be it. I’ll get an agent when I do. And not just any agent, but the right agent.

– Alex

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Don’t Ever Stop!

So… This little thing called PitchWars happened. It’s what triggered this particular post, but it’s not what this post is about so I’ll cover it very briefly.

It’s a contest where writers submit their first ~250 words and a Query to the four mentors of their choice and hope to get selected. In short (because I’m rubbish at being brief) I was selected by the Awefantabulous Renee Ahdieh.

Renee is exactly what I want and more importantly need in a mentor. Her feedback has helped me add layers of depth to CROW’S BLOOD that I knew were missing, I just couldn’t see where. I’ve learned some of my pet phrases, identified some comma issues I have, and so much more, and I’ve exterminated them with prejudice.

Anyway!

Seven weeks later, our part in PitchWars wrapped on January 22nd as it went to the Agent Round. The first 250 words were posted with a 35 word pitch (here in case you’re interested), in hopes of Agents commenting and making requests.

It’s those requests that bring me to the point of this post. I had 0 requests. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Let me tell you a bit about how this little writer’s ego works: I’m a brash, cocky, confident bastard. Except when I’m not, which is often. The key is that I try not to let that side show to the world at large too much. The only person who sees that side of me most often (my wife) does a great job of propping me up so I can continue being the confident bastard that I am.

I’d be lying if I said getting zero requests didn’t sting. It cut pretty deep. Those are my words! Right there, with that zero looking me in the eye, I could have quit. Packed it all in and reclaimed my TV and video games. I could have given up the dream and driven my wonderful wife insane.

I could have listened to the mean voice in the back of my head that kept whispering “Zero, that’s how many people give a damn about your words. That’s what they’re worth. That’s what your worth. Give it up. Go home. Loser!

I’ve heard that voice before. That’s the voice that comes around any time I put myself out there, whether I’m public speaking, writing, tweeting, or posting on my blog. I don’t like that voice. I made the decision long ago not to listen to that voice. That voice is an asshole. The things it says aren’t true and are designed to cut us where it hurts the most. That voice is borne of fear.

We all have that voice. The difference between those who go on and those who fold isn’t a matter of skill, or worth, or ego. It’s a matter of will.

So here’s what I have to say, not only to those who didn’t get requests in PitchWars, but to those who have ever queried, or submitted, or done anything that brought around that voice:

Don’t. Ever. Stop.

Do what you love, whether it’s writing, drawing, dancing, singing, building life-size models of X-Wings out of Lego, whatever it is, as long as you love it (and it doesn’t hurt anything).

As for PitchWars… Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! I’ve learned so much, and met so many wonderful, dedicated, and helpful people.

Until next time, I’m going to go write and revise, because that’s what I do, and I love doing it.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.” – The Bene Gesserit

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Filed under Agent, BookB, Character, Contest, Critique, deadlines, Editor, Ego, family, Feedback, Grammar/Spelling, Learning, MacBook Pro, Motivation, Pitch, Query, Revision, Twitter, Validation

Thiiiiiiiis close!

The last five days have been harrowing, dreadful, bone-chilling days. With my latest revision complete and polished, and with my Query Letter and Pitch polished for #PitchMadness, I really only had one thing missing from my arsenal: A Synopsis.

Let me define that little eight-letter-word for you as best I can: 
Synopsis [si-nop-sis] (n):
  1. A brief or condensed statement giving a general view of some subject.
  2. An evil  creation of agents and editors for the express purpose of torturing writers.
  3. A soul-sucking vampire in word form.

There’s no perfect consensus in the writing world on what exactly a synopsis is but this is what I’ve found to be most often repeated:

  • 1-5 single-spaced pages
  • Block formatted paragraphs (no indents)
  • Double-space between paragraphs (a single blank line)
  • No smaller than 10pt font
  • Outline ONLY the main plot of your book
From what I’ve seen, 2 pages is the standard length for an agent (at least with the agents I intend to query in my first round that require them).
Sounds easy enough right? Just take your ~60,000 – ~115,000 word (240 – 460 page) book and boil it down to ~1,000 words. Oh, and keep it interesting! Remember: You’re selling your idea here!
Simple right?
ARGH!!!
So here’s what I did: 
I went through my manuscript, skimming chapter by chapter, and making notes of the major points of that chapter. I tried to keep it short and ended up with around 2,900 words.
Then I went through and mercilessly cut anything that didn’t directly have anything to do with the main plot. 1,900 words.
I pared, whittled, reworded, and tweaked every sentence, revising from my quickly written notes to the most sparse text I could get while still maintaining clarity and some semblance of flow. 1,300 words.
I did that two more times, ending at just over 1,000 words, which fit nicely within 2 pages at 10pt Arial and 10pt Times New Roman.
Then I called it a day.
Now, that ordeal is done until I’ve had someone other than me, who’s read the last revision, go over it and tell me what I’ve done wrong.
I have to apologize and thank my wife and children for bearing with me and giving me the time to work on this and a sounding board for my complaints, and my friends and followers on Twitter who have had to deal with me exploding/ranting/whining/begging over the past five days. I’m sorry if I’ve gotten on any of your nerves.
– Alex

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Filed under Agent, BookB, Critique, Editor, Grammar/Spelling, Learning, Pitch, Query, Real Life™, Revision, Story Elements, Twitter, Word Count

#PitchMadness

#PitchMadness is a contest run by the fantastic/wonderful/hard-working/must-be-crazy Brenda Drake. You can read a great deal more about it on her blog. The contest submission window opened at 6am this morning and closed at noon. Here’s the thing, a bunch of my favourite people in the Twitter Writing Community are involved, either as Blog Hosts and Slush Zombies, or Agents (4 of my Top 10 list of agents are involved!!!).

After some prodding from my friends in the community I made the jump and entered. The time of my submission? 6:05am. No, I didn’t get up that early just to submit (there was no cut-off, and after 11am is more my style), I was up for a hockey tournament.

Even if I don’t make it to round 2, this is an experience, and I’m meeting a fair number of new people at a similar stage in their writing aspirations. So it’s a win no matter what happens.

The submission requirements were: A pitch of no more than 35 words (which is a LOT harder than you think, YOU try summarizing your favourite book in 35 words or less while sounding original AND grabbing attention), and an excerpt of the first 250 words.

Here’s my submission:

Title: CROW’S BLOOD
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 100,000
Pitch:
Flynn, a talented young thief, is the prime suspect in a series of grisly ritual murders. He’s also the kingdom’s best chance to find the real killer. He’ll just need to pull one last heist.
Excerpt: 
A sharp crack broke the silence of the cavernous Inner Sanctum of the Praetorian Order, echoing off the vaulted ceiling and the stained glass dome at its centre. A small segment disappeared from the scene depicting the Goddess, her four Scions, and her Adversary. Pale moonlight, mostly from the Other, the brighter of the two moons at that hour, struck downwards to light a small circle on the mosaic near the centre of the floor in the great library. The larger moon, Ambrosia, having just crested the horizon, wasn’t bright enough to lend its pink hue.
The black rope uncoiled down the shaft of moonlight with a soft whisper. Flynn vaulted into the gap, and dropped along the rope’s length, matching the speed of its fall. He grabbed on to slow himself only at the last instant, and touched down soundlessly.
Looking back up at the hole in the stained glass, he could make out the silhouette of his mentor, Martin, framed against the glowing white spectre of the Other. He couldn’t make out any of Martin’s features, backlit as he was. Flynn knew there would be a scowl set deep in the older man’s lined face. Martin worried too much.
Crouched in the centre of the great library, Flynn turned in a slow circle to get his bearings. He mentally compared the layout with the map he’d memorized in the days before. Spotting one of his landmarks, he set off into the concentric rows of heavily laden bookshelves. 
Long years of practice meant the only sound Flynn made was the faint ripple of the air past his close fitting, mottled-grey outfit. 

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Filed under Agent, BookB, Contest, Ego, Id, Pitch, Query, Real Life™

Revision Update and Agent Fears

Here I am, hip deep in my out loud revision pass and getting on to some much cleaner chapters. There are a number of pitch contests and (self-imposed) deadlines coming up this month that I hope to have CROW’S BLOOD ready for. I’m still on schedule for my goal of querying agents by the end of the month.

I’m going to update the progress bar on the right to reflect how far through this pass I am. It’ll be a rough estimate, but it’ll do.

Querying is something that absolutely terrifies me. I find the whole idea somewhat paralyzing.

The problem stems from Twitter. You see, I started tracking Agents down via Twitter (which is an awesome resource for writers to get to know other people in the industry) and following them.

In the course of following them I’ve connected with quite a few. Some to the point where I greatly value their connection beyond an Aspiring Writer<=>Agent connection. Those connections have gone on to the point where I’d like to hang out with these people even if they weren’t a potential resource for my writing career.

Our personalities seem to mesh, and damn it, I like their style! It also helps that they’re all great at their jobs and know what they’re doing enough to freely give help to the community. It’s because I like these people and value them so much, they’re exactly the agents I want to query. They’re people I think I can work with.

That’s where the problem comes in.  I’m afraid to query them! What if they don’t like what I send them? What if they find out I’m a hack who takes 5 revisions before his story even resembles a cohesive mess? What if they don’t like me any more? How will I face them on Twitter or at Cons if I reveal so much of myself to them through my writing? What if I, in all my awesome horribleness, am the “writer” that makes them close their “please submit your next work” door, or even quit Agenting (I know it’s not a word!) altogether?

I picture cabals of agents I adore getting together for a good maniacal laugh over a brandy in a NYC bar while scribbling all over my book in red marker.

ARGH!!!

Breathe damn it.

I’ve considered only submitting to contests, which, while entertaining, and a great way to meet other writers and agents, still doesn’t necessarily get me working with the agents on my top 10 list (yes, I have one).  I’ve actually considered querying agents I don’t know… Just so I won’t potentially damage the pseudo-relationships I have with the agents I like… How broken is that?

The other pitfall of this neuroses I’m developing is endless revision. When will I ever consider something “good enough” to send to the agents I like? How do I let go? What if I let go too soon?

To you other writers that read my ramblings, have you gone through the same things? I sometimes wish I’d started writing before the internet made connecting with people so far away so easy.

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Filed under Agent, BookB, Critique, deadlines, Ego, Id, Query, Twitter

M.m.m.m.madness!

I’ve been neglecting my blog. That’s bad. That’s one of the things I said I wouldn’t do as a New Year’s Resolution.

I could give all sorts of excuses: work stress, spending every free moment revising, I don’t know what to say. All very valid and true, but still just excuses. I’m supposed to be some sort of creative beast aren’t I? Just make it up!

Well, I’ll work on that. In fact, I’m working on a topic list for myself so I can cover them any time I don’t have something else to blog about. It means you’re going to hear my opinions on some writing stuff, and they could be way off base.

I’ve been revising my butt off, and I accidentally entered an awesome after-contest by the lovely Brenda Drake (#PitMad on Twitter), where I had to fit my pitch into a tweet, minus some characters for tags etc. Call it a fit of ego, I had to see if I could pull it off. I was a bit confused when the first person favourited one of my tweets. Wait! What? They want a Query letter and pages?!?!?!

Needless to say, my MS was/is SO NOT READY! I haven’t done my “out loud” pass, and I didn’t even have a query letter! In a fit of madness I did a few passes on the pages and wrote a query letter. Then I let it all sit over night so I could look at it again in the morning.

I slept horribly. Took another look at it, cleaned some stuff up, and sent it off. In the 4 days since I’ve found all sorts of ways to clean up those pages and make them even better, all while working on later parts of the book too.

I can only hope the literary gods and those fine upstanding Agents will still talk to me in a month or so when I’m all set to send it to them again, all nice and clean.

Until then, um, sorry…

Of course, I’ve been pretty unbearable on the home front because of it. Last night I packed it in early with a big dose of I SUCK and went to bed.

Today I’m dropping that and digging back in. I’ll re-submit to those 3 Agents with an apology when I get things cleaned up. No hard feelings if they don’t read it a second time, the fault is mine.

I have 12 chapters left to brush up on this pass, then a round with CPs for plot and character consistency while I go over the dialog etc. out loud. Depending on how long that process takes (it’s my first time so it may be rough) I should be ready to go on submission in March/April.

Lessons learned.

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Filed under Agent, Alpha Readers, BookB, Contest, Ego, Learning, Mobile Blogging, Pitch, Revision