Sunday, January 8, 2012

Getting a Literary Agent, Part 1


Guess what!? I just sent off revisions. That was relieving. And nerve-wracking. And wery worrisome.

So I thought I'd type up a therapeutic 'my path to getting an agent' post. I wanted to do this ages ago, but I never got around to it. Back when I was still querying agents I would obsessively run around published authors' blogs, and poke into their archives, and search for the obligatory 'ohmahpoodlesahgotsanagentslashbookdeal' post. Because they were encouraging and fun to read. But some authors were very professional and cool and didn't have one. Which was sad. My own story is not really much different from most other writers's, but I'm putting it up anyway. So there. Here goes!

Getting a Literary Agent, Chapter ONE

Waaaay back in 2010 I started writing a book. It wasn't my first book. I had written three meandering sorta-books before it, which I plan to write an embarrassing blog post about soon, and had just decided that I should throw my other WIPs into a corner and stomp on them and write something kewl.  

The Peculiar was my idea of kewl back then. It was basically all the things I liked, mashed into a great big dreary goop. I like scary stuff. I like Victorian England. I like magic. Not the shparklee kind but the creepy, slithery kind. I like gritty atmosphere, and monsters, and folklore, and tragedy, and vicious psycho faerys. So I tried my utmost to put them all into one book without making it very silly. I finished a rough draft in July of 2010, polished it until it didn't creak *badly*, and sent off my first query letter EVER in November of that year.

Then I waited. And waited.

And my little brain was all like, "Ooh, Miss Agent must like it veeerrrry much, because she's keeping it fo-evah."

And then I got a rejection.

Shock. I sent more query letters. I sent query letters for a long time. Almost a year. I sent them one or two at a time, which was a little bit retarded.

The first five queries were all to British agents, and they all rejected it after a partial. And I was like, "Why, I ask you, whyyy!?" because my book is set in 19th century England and involves English people doing what I perceive to be English sort of things, so I was slightly worried that I had been culturally insensitive or something. I'm not actually English, you see. Everything I know about England I learned from costume dramas, and Charles Dickens, and my bratty Brit friends. Ha! I myself am American. I say 'like' about every three words, and only sound smart in real life when I'm annoyed at someone.

The very first query to an NYC agent got me a request for the first fifty pages. You can see how that turned out in this weepy blog post from a few months ago.

Looking back, I'm really glad nobody accepted the manuscript when I first sent it out. Partly because I got a great agent thisaways, and partly because I learned tons about writing during that year of querying. Each time I got a rejection I would go back to the manuscript in a mad rage and delete large swaths of it, and write new swaths, and polish up swaths that I liked, and despair over ones I thought were dorky, and polish some more, and send out another two queries determined that the cruel and heartless World of Agents would like it this time.

Early success can be heartening, but it's probably not very good for one's psyche. Um. Yar. I'm not sure if I'm talking about the book deal here. That was just completely out-of-my-control, and went ridiculously smoothly, and I'm very grateful for it. But generally I think bumps in the road are good. Learning how to work hard is good. Being self-critical is good to a point. If you think you're simply maaaahvellous right from the start you're not likely to make yourself get any better. I want to get a lot better.

End Philosophizing. :)

Here are the numbers for you interested folks:

I sent ten queries in total. Broken down that's: six rejections, two no-responses, one offer of rep, and one... umm... I think it would be called an 'understanding', but I didn't know that at the time. Basically, the agent kinda sorta says they'll work with you, but you're not really a client unless it sells.

When I got the two requests for fulls, I freaked out for a while. I cyber-stalked the agents, tried to figure out if I had a chance with these illustrious people. And came to the conclusion that, "Nope, nope I did not."

I'll tell you why next week. Heeee. Because this post is *really* long. And because school starts tomorrow and I must! Practice! Instruments! My teachers are going to be like, "SHTEFAN! This piece sounds igsakly like it did before the holidays." And I'll be like, "Umm, errrr, waaaall, I was kinda busy going insane and revising and doing other such important stuff."

And they'll flap their hands and be like, "There is nothing more important than music."

Nope. Nothing.


  1. Very amusing, as always. Except for the artwork, which makes no sense, and things that don't make sense irritate me. Who's the bored soul who crated it?

  2. Vat??? I love zis artwork. It's Friedrich Something-or-other. Love it.

  3. But evidently you don't love it enough to bother with its background and origins.
    Also, I meant "created."

  4. LOOOL! that baby.... XD

  5. @Beastie Driver: He illustarted a book on Floop's shelf! I'll show you latah.

    @Ducky: That poor baby. Naive surprise with a touch of reproach.

  6. I meant "illustrated" Grr. So we're even. :D

  7. I love this artwork! I've decided to call it Omelets For Everyone!

  8. Haha! And that would explain the lack of yellow goop dripping out of the shell. People RAN OFF WITH IT!

  9. Pah. Bratty Brit friends. SHAME BE UPON YOU! But that's ok. I learned everything I know about Americans from my bratty American friends. And Gossip Girl.


  10. Emma = maybe. Gossip Girl = not. Me = from Jupitaaah.

    You know nothing about Americans. xD


  11. Fossy, you dunderhead! He's totes all-American.

    And OWWWWW!!! XDD

  12. Oh, was that your foot? Woopseh! :D

    PMd. Now. Go lookkkkk.

  13. Stefan, I am mightily impressed by your very mature rewriting and revising when faced with rejection rather than a throwing up of the hands and a little or big tantrum.

  14. Oh, thank you! I guess if you're a writer, you just kinda have to write, whether things go your way or not. So giving up was not really an option. :)