Thursday, August 18, 2016

Finding an Agent

Missy Elliott's Pep Rally has been on loop at my house and in my car for the past two weeks, and I've been dancing badly (but enthusiastically) to it the whole time. 

As of last Friday, I HAVE AN AGENT!!!  Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency has offered to rep me and I've accepted.  Eeeeeeee!!!

There's a lot of advice out there about how to get an agent.  There's a lot of GREAT advice.  And I feel timid about adding to that wealth of information; I wasn't querying for that long. 

Some of it just comes down to luck.  And you can't control luck.  It either happens or it doesn't. 

But the rest are things that you can control.  So here is my humble advice on how to control the things that you can.  Feel free to add to it in the comments! 

1) Make criticism your lifeblood.  This is my best piece of advice.  In every part of this process, from planning stages to publication, seek feedback from others.  Since writing is something we do alone, deep down, we're tempted to try to complete every part of the process in a vacuum.  Or, to use a more specific space analogy, since I write sci-fi, in a wind tunnel.  Wind tunnels are used by aerospace companies to test the viability of new space- and air-craft.  But not all of the testing takes place inside these sealed, intense environments.  Most of the planning and testing happens in offices, meetings, and on computers.  With a team of people. 

We writers, we're often introverts.  We like spending time with ourselves.  Which is great.  But ultimately, if we're writing for publication, we're writing to connect with a reader.  And the best way to find out what a reader is thinking and whether what we're saying makes sense outside our own heads is to get readers. 

Treat feedback like water, keeping you alive.  Don't just tolerate negative feedback; seek it out.  Yes, it stings.  And I'm not recommending you turn your feelings off to that sting--sometimes it takes a few days to lick your wounds before you can see what someone is saying. 


There are stages, of course, where you DO lock yourself in a cave and pound out participles in a self-contained bubble.  You have to.  Or you'd never get anything done.  All I'm saying is, come up for air and find other humans to connect with over your writing every so often. 

2) Pay attention to rejections.  I know, they hurt.  They can hurt a lot.  But listen to them.  I once read that if you're not getting any requests, there's something wrong with your query, and if you're getting requests but no interest, there's something wrong with your manuscript.  I took this to heart.  Writer friends helped me retool my query at different points.  And I squeezed the crap out of every rejection I got that was the slightest bit personalized, revising my manuscript accordingly.  I signed with Carrie after completing several Revise & Resubmits for her. 

Don't brush off rejections; listen to them.  Okay, after you eat some ice cream and maybe have a good night's sleep.  

(If you take time to let the hurt wear away and you still don't agree with the feedback, that's okay too.  It's your book.  And if you try to make changes you don't agree with just to get agented/published, your heart won't be in it and it'll sound like it.  Trust your gut.  Just make sure it's not your ego you're listening to.) 

3) Find writer friends.  Because rejections hurt, and only other writers truly get it.  Not to mention, they'll often give you the most incisive (and possibly kindest) feedback as beta readers. 

They're also more reliable beta readers.  I had tons of betas lined up to read my book before I queried it.  When it was finally at a "done" place, I sent it off to those wonderful friends of mine, sure they were panting with expectation to get to read my book.  A month later, only the writer friends had read it.  They gave me great feedback I could use to improve it!  But the non-writer friends--*gasp* *choke*--never read it, or never got further than the first couple of pages.  (Which was also feedback, incidentally, and made me overhaul the beginning.  Later on.  After I got over my disappointment, and other people verbalized specific feedback about the opening.)  I got guilt-filled texts full of excuses why my non-writer friends hadn't read it yet. 

Okay.  Let me say this:  It's not their fault.  My non-writer friends were well intentioned, but this isn't their trade. 

Have you had a similar experience?  Your book may not be your non-writer friends' preferred genre, either.  Writer friends have a vested interest in making your manuscript better--because they're likely going to get the favor returned at some point. 

So don't strain your regular friendships.  Make new friends--and it will help you keep the old. 

4) Enter contests like Pitch Madness and Pitch Wars. I entered Pitch Madness this year and did not get in.  But it was hands down one of the best things I've done as a writer.  I followed the hashtag on Twitter religiously, from the time I submitted my entry to just after the winners were announced.  Contests are a great way to meet other writers!  You can commiserate while you wait for results.  People play games on the hashtag.  And you might even find some beta readers. 

Winning is great, but there are HUGE benefits just in playing the game. 

5) Work on something else.  You've heard this one before.  But shoot, do it.  As soon as you let fly that first round of queries, you'll find you finally have some free time. 

And a whole lotta crazy inside!!!

Best remedy for both?  Well, rest a bit, clean up a bit, and then open a crisp new Word file and start typing.  Or take a trip to get ideas for another book.  Go somewhere.  Do something.

This post on Publishing Crawl has more great ideas for what to do while you're waiting. 

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There's plenty of awesome advice out there, and all of this is nothing new.  It's just what worked for me.  And it's what will, I hope, continue to work.  But I'll keep revising my strategy if it doesn't. 

I'm not published yet.  We still have a long way to go. 

And remember, getting an agent is NOT the end of your journey.  It's just the end of one stage of it.  I think we're all tempted to feel that way when we're querying, because that's the goal we're working for.  We stalk agents on Twitter.  We stalk them on MS Wish List.  We comb through agent interviews and advice on how to get an agent/get published.  But there is life after this process, whether you get an agent or seek publication without one.  A lot more life.  And you'll get there. 

What's worked for you in your process towards getting agented/published? 


4 comments:

  1. Congratulations, and best of luck in your writing career.

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  2. Oh my gosh, girl, congrats! I have some of my own awesome news to share BUT I CAN'T for a couple of weeks. ARGHHHH! But I am so proud of you. Stevensonian authors unite!

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  3. Thanks, Becca! Excited to hear your news when you can share it!! :)

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