Is a sixteen-year love affair a sign of dedication or insanity?
When I started writing the book that eventually I would call THE LORN, I was an avid Dungeons & Dragons player, and very into Dragonlance. This first attempt at my Great American Novel (the GAN) wound up being a 300+ page nightmare. Well, at the time, I thought it was pure genius, of course. But I recently reread my original attempt at being a novelist. Ouch. The pace was almost non-existent. None of the characters were remotely likeable. The oomph of the story didn't happen until page 212. And I ended on a cliff-hanger. Oh yes -- the main characters all played Dungeons & Dragons, thus they were able to handle the extraordinary events with the usual "I'm a gamer, so I can deal with this" aplomb.
Simply put, it sucked. No wonder Tor laughed me out of the water in 1994.
Fast forward to January 2004. Over the course of ten years, I became a better writer, and I actually started doing (gasp) research on the publishing industry. I started querying agents in February 2004. I got precious few hits. The first of which was Agent 1, asking for the first three chapters and the synopsis. (Back then, I was so green that I was beside myself trying to figure out single-page, single-space synopsis versus double-space, three-page synopsis, and whether the prologue counted as a chapter.) When I got her rejection five weeks later, her handwritten comment said, "Promising, but moves a bit too slow and is a bit too cute."
After much soul searching (not to mention numerous rejections on the query letter from other agents), I decided that Agent 1 was onto something. Enter Major Rewrite No. 3 (Nos. 1 and 2 happened years earlier, with the second having begun in 2002 and not finishing until January 2004.), where I added another character for the sole purpose of killing him off quickly...except the character refused to go down quietly, so enter a haunting as well. Next round of queries: May 2004.
Two big hits: Agent 2 and Agent 3, both asking for the full right off the bat. Joy. Rapture. Surely, one of these two agents would recognize my brilliance. By the start of July, I had rejections from both...saying nice things about my writing, but they didn't know how to position the story in the marketplace.
Mid-July, I decided to do something radical. At this point, I had about 20 rejections, and I felt desperate. So I did the Konrath Method of querying at the end of July. This is when you pull together a mini-marketing package and send it out, cold, to all agents, with no SASE. (I'm not doing the Konrath Method justice; it's really a brilliant device. For way more information, plus tons of excellent tips and advice, check out Joe Konrath's website: http://www.jakonrath.com/ )
This resulted in roughly 30 more rejections, out of a list of about 62 names. Got one major hit from it, when Agent 4 contacted me directly, enthusiastic about the novel and series. Off went the first 75 pages, plus synopsis at the end of August.
Around this time, one of the members of my crit group mentioned an agent, Agent 5, giving fabulous feedback. So I queried her. She asked for the full three days after I e-mailed her the query. This was the end of August. Around this time, Agent 6 also responded to my e-mail query, asking for the first 30 pages. Off they went. In September, Agent 6 rejected the partial. Agents 4 and 5 had fallen off the face of the earth.
By this point (end of September), I was feeling completely crappy. Just as I was positive that I sucked, Agent 5 mentioned to me via e-mail that she had finished reading the manuscript and was typing up her feedback. And she hinted that it wasn't all bad. This bit of hope kept me going (and querying) through October. Agent 7 requested the first 35 pages; he rejected it in about two weeks because the plot simply didn't interest him. The middle of October, Agent 4 takes a pass because she didn't feel invested in the characters. By this point, I had hit pretty much every fantasy agent out there. Really. Depression almost sets in.
October 31, 2004: Agent 5 tells me the feedback is on the way. Joy! Same day, a colleague mentions Agent 8, a big wig. I e-mail him. November 1, 2004, he responds, asking for the full manuscript. Hooray! Two days later, Agent 5's feedback arrives. It's fabulously detailed. She's right on the money. Her biggest concern was that it was very difficult to differentiate between the five main characters. For the next two weeks, I did nothing but try to understand my college-senior characters, really know their backgrounds, what makes them tick, etc. Enter Major Rewrite No. 4.
November 14, 2004: I send the full manuscript to Agent 8, incorporating Agent 5's feedback (version A). Even though there was still work to do, I was afraid to wait too much longer. I spend the next two weeks finishing the revisions, then sending the full manuscript, version B, to Agent 5 on November 29.
Thanksgiving through New Year's: All agents disappear.
Agent 7 agrees to see the revised partial in January. For the hell of it, I query Editor Gal of a large publisher directly (thanks to ties from Backspace); she agrees to see the partial (version B) in February. Agent 9 does a Q&A at Backspace, and I manage to finagle getting her the partial, via e-mail (version B). Agent 7's reader chimes in. Loved the prologue, hated the first three chapters. Too much focus on the characters; the plot is glacial. Faster! Action! And yes, I can send the full. So, in a burst of creative energy, I compress the first three chapters into one, cutting 4,000 words in the process, and send out the full manuscript, version C.
Here's where it gets tricky. Ready? You'll be quizzed.
In February, I query a favorite author's agent, Agent 10, who requests the partial (version C). I send Agent 9 an e-mail, asking if she'd like to see the revised opening, based on agent feedback; in response, she tells me she's not interested, thanks anyway. I re-pitch to Agent 4, who responds positively. I send her the first 50 pages of version C. Then Editor Gal asks for the full, along with a detailed synopsis. I send it to her (version B), then e-mail Agent 4 to ask if she'd like to see the revised opening. She says sure, so I send her version B. I also get a positive hit from Agent 11, who asks for the first 100 pages (version C). And I query Agent 12, who wants the first 3 chapters and synopsis with the query. He gets version B. I query Agent 13, based on his recent sale mentioned in Publishers Marketplace. And I take the plunge and send the partial to the Wizards of the Coast Open Call for Fiction on February 25 (version C).
March: disaster. Editor Gal takes a pass. Agents 11 and 12 take a pass. Agent 4, you guessed it, takes a pass. Agent 7's reader sends feedback that I strongly disagree with, so I take a pass. Agent 10 takes a pass, although she praises the writing. The only good thing? Agent 13 requests the partial. I get that out on March 23. Version B.
April: Agent 5's feedback arrives (on version B). She's super positive about it -- I really nailed it, she says. It takes me about a week to address her minor feedback. I send a love note to Agent 8's assistant. Make that his new assistant, who says that Agent 8 hasn't even cracked it open yet. She agrees that I can send the revised manuscript her way, and that I won't lose my place on line. I send the newly revised manuscript (version D) to Agent 8. A week later (to give Agent 8 a bit of a jump), the full (version D) goes to Agent 5 on April 22.
May: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Agent 8's assistant tells me on May 16 that Agent 8 still hasn't gotten to it, but she'll contact me once he does. Oh, and Wizards of the Coast won't have results for the Open Call until late summer. ((sigh))
June: I do more research and discover Agent 14, who wants science fiction, fantasy and horror. I send her an e-query; she responds the next day, asking me to e-mail her the detailed synopsis and the first three chapters. Done -- version D. Actually, version E; I started some minor clean up (was's, had's, that kind of thing). Agent 5's on vacation. Agent 8's I don't know where. Agent 13 isn't answering my e-mail queries about the status of the partial.
And here we are, sixteen months after my initial query. Waiting on Agents 5, 8, 13, and 14.
Isn't the life of a wannabe novelist exciting?
But I'm still very much in love with the story and the characters. Here's hoping that one day, one agent will love the GAN as much as I do.
Book Buzz of the Day
Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath. And it's not just because the protagonist is a gal named Jacqueline, "Jack" for short. Really. If you like humor mixed with your gore when you read a thriller, this one's for you. Joe (yep, a Backspace member) has a distinct style that makes his book a refreshing change from your standard Gotta-Catch-A-Serial-Killer read. For more on Joe, check out his website (URL mentioned above; link off on the side).
Deal of the Day
From Publishers Marketplace: Film rights to Ally Carter's debut YA novel I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU, to Karen Glass at Walt Disney Pictures, in a pre-empt, by Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency, through Amy Schiffman and Sarah Self at the Gersh Agency. A huge mazel tov to Ally and Kristin (both members of Backspace)! Woo hoo! You both rock!