I know I’ve been saying I’d post the whole story here, and I’m sorry for the delay! I love reading success stories of other writers, so hopefully you’ll enjoy mine. And hopefully it will motivate you to keep going:
I wrote my YA Fantasy OF POSEIDON (title subject to change, as many of you know) in a pretty short time frame, considering I work full time and have a young daughter, and help to care for my elderly mother. Anyway, with the first book I wrote, (OF POSEIDON is my second attempt at writing) I completely screwed up my query letter and closed the doors to a lot of agencies I thought would like it. How did I screw it up? Well, for starters, it was over 1,000 words long!
So the first novel was a learning experience. But I wrote OF POSEIDON with a purpose, armed with much more knowledge of the industry. They say you should always test your query letter on agents on your “B” and “C” list before sending to agents on your “A” list–the ones you really, really want. So, before the manuscript was actually finished, I shot off a first draft test query the beginning of January. Within two days, she asked for the full. The word ‘Panic’ was invented for this situation. Also, the word ‘Idiotic’ comes to mind. Anyway, I scrambled to get that draft out to her within a reasonable time frame. She passed, of course, because it was a first draft MS.
Then, I figured maybe her response time was just a fluke, so I sent out a few more queries while I edited. And received a few more bites. I decided my query letter was ready to go, so I began to query everyone on my list. And continued to edit.
I found an agent who I thought would really love it, and queried her with the first chapter. Within 45 minutes, she emailed me back with: “If only you could see my smile. Please send the rest and I look forward to reading it!” So, I squealed appropriately and then did as I was told. Within a week, she emailed that she would like to offer representation if I’d be willing to make a few revisions. Since I was about to leave for an all-girls cruise with my sisters, we agreed to get together when I got back.
Then, Lucy Carson of the Friedrich Agency emailed and asked for the full. She also wanted to know if other agencies were looking at it, which I did tell her I had several fulls and partials out. I also let her know I’d be out of touch for a few days because of the cruise. She promised to read quickly so I would know where I stood with her before I left. I emailed her the full, and within a few hours, she emailed me back and said she peeked at my first page and could tell I had a voice that was confident, so she’d try to get through as much as she could before I left.
The morning we were supposed to board the ship, I’m eating breakfast in the hotel with the rest of my crazy sisters and I get a call on my cell with a NYC area code. When I answer, it’s Lucy! She tells me she only read about 75 pages so far, but that she absolutely loves it and doesn’t want me to sign with anyone else before I talk to her. I clam up. Maybe it’s just me, but what would you do in that situation? We all dream about the “call”, and even though I already had a contingent offer of rep, this agent called to catch me before I left after reading only 75 pages! Lucy can sense that I’m a little overwhelmed, so she tells me to call her once I board so we can have a more in depth conversation.
I board the ship in a daze. I’m glad my sisters were keeping up with my 9 year old daughter for me, because I wasn’t acting like Mother of the Year just then. I couldn’t enjoy the Jamaican music or the fruity drinks laced with liquor they started passing out immediately. My mother was in emergency surgery at the moment back home, and we were all waiting for an update on it. And now, I’ve got two offers of rep on the table for a work I’d only begun querying a couple weeks before.
When I call Lucy from my cabin, I try to be more outgoing, and fail obnoxiously at it. Lucy is a good sport and explains all the pertinent information. Then she starts pitching to me about what a great agency the Friedrich agency is, and how I’d be very well-cared for if I’d join their ranks. I tell her that I’ve been working with another agent who’d like to see some revisions, and express my concerns that she has only read 75 pages, and what if she wanted even more revisions? She said she didn’t care, and that she never offers representation based on a partial, but that I should consider this an official offer and I should notify other agents immediately to let them know. Then I clam up again, because does this ever really happen??? We end the conversation agreeing to touch base when I get back.
Then our ship leaves New Orleans, heading for Cozumel, and what I really want to do is jump ship and swim back to nurture my budding new writing career. On board, I end up buying one of their expensive internet packages so we can touch base with my hubby. When I check my email, I almost fall out of my chair–Molly Friedrich, the founder and president of the agency, has personally emailed me! She says that she personally read the manuscript as well, and that if she needs to throw Lucy on a plane to come down here and convince me to sign with them, she will absolutely do it. She said my manuscript would enjoy the full backing of the agency, and she also outlined their success in launching debut authors. So now, this cruise has become my own personal hell, a prison keeping me from starting my dream immediately.
On the last day of the cruise, my sister suffers a heart attack. When we port, she’s taken straight to the ER, where they perform tests and inform her that she will need open heart surgery. She ends up getting a room on the same floor of the hospital as my mother, who is still recovering from her own surgery. So now, I’m juggling family emergencies with family life, and returning to my job the day after we port. Meanwhile, I’m emailing other agents that I’ve received an offer (which makes me feel guilty because I already know in my heart that it’s Lucy, period), and within twenty minutes of sending them, I get an influx of requests for fulls.
I end up getting two more offers of rep–one contingent on major revisions, such as changing the whole thing to first person POV, and the other with minor revisions and both from very good agencies. I accept Lucy’s offer, amid all this, plus my sister developing pneumonia and my mom falling twice in the hospital, breaking her foot, and losing a tooth. Then my niece, who had flown down here from Arkansas to help care for my sister during her recovery, ends up in ICU herself with diabetic ketoacidosis. I visited each family member in shifts; one in the morning, one on my lunch hour and one in the evening.
After reading the rest of my MS, Lucy did have some minor revisions as well, but they were easy fixes and I submitted them quickly. Within days, she submitted it to editors and within days of that, we received an outstanding offer, which we promptly accepted.
Now that my sister is out of the hospital, my niece is out of ICU, and my mom is recovering in rehab, I can breath and actually be excited about all of this. I know this blog entry sounds like a whirlwind, but I told it like it happened. Now that life has calmed down, I’m excited to begin the next steps of my writing career.
And I intend to share those steps with all of you who kept me motivated and supported me and will some day be in this position, although I hope not in as chaotic circumstances! So, stay the course, DON’T EVER GIVE UP. NEVER ever never ever.
Rejections do suck. The day after Lucy sold my manuscript, I received a rejection from an agent on said MS. When agents tell you that this business is subjective, believe them. Keep submitting. It will happen. It really, really will.