We left off with my finally finishing/breaking up with my frankenbook and starting a new fantasy project. I was talking about the workshop class I’d signed up for where we met each week to critique (read: love on/gush over/lightly roast) each other’s work.
I didn’t see my opening scene as especially great, but I hadn’t seen it as especially problematic either. I had this character recalling someone important to her (not so crazy), and yet everyone thought she was recalling someone she loved romantically, when in fact I’d written it so she was recalling her brother.
I cringe when I think about that. Like…thank Jesus I’ve long since lost that description or I might be forced to post it here and my whole façade of being Super Good At Writing would be ruined. I tend to describe everything too romantically, now I know that, important lesson learned, and also feel it’s important to clarify here that I’m against incest and always will be #takingastand
Without that class and our amazing teacher’s kind words and solid critiques, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. I’d never written fantasy, and my first few chapters of world-introducing were a hot mess. Like, every other word was italicized and I introduced about twenty new terms within the first like five pages. I also got some valuable crit partners from that class, something I’d always wanted but never quite seemed able to find. I ended up finishing this book around August of 2018. I entered Pitch Wars to no success, and realized my query letter and synopsis needed some work. By needed some work I of course mean they were flaming piles of SHITE.
In my defense, I was attempting to shove a 110,000 word epic fantasy written from three POVs into two paragraphs. That’s never going to be a good time. And it SUPER wasn’t.
So I reworked my query letter and my first chapter. I revised the story a bit more, got some more feedback, and sent out a few preliminary query letters in late October/early November of 2018, just to get myself started. I ended up getting two partial requests from that bunch, but with each rejection that would roll in, I would feel less and less confident.
I kept feeling like I had a pretty decent book, but I still didn’t feel like my query really reflected that. My mom (God bless her), kept saying that if I could just get someone to read it, they’d love it. I held onto that as I discovered the Manuscript Academy and signed up for a 10-minute query critique with an agent. You get to pick which of the participating agents you’d like to critique your query, and I’ll admit, I was fully strategic. I knew that the agents sometimes asked to see more pages after their critique, and I wanted to find an agent to critique it who I thought would also have the best chance of liking my story.
Enter, Samantha Wekstein of Writers House. Through some Light Stalking™, I discovered that she liked epic fantasies, quests, feminist stories, and loved a lot of the books I loved. I thought, yes. I’ll try my luck with her.
And, lo and behold, she did end up requesting more pages after our conversation! PRAISE!
She also advised me to wait to query the rest of my list until mid-January when everyone’s emerged from the holiday haze, and that’s what I was leaning toward anyway since so many agents close for queries in December. Just for fun, I sent out about four more query letters before Dec. 1st and then I resolved to send the rest out in January.
After that, I started working on a new project. I CANNOT overemphasize how IMPORTANT this was to my SANITY. I was able to deal with rejections so much better because I was legitimately excited about this new project. There was a point where I was like, yeah, that other book I queried is whatever but I LOVE this new idea! To the point that I was debating even sending out more queries in January. Yes, I am a fickle mistress when it comes to what I’ve written but it’s for my own mental health.
Then amidst writing and working and eating etc, etc, on December 18th, I got an email from one of the agents (I’ll call her Agent B because she is a bad ass) who had my partial that said, and I quote, this is marvelous! Could you please send the full manuscript? Naturally, I had 19 heart attacks and wanted to die of shock. I couldn’t believe it. After so much rejection, you kind of forget there’s an alternative.
I sent that book off to her with all my fingers and toes crossed, and then, on December 28th, exactly one month since I’d sent it to her in November, Samantha emailed me and said she hoped I was having a good holiday and wondered if I had time for a phone call on Monday. I freaked out. I think I wanted to freak out more, but I was too shocked to properly react. Was this it? Was she offering? Or was this going to be one of those excessive revise and resubmit calls that I’d heard (read: had nightmares) about?
Turns out, she did offer. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Insert more screaming here!
Obviously I called my mom immediately. She freaked out and began reading up on both literary agents with a fervor that only a proud mother can. I notified Agent B who had my partial and the four agents I still had outstanding queries with. One of them got back to me that same day (Agent S for Super cool) and also asked for the full!
WHAT?! It was crazy.
And then, just as I was walking into Barnes and Nobles to buy a copy of The Wicked King because obviously, I got another email from Agent S. She said LOVED the book, and I couldn’t believe it because 1) I was reading the email through squinted eyes because that usually makes the rejection hurt less badly and 2) what? How could people other than my mom really like my book? I felt like I was being Punk’d, but I knew in my mind that Ashton had retired from that line of work long ago and I started to believe the kind of words in these agent’s emails.
But the kind words definitely didn’t make my decision any easier. I didn’t really expect I’d get an agent in the first place, not to mention having to make a choice about which one I wanted?
I really agonized over the decision. Like, really. All the agents were newer, came from fantastic agencies and had clients who spoke so highly of them. I felt backed into a corner over a decision I never thought I’d even have the opportunity to make.
Eventually, I made the decision by flipping a coin.
JUST KIDDING, I’m not a total psychopath. I won’t go into details but I did finally choose and just know that it was an incredibly stressful couple of days.
- 17 queries sent
- 12 rejections
- 3 offers of rep
- 3 step asides after I sent out my offer email
Now, lest these stats fool you, I queried my frankenbook twice and probably received at least 100 rejections. There’s also like 8 partially finished book floating around on my hard drive that I never even attempted to polish or query. Many or perhaps all of those might have been rejected had I queried them. You never know what book is going to be the book, but I feel like you just have to keep writing and believing and drinking until you find it.
It still feels surreal that after all this time, something you’ve dreamt about so much can actually happen. It doesn’t make sense, but here we are. I’m so excited to dig into edits and polish this book to new levels of sparkling fantastical glory alongside Samantha! She is such a smart, funny, kind person and had so many great suggestions to make my story better.
If you’re in the query trenches right now, or just writing with this fledgling dream of being a published author in your heart, KEEP GOING. Get feedback, be open to receiving it, listen to the 88 cups of tea podcast, read great books, and keep writing. Don’t give up. Don’t stop. And realize, that as great as getting an agent feels, the joy is always in the journey. There is always a next step in publishing, and getting an agent is just the first step of many. If you can’t enjoy the process of it all, you’re not going to enjoy it on the other side, either.
Peace and Blessings. May the chai tea latte’s flow like unobstructed rivers and may your great writing days abound.