An Offer I Can't Refuse?

As most long-time readers know, I've been actively questing to build a writing career since 2008. In October of 2010 I signed with a literary agent for my zombie novel. That ended abruptly in June of 2011.

For many reasons, I put that book away and wrote another one, the start of my Etudes in C# series. In December, 2011 I started querying it.

Here it is, April of 2012 and I can finally share with you what this latest foray into querying has been like. Sit back (this one is long) and let me tell you a tale, a tale of a fateful trip....

I started querying TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES in early December. That month, I saw a lot of rejections. I revamped the query letter a couple of times, but other than a single partial request from one of my dream agents (awesome!) December was uneventful. Right up until the end. I found out about open submissions going on at a small press. The acquiring editor there is someone I've followed on Twitter for a while and I really respect her work. The chance to get my manuscript under her eyes was priceless, so even though it's generally frowned upon to sub to both pubs and agents, I took the shot. A couple of days before 2012, I sent a partial and a query to Editor A (a is for AWESOME!), just barely skirting the submission deadline.

January opened with a bang. The year was only two or three days old when Editor Awesome requested the full manuscript. Two days later, Agent A requested the first three chapters of the book. An hour later, she emailed back saying, "That was fun! Send me the rest!" Yeah. An hour. My flabber was well and truly gasted on that one, so I sent it to her tout suite. The next week? Agent B requested a full and Editor Awesome made me an offer of publication.
Seriously, we weren't even 2 weeks into the year and already I was spazzing out with epic loads of fantastic.
Ultimately, I passed on the offer from Editor Awesome. I know. I can hear the screech of tires as you go back to re-read. You did what? You rejected an offer of publication?! WHY? Look. She is fabulous and her feedback was priceless. I really hope she and I can work together on other projects in the future because she really is that awesome. However, I had to make a decision based on what I want for this series of books I'm writing. So, I passed.
Agent A requested some minor revisions to the manuscript, and I got them back to her at the end of February. Honestly, February passed much like December: nothing to report. In March, Agent B left the agenting biz, but the agency said they would still review my manuscript and get back to me. Meanwhile, Agents C and D requested partials. With the revisions done, I decided to try again with a few agents who had rejected the piece in December. I sent out four requeries and got a partial request from one that ultimately ended in a no. While I'm doing this, a rocktastic friend of mine who is multiply-published sent me a private message asking if I'd queried her agent. I told her I had in December and got a form rejection within a couple of days. My friend was adamant: query her. Query her right now. So, I checked the shine on my query and fired off one more to her. We'll call her Agent E.

Flash forward to my birthday, April 6. Agent A gets back to me saying, "I love the revisions. Can we talk on the phone next week." *blink* Really? Did I just get the "Let's set up a call" email on my birthday? Woot! I did. We did. And on April 9 that phone call ended in an offer of representation. I hung up the phone, ate the last piece of leftover birthday cake and sent out a barrage of emails to all of the agents who still had queries or submissions. Agent B (or rather her agency) bowed out immediately and I can understand why. Agent D also bowed out saying that while she and her colleagues enjoyed the writing, the manuscript just wasn't a good fit. Which is more than fine. (Remember: Having no agent is better than having the wrong agent.)

A lot of people might think that getting The Call makes the decision a simple one. Why query if you're going to say no to an agent? Well, I've learned the hard way that it is something to think about even longer than you imagine is necessary. That experience has made me gunshy, perhaps excessively so. I stayed up late April 11 with a brain that wouldn't shut off. I kept mulling over the hesitations I had. Now, I've talked about going with your gut. Part of that, though, is learning when your gut is talking and when it's just your gutless fear. Fear is the killer. Don't mistake it for instinct. I talked to myself, tried to untangle all the knots that snagged my thinking process. When I came to a conclusion, I slept on it. The next morning, it still seemed clear as crystal. So I slept on it again just to make sure.

I woke up Friday the 13th ready to make my decision and act on it. I just had to wait on confirmation from Agents C and F that we were not going to move forward. When they both got back to me, I emailed Agent A to tell her my decision.

Many were the squees heard that day. Had to wait a bit to bust out with the good news so that ink and paper could make their way across the country. But now? Now I can officially announce that I am represented by Jennie Goloboy at Red Sofa Literary Agency. I am beyond excited to work with her and can't wait to see how both of our careers grow.

What really made the decision easy? Jennie's excitement for the project is palpable. She really loves the book, believes in it and I believe she will do everything she can to make sure it's sold. That enthusiasm is paramount. As I've learned, contacts can be built, but a genuine love of a story is golden and damn necessary. Otherwise, what's the point?

To recap:

Between December 5, 2011 and March 27, 2012 I sent a total of 75 query letters to 68 literary agents and two publishers. (Yes, five of those agents received two queries from me because they rejected an earlier draft and I wanted to try again. I'm tenacious like that.) Of those 75 queries:

14 went unanswered. This happens for various reasons. Maybe my query got stuck in cyberspace somewhere. What's more likely, though, is that these agents have a "no response means no" policy. 9 came back with requests for pages.

  • 4 requested a partial manuscript
  • requested a full manuscript
  • 1 partial request escalated to a full request
Out of those requests:
1 publisher made an offer of publication.
agent made an offer of representation.
The rest were all rejections. That tells you what you should've known already: I'm batshit insane to put myself through this kind of thing. BUT, in the end it's those last two numbers that count, isn't it?Keep moving forward.