Sunday, November 29, 2015

You like me! You really, conditionally, like me!

In my continuing saga to secure a literary agent, I'm three months into my current query and have obtained a request for revisions.  This is a critical point in the querying process.  I've overcome several large hurdles.  My query has managed to stand out in the slush pile, my sample pages have passed the initial smell test, and now my entire manuscript has been read by an honest-to-goodness agent.  And the only catch is, she wants me to rewrite some of my story.

How quickly can I jump through that hoop, right?

Just hold your horses there, mister.  I've actually done rewrites.  Even on this very story.  Let me tell you something.  They are heart wrenching.  When a story has been built up layer by layer and every piece of information, every scene, every thought a character has is connected in some small or large way to many, many other scenes, themes, and plots in a book, asking for a little change, like, oh, let's say, "I really like the book but I want the protagonist to be confident instead of timid." is like pulling a string on a sweater.  It doesn't take much tugging before you're completely topless.

Now, to clarify, the rewrites this agent was asking for were well within reason.  There was nothing about them that made me think, "Oh, lord, she doesn't get what I'm going for here.  We're never going to see eye to eye."  On the contrary, the main request was one I knew in my gut was much needed ... the ending.  It had a slight, "I'm exhausted and I want this book finished, and so much of it is cool and great, can't you cut me some slack at the end," feel to it.  She called me on it, and I'm glad she did.

But the actual request for a rewrite was brief, considering the amount of work necessary to affect the changes asked for.  And having been down this road before, I had to think, "Is she as into this book as I need her to be?"  I felt confident that with the proper direction I could make satisfying changes - I just needed to be sure I understood the direction she was looking for.  I didn't want to guess and lose my chance to keep her engaged and have butchered my book for no good reason.

So I asked for clarification.

That's right.  In this tenuous relationship we had formed as prospective client and potential agent, I asked in my best Oliver Twist voice for some more, please.  I basically said, in the nicest and most professional way possible, "I have received your terms for continuing on and here is what I require." 

This felt nervy.  It felt daring.  It felt idiotic.  It was a necessary test. 

I decided, if this agent is truly interested, a little expounding on her feelings about the book shouldn't be too much to ask.  If she can't be troubled for that, she can't possibly feel strongly enough about what she's seen to be impressed by anything I could do with it in rewrites.

So, to make a long story short (Too late!) I asked for clarification, received it, did a part of the rewrites, sent it in, was asked nicely to do all the rewrites, and then sent that in.

And that takes us to the seven month mark on this particular query.  Roughly Christmas to Fourth of July.  It's time for the happy ending, right?  Fireworks, streamers, touchdown dances, a sudsy, lavender scented bubble bath (hey, you celebrate your way ...)  Shirley, after all this time, we've reached the end of our odyssey and I'm a signed author, right?

Check back soon for my next entry to see if it was time to celebrate.  I'll give you a hint - my rubber duck had a long, lonely summer ahead of him.    


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Goodreads Review of Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've seen this book listed on many people's favorites lists for a while. After reading it, I can understand why. There is a lot to like about this book, even if it wasn't an absolute home run based on my personal tastes. It's a straight up romance and it really does well doing that thing. It's also a bit of a travel book. Paris is very much a character in the story. I'm not always too crazy about an author trying to show off everything they know about a foreign location, but this didn't feel that way at all. I enjoyed Anna's experience in Paris right along with her. I never felt excluded or like I was looking in from the outside. Main characters often have a hobby or interest that dominates their personality and Anna's interest in becoming a film critic was also handled nicely. The characters of the story were well written and multi-dimensional. The conflicts didn't feel manufactured and the will-they-won't-they was balanced in a realistic way. The author has an authentic voice. I cared about Anna and St. Clair pretty equally which can be difficult to accomplish, especially in a first person perspective.

My only minor complaint is one of personal preference. Even in a purely contemporary, romance, YA book, I like a little action. The stakes were never much beyond getting that kiss in by the end of the book. There were some secondary conflicts but it was easy to see they would be resolved happily by the end. Fortunately, the writing was such I could overlook the linear story line without much trouble because Anna was a very appealing character and her adventure in France was one I was glad to tagging along for.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Let's Talk About My But

I can work with those odds.

So an agent asked for my manuscript.  I've been here before.  And now I've waited a couple of months without hearing anything.  Also familiar territory.  So I send what is affectionately referred to as a "nudge".  You try to make this email sound like something other than a desperate cry into the dark.  It's kind of like when you ask a waiter if your food is ready.  The obvious answer is, "Is it on the table in front of you yet?"  Well that's a response that will kill a tip percentage, but you get the idea.  I think the nudge is useful if used appropriately.  I gave it two months, and my nudge generated a response.

And that response was, "I like it but ..."

So now we have to talk about that my but.  The letter was full of I-liked-this-buts.  I don't like big buts and I cannot lie.  They were issues with characters, issues with the ending, and a general problem with the way the romantic elements of the story unfolded.  It was far from the "sorry I didn't get right back to you, I was busy dropping all of my other clients to focus completely on you, my new favorite author and client!"

But ... it wasn't a no.  In fact, there was an honest to goodness offer to revisit after revisions. And you know what that is folks in the terrible, beautiful dance of the query process?  That's a second date.  So my first impression wasn't a disaster.  This agent had read my entire work, spent a couple of months thinking about it, and made suggestions about what she thought was needed to push it from the 'like' column to the 'love' column.  Because that's what it takes for an agent to commit to representing your work.  They see stories they like all the time, probably many they enjoy more than actual published books they've read.  But they really have to connect on a deeper level to go all in.

And now was my call to action.  Three months into the process with just this particular agent and I have a nibble.

In the famous words of Lloyd Christmas after being told his odds of ending up with a girl like Mary Swanson were one in a million,

"So you're telling me there's a chance!"

Friday, November 6, 2015

If You Give 'Em An Inch ...

I've noticed a lot of agents are foodies.

You really have to watch these agent types.  Within one week of sending three chapters of my book, this particular agent I queried wanted me to send her all the rest of them!

As a querying author, this is actually a wonderful if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie moment.  This is called a "request for full" and it's kind of big deal in the querying process.  This signals that two things have happened: 

1. You have caught an agent's eye with your query letter.  They like the tone and style of your letter and are intrigued by your premise. 

2. Now that they have read several thousands of your word lined up together in the first three chapters of your manuscript, they believe you have the skills necessary to complete an entire book.

When you are asked to submit a full, you can reasonably expect that a real, live agent is going to read your manuscript.  As I've learned, many agents have a trusted cadre of beta readers they farm the initial read out to in case the whole thing falls apart after the first few chapters.  But any way you slice it, your book is about to be read.  That's exciting!

Or is it?  It's one thing for an agent to pass on your book based on a short query letter.  I'm sure many brilliant authors crash and burn on the query letter just like brilliant students can be miserable test takers.  I know the query letter that landed me his particular request was far from the first version I sent out.  I really stunk up some inboxes with my first tries at that letter. 

And having your first three chapters read gives you a great feeling that your grammar skills and ability to form coherent sentences are up to snuff.  You could even feel confident that your general voice for the submitted material is interesting and compelling.  These are all very good feeling feels to have.  So with all that in your favor, what could possibly go wrong?  How can an agent like the beginning of your book and your writing in general and not want to represent you?

Guess what?  You're going to have to wait to find out!  And by 'you' I mean 'you' the reader of this blog as well as 'you' the abstract subject of this story.  (It's a multi-purpose 'you').  I hope you'll check back in to find out what the next response from my someday-agent was!  Today's blog chronicles the third exchange between myself and this agent.  This represents a time period of approximately 22 days.  The email chain for this exchange ends up being 36 messages long!  Don't worry, I will be summarizing many of these.

See you for the next installment!