“Go for it, while you can. I know you have it in you. And I can’t promise you’ll get everything you want, but I can promise nothing will change if you don’t try.”
― J.M. Darhower, Sempre
I recently read somewhere that February 10th is a turning point in resolutions. After that, the majority are pretty much abandoned. I don’t know how you are doing with yours, if you made any, but mine hit a few bumps.
In my New Year’s Eve post, I resolved that I would do one thing each week toward my goal of getting an agent and getting my book published. Of course, achieving that goal is like trying to find lightning, captivate it, and entice it into a jar. But that is my resolution, and I am still working on it. Take that, February 10th.
And working on it has led to this observation: I have decided that the whole process of querying an agent is a lot like on-line dating. You create a profile, in this case a query letter, intended to show who you are (your book) in such a way that an agent falls in love …ok..ok.. maybe not love yet…but so they are intrigued enough to date you.
Additional individual requirements may vary by dating service…I mean literary agency and agent. For some you send, three, or five or ten pages of your book…for some a synopsis, for some both. If enticed into getting to know your book better, you may get asked for chapters, a real date. If the attraction grows, then, the whole manuscript. And if love blooms…a proposal, or a contract. But remember to be published, not only does your agent have to fall in love with your book, s/he has to think they can make a publisher fall in love as well….(wedding bells…lightning striking twice!)
But that is my resolution and the only guarantee of failure is not to try! So my research says: the best way to encourage the lightening to strike is to get to know your agent. That is the key on the kite. Start on their agency page. Does s/he like English majors, (your genre). If not move on to someone who does. Does s/he like English majors, but prefer brunettes to blonds? So, for example, likes fantasy but really only wants hard science fiction, (that would not be a fit for me.) So first genre and a fit there….but you aren’t done researching yet.
What are his/her specific interests? (Ask their friends as in: Read their blog!) Do you write epic fantasy when s/he wants dystopian? Does s/he want a little craziness when you write from a realistic perspective? Does s/he want some darkness, when you are all about coming into the light? No yenta in the world can make a match like that, no matter how hard the fiddler plays! I am also pretty sure that if what you read about them doesn’t entice you, a date is equally unlikely. Ignoring this and adopting a scattershot approach to this Dating Game is like expecting the worst blind date you ever had to work.
So for my update: January: I decided on two agents I wanted to query by the end of the month. (For non-writers, a query is the one page pitch letter, with an intro paragraph tailored to the agent, then description of the new love of his or her life, your book, the three summary paragraphs, moving to an individualized conclusion.) I researched them, read their blogs and started the individual parts of the query letters, started the enticing summary stuff, and almost finished the synopsis one of them wanted. Then intermission – first bump – my husband went to the hospital.
So February: This month I finished the three pithy, tantalizing, irresistible middle paragraphs of my query intended to capture the critical elements of the book, introduce the main protagonists, and the intriguing conflict that they face. (Ok, I am a fantasy person!) These paragraphs are crucial. Not only may they entice the agent to ask for a date, but become the text on the back of a paperback (…or the flyleaf of a hardcover!) that convince someone to buy and read your book. So….I labored over them, writing, editing, rewriting, running them past my friend and writing partner, William Walton, and responding to his critiques as he pushed me on my deadline. (For more about writing partners and William, see his page on this blog)
We also fine-tuned the beginning and ending paragraphs to the agent that seemed most likely to love The Call. This is my opening paragraph:
“Your description on the XYZ Agency web page made me think, miało być, it’s meant to be! A liking for realistic high fantasy, medieval if not English, and a desire for Polish culture: I believe The Call meets your request. An epic fantasy set within a political struggle, laced with Polish words and wisdom, The Call draws on the history and folklore of Poland. Your blog portrays you as offering straight forward representation. That is what I seek.”
So, for the ultimate in holding myself accountable: On Friday, I hit the send button on my query to this agent. He reviews within 3 weeks. So now the music is playing (I can hear the Jeopardy theme: Da dah, Da dah, Da dah dah,…) and I am waiting to see if it really is meant to be. Hopefully, he will ask for a date…and at least to get to know me better..
Cross your fingers for me or say a prayer for me….and if you made a resolution, I hope you are still trying, working away at it, fine tuning it. I am rooting for you, too…and I know you have it in you.