I got an agent!! No joke.

I can finally announce the news officially that I’ve been hinting about in posts.

I GOT AN AGENT!

The news became official while I was out of town for Georgia’s Moonlight & Magnolia Conference so I could only announce my good news on my social networks. For some reason it won’t feel really official until I can post it on my blog (apologies to those who’ve already heard the news).

My agent! Maura Kye-Casella with Don Congdon Assoc.

I actually ended up with three offers of representation, but ended up going with the fabulous Maura Kye-Casella with Don Congdon, Associates. For those fellow sci-fi nerds out there, their founder discovered Ray Bradbury, how cool is that? In romance land, she represents Sophie Jordan and Colleen Gleason! It still feels a little surreal and that I’m talking about this happening to someone else.

I thought I’d share a little about how it all happened for those of you still seeking representation, so you can see that it can happen to you. Like I said last week, I have patience and hard work to thank for this moment. All three agents commented about how “clean and polished” my manuscript was, and that they could send it out on submission right now. Squeee! So if you read last week’s post, that’s what I was hinting at, that all that polishing paid off!

Two of the agents who offered were the two I pitched to at RWA, so there’s several lessons to be had there. One, to tie into last week’s post (again), thank God I didn’t give in to my impatience and send them those partials right when I got back from RWA. This is NOT, however, an endorsement of pitching an incomplete manuscript! That is soooo different from the phase mine was in. Anyway, onward with my list. Two, pitches do work! Both said during our phone calls that they remembered the pitch and were intrigued from the start. Three, do your homework on whom to pitch to. It wasn’t random, I don’t think, that this all fell out for me this way. When I got that list from RWA, I researched every single agent on that two page list and narrowed down my choices to the ones I thought were my best chance. Actually, this segues into: Four, get ballsy. I thought Maura was out of my league when I pitched to her and couldn’t believe I had the nerve to do so.

Anyway, this all started happening one week after I began querying. One of the agents I pitched to made me giddy by asking to have my partial converted to a full. I felt like if nothing else happened, I’d at least made that milestone–that an agent had seen the goods and STILL wanted to keep reading. The next night, I got my first offer (from a different agent), which left me stunned! I alerted the other agents who were considering me, to let them know and gave them a time frame to respond. Monday, the second agent (the one I pitched to and who had converted the partial to a full) offered and now I was reeling. Thursday, Maura emailed to say she’d finished, said some very nice things about MUST LOVE BREECHES, and wanted to set up a call for Monday (this past Monday). Now I’m on pins and needles, not knowing if she’d offer. Obviously, she did, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! This doesn’t automatically mean it’ll find a home with a publisher, but I’m one step closer and feel like I have the best advocate for me! For those non-writer friends reading this, most traditional publishers will not look at unagented manuscripts so this is my only way to get into their hands and on your bookshelves.

So this is not only me sharing my awesome news, but also my way of encouraging you. Yes, it CAN happen. I thought this day would never come. I’d read and heard all the doom and gloom about how hard it is to land an agent. But don’t give up. Every time I got a rejection, I picked myself back up again and kept going, knowing that others would not, so I envisioned it as an opportunity to move into thinner ranks. Many fine writers give up after only 5 rejections. Don’t be one of those. I wouldn’t be in this position if I’d done that. Instead of giving up in the Spring when I faced rejection, I realized my manuscript wasn’t quite ready and did another Beta round and then did all the hard work of polishing that puppy up!

Are you querying? Do you have any specific questions about my path? Do you have good news to share too?

Ready to Query? The Importance of Patience

I had a fellow writer friend ask my advice about the right time to submit to agents. She had everything mapped out admirably in her calendar, including sending it off to a freelance editor. She was doing everything right, except for one thing. She wanted to know if she could slot the query process into the same place in her timeline as when her book is with her editor. She’d heard how long agents could take and so thought she could telescope that part of the process.

This was back in May and I had done a short burst of querying at this point, enough to know this was a bad idea. I had an agent request a full in less than 24 hours. So I advised her not to do that. Sure, some agents can take up to four months to get to your query, but that’s not always the case, and don’t you want to be ready for those agents that are quick?

I started my full-press querying in the middle of last month (so almost three weeks ago) and again the experience bore out my advice and my own personal decision to wait until I had every little thing ready. Most agents are quick now, and from what I could tell on forums, if they’re interested they actually act faster. I had several ask for fulls within the same day!

It’s so hard to be patient but it really does pay off. The other part of patience I had to practice was during the polishing phase. I had all my Beta feedback returned in June and had incorporated all the changes and revisions before the RWA conference. It was so tempting to send off my conference partial requests then because I SO wanted to get this manuscript into the queue and move on. But fortunately (though I cursed it several times during the process) I saw a blog post around that time from Janice Hardy called The Spit Shine: Things to Check Before You Submit. I used it as a jumping off point, creating a two page list of “flag” words from her post and others. So for several months I entered into a Polishing Phase. I did a search for every word on that list and evaluated its usage. I probably trimmed 3000 words that way! Or sometimes the words helped me see I’d lapsed out of Deep POV, so I rewrote that bit. Then I did one final read through scrutinizing each word, each phrase to decide whether I really needed it. Was it redundant? Did it have any relevance to the story plot? If not, I deleted them. It was exhausting and numbing and several times I really wondered if this effort was worth it. It was like pulling teeth making myself do this, because this isn’t the fun stage of revisions.

I actually did get a little impatient at the end and began querying a few who didn’t need to see any sample pages on a Wednesday, which pushed me to finish the rest that weekend. So as I got through the first 30 then 50, I sent off my partials and began querying the rest on my list. I pushed through my reading and was ready to send out full requests by that Monday (and I had some already)!

Whew!

Was it worth the extra time and patience?

Oh, yeah! More on that next week :)

The important thing is: don’t rush. You spent so much time on your manuscript, why short change it at the end of the process? Agents are not your Beta readers. Are you querying right now? What are you finding in response times? Did you also have to fight your impatience during this phase?

Housekeeping note: I will be at Georgia RWA’s Moonlight & Magnolia Conference this weekend! If you’re going too, drop me a line. But this means there will be no regularly scheduled posts until next week.

Make Sure Your Curtains Match the Drapes–Why Your Query’s Tone Matters

As some of you know, I’ve started the query phase again for MUST LOVE BREECHES. I don’t want to get too detailed about this for obvious reasons, but I did want to provide an update and a cautionary tale.

Some of you know I queried in the spring. I did a short burst to a few agents to test the waters and then stepped back and did another round of Beta readers. Last week, I finally finished revising and polishing from that round. So, initiating query phase again, but this time all out.

So, what’s one thing that I feel comfortable sharing with you while this is going on?

Make sure your curtains match the drapes.

If you’ve been doing your homework and reading blogs and lurking/participating in forum posts about this business, you know that this process is extremely subjective. I’ve also learned that from doing RWA contests. Therefore the varied responses from agents is something I understand (though of course sometimes I have to remind myself of this). But what does this mean?

Since it is subjective, make sure your query matches the tone and voice of your manuscript!

Often I’ll see queries posted in forums and websites for critique, and either due to a timidness on the part of the author, or because it’s been critiqued too many times, all voice, tone and personality is leached from the query. You basically now have very few signposts available to the agent for them to gauge your story. Most likely they’ll shrug their shoulders and say “Next.” You don’t want that. Sure, if you put your voice back into your query, you’ll get agents who’ll cringe or reject because it’s not their thing, but guess what? You want that to happen. You just saved yourself and that agent time, because you’ve successfully given them guidance about what to expect from your manuscript. However, your query now has the correct signposts to alert the type of agent who’ll love your story, and that’s what you want.

To give you an example, I just got this feedback from an agent based on my query and sample pages:

This sounds adorable! I’d love to take a look

Yay! Hopefully, I’ve matched my tone/voice in the query to my manuscript and she’ll still find it adorable. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything will happen with this agent, but my query did it’s job and alerted agents about what to expect with my manuscript.

I’ll go ahead and post my query (minus the opening personalized part):

Isabelle Rochon, a thoroughly modern American working at the British Museum, has finally met the man of her dreams. There’s one problem: he lives in another century.

When a mysterious artifact zaps Isabelle to pre-Victorian London, a thief steals it, stranding her in a place where nobody’s heard of toilet paper or women’s lib. Now she must find the artifact, navigate the pitfalls of a stiffly polite London, keep her origins a secret, and, oh, resist her growing attraction to Lord Montagu, the Vicious Viscount so hot, he curls her toes. But when he asks her to pose as his fiancée for his scheme of revenge, his now constant presence overthrows her equilibrium and kicks in her old insecurities. Why does he have to be so damn hunky, compelling and, well, Drool-Worthy? This is not what she needs. She’d carved off part of herself for another man before and is determined never to make that same mistake again. Staying would be the ultimate follow-the-boyfriend move. Besides, she’d just reassembled her life and getting promoted at the museum will ensure she can remain in London and the life she’s carefully built. In the end, she must decide when her true home lies.

MUST LOVE BREECHES is a time travel romance complete at 98,000 words. It features such historical figures as Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage. Fans of the TV mini-series LOST IN AUSTEN will love the modern woman’s fish out of water foibles, while experiencing a more scientific and mechanical London. It is similar in tone to THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION, and Katie MacAlister’s contemporary romances. It is a standalone novel with the potential to be a prequel in a series of steampunk romances.

I hold a Masters in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University and am an RWA-PRO member, as well as a member of three RWA chapters: Gulf Coast, Hearts Through History and FF&P. My contemporary geek romance novelette, BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS, is contracted by Secret Cravings Publishing, and due to release in January 2013.

MUST LOVE BREECHES has finaled in ten RWA chapter contests in 2012–in the Regency/Victorian/Georgian category of the Hearts Through History’s Romancing Through The Ages contest, and in the paranormal category for Washington DC’s Marlene contest, San Antonio’s Merritt contest, Virginia Fool for Love contest, Celtic Hearts Golden Claddagh contest (winner), Greater Seattle’s ECO contest, Georgia’s Maggie contest, Utah’s Heart of the West contest, and Denver’s Molly contest, and in the time travel/steampunk/historical category of FF&P’s On the Far Side contest.

Are you querying right now? What have you found in regards to query tone and voice? If you’ve read MLB, do you think this query matches in tone and voice?