How I Found an Agent Who Asked for my Full Manuscript

You know that one time when I thought my book was done and I was going to submit it to Kindle Scout? Well, turns out I was wrong.

I won’t get into the details of why I decided against Kindle Scout because, well, read the title of the post. Let’s just focus on my brand of finding an agent, plus what’s happened so far. Sound good? No? Well, tough.

Part 1: THE HOW:

Anyone who has thought about querying has probably read the gazillion Writer’s Digest articles about A.) Looking for agent names in the “Acknowledgement” section of books comparable to yours, or B.) Subscribing to Publisher’s Marketplace. I’m not a fan of either method because A.) Ain’t nobody got time for that, and B.) Who the hell designed that site’s search function?

Since, I didn’t want to spend hours in the teen section at B&N (see: Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That), I decided to consult Amazon, the One True God of the Internet, to see if I could find a quicker way to find an agent. I pulled up Amazon categories for my genre, looked for books similar to mine, and then hit the author websites to see if they mentioned their agent. After I checked the agent websites to see if they were open to queries, I then used the Google machine to see who else they represented by typing the following (including quotes):

“Represented by Agent McAgentson

Most authors write something along the lines of “I am represented by Agent McAgentson” on their site, so Google will use its black magic to find this exact term.

Part 2: THE WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR

After ten or so responses beginning with Unfortunately, Regretfully, or I’m Sorry to Say, an agent asked for my full after reading the first few chapters. I was stoked. Nay, I was more than stoked. I was pumped as H-E double hockey sticks. There I was, Joe No Name, and this totally legit agent actually wanted to read my stuff. It was the goddamned cat’s meow, man.

About a week later, I got a response. Not a bad response, but not so bueno either. The story, this agent said, wasn’t really their schtick. They gave me their reasons why — a pretty classy move as I understand this doesn’t happen all the time — and wished me the best.

Bummer, I thought. Major effing bummer.

Despite the suckiness of getting rejected, the agent’s comments gave the hamsters in my brain a reason to start running. The more I thought about it, the more I saw the defects in my story. Changes needed to be made if I wanted to have a better book.

I went ahead and thanked them for their time, but also asked if they’d be willing to give the thing another glance if I made some changes. They said that, yeah, they’d take a peek, and to email them directly.

Badass, I thought. My story would now be in a considerably smaller slush pile once I resubmitted.

And so I made changes. Major changes. Thanksgiving gave me a couple weeks from the soul-crushing demands of graduate school and I used every second to do some gnarly rewrites. I had a friend read through it, tell me it was horrible, then tell me he was kidding, and then tell me I should send it back. I did it. That was a few days ago. Now I’m waiting, another of my not-favorite things.

Given that this agent probably reads a whole crap ton of manuscripts, I’m not banking on them giving much time to an already-rejected manuscript. But that’s okay. Like, really okay. See, as much as it sucks to get rejected, there’s something good to be learned from this experience. I now know that my query & first few chapters were good enough to attract the attention of someone who represents a NYT bestseller. It also forced me to do a whole slew of rewrites that made my book even better.

And so, dear friends, that’s the whole show for today. Now that I actually have something other than grad school to write about, I’m sure I’ll be hitting up this old bloggity blog a bit more. That is, of course, unless I decide to start documenting the joys of performing prostate exams or the exciting realm of antihypertensive drugs (I think they’re both awesome so please don’t judge me).

I don’t imagine a lot of you would appreciate that though.

Onward to Kindleville?

With the book so close to being done I want to keep rolling out the updates on how things are progressing. So far I’m still a bit torn on the route I want to go but I did read this interesting post from H.D. Knightley who submitted and got passed over in the Kindle Scout program. Her experience with the whole deal was a little less than positive, so it’s definitely got me thinking about if I ought to go that route. Basically her take on it is that authors are giving Amazon traffic by driving votes for their books to your Kindle Scout campaign and why the hell should we be doing that? Give it a read if you want to know more of the details.

Second, I’ve gotten more feedback from beta readers and the consensus is that they really like the dialogue. This has me ultra-stoked because I thought the dialogue was fairly clever while writing it, but seeing as it’s my writing I don’t tend to be objective.

Last — well, second to last — I’ve been lurking hard on some book review blogs for anyone willing to check out my book and let me tell you that there are not a ton of folks who want anything to do with people who self-pub. What a bummer, right? I guess it makes sense from their point of view because they probably get flooded with total crap and it’s not their job to sort through a slush pile when publishers are sending them ARCs for their perusing pleasure. I’m still a little salty at book bloggers as a collective entity.

Lastly — for real this time — I want to say shank you to my new followers. New followers are the best part of blogging. The feeling of scheduling a blog entry, forgetting about, and then getting new follows is ordering something on Amazon, forgetting you ordered it, and then coming home to find the package on your front porch. It rules.

They Said They Liked It?

Let me tell you something about being done with a book. You spend all this time writing the damn thing, then rewriting, then wondering if maybe you’d been in the midst of a hitherto undiagnosed fever dream when you fancied your book a page turner.

And then you ask other people to read it.

I gave my book to beta-readers with the full expectation that they were going to hate it. Actually, “hate” isn’t right. Hate it is too mild. It’d be entirely more accurate to say that I expected them to gather on my lawn for a cookout/burning of my main character’s effigy once they got a taste of the pestilence I’d cast down upon them. I imagine they’d even make s’mores over her smoldering carcass when it was over.

I’m happy to report that didn’t happen. The effigy, I mean. I can neither confirm nor disconfirm the making of s’mores on my front lawn.

Conversely, and in a most excellent turn of events, I’ve been getting very positive feedback. And no, it’s not the kind of positive feedback you get from people who don’t want to hurt your feelings, if that’s what you were thinking. This is the kind that is positive, but with constructive criticism. One of my beta readers even read the whole thing in a night and now wants the sequel which, incidentally, is done. Pretty bitchin’, right?

So now I’m happy. I’ve got some good notes, some points that my betas agreed were awkward or confusing, and thus a pretty solid piece of real estate from which to springboard into blissful rewriting joy. All in all I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. Well, pleased and tired. But mostly tired.

Lastly, I am seriously looking into this whole Kindle Scout thing, because what the hell do I have to lose, right? Worst case scenario is they tell me, “Thanks, but no thanks” and the book continues to yield zero dollars in sales.

My Post about a Post about how to Ask Strangers for Favors

So with my novel now in the hands of ten or so beta readers I’ve been racking the old brain meats for what to do next. Should I, A.) Keep on with the working draft of the sequel? B.) Start start scheming on how to get my book into readers who aren’t obligated to like me because they’re my friends and family? C.)  Stew in my own special broth of anxiety (two parts fear of being judged, one part fear of the future) until the betas come back with reviews?

Oh, the choices.

Rather than be a worry wart or put time into a draft that may end up being a total rewrite I’ve decided on option B. With that in mind, I clicked the trusty ole’ Search button on the side of my blog admin page and started hunting for answers on how one goes about finding book bloggers who might be willing to give my humble tome a shot. I found a few useful posts — and a few, well, less than useful posts — but the cream of the crop is a post from the blog of Cinthia Ritchie on how to not piss off book bloggers entitled, “How to not piss off a book blogger when requesting a review.”

Apropos much?

Anyways, if you’re looking for the same sort of advice on how to not anger internet strangers when you’re asking for their help I’d suggest giving it a go. Also take a peek at the blog of the very nice lady who did the interview for the post, Julie Valerie, right here.

Working Draft Might not be Working

After plugging away on this damn rewrite I am officially about 75% through it. Pretty dope, right?

Well, yes and no. The good news is that I actually like what I’m reading. The poop news is that I think this big bastard is going to end up sitting around 120k words even after revisions. That, amigos, is no bueno.

From what I understand — which is, admittedly, very little — for a first time author (see: the guy writing this blog poat on his phone) 120k is a teensy bit heavy for YA. That leaves me with a few choices on where to go with this thing:

1. Trim off about 20k-30k but that’s a horrible idea.

2. Self-publish the whole thing in that true punk DIY ethic.

3. Cut the novel in 2 and self-publish with said ethic.

4. Say screw it and pitch it anyways

Right now I don’t have any idea which to choose but I’m getting so damn close to finishing this thing that I’ve got to figure to out real soon, man. If anyone has a thought, or even multiple thoughts, I’m open to hearing them.

I Done Did Something Good

Making time to write when you’re going to school, being a daddy-o, and living up to the title of Best Husband in the Northern Hemisphere is not easy peasy lemon squeezy. But I do it — in the twenty minutes before a class, the half hour before bed, and while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office. I seriously bring my laptop every damn where.

And it’s paid off.

After a few years of busting my hump whenever I could I finally have a couple of projects worth a crap. I finished a first draft of one book — it actually sucks but that’s normal for my first drafts — and I’m pretty darn close to wrapping up with rewriting my first YA book. The YA book is the one I’m stoked on, mostly because after reading big portions of it I kinda like it.

So the downside: the book is a teensy bit on the long side. As in 120,000 words sort of long. I don’t know if that’s too long to get the damn thing picked up and agent, but I don’t really care, mostly because I have been thinking a lot about this whole self-publishing game. I mean, I really really really like the idea of getting picked up by a publishing house, but I’ve been starting to ask myself why I care so much. The answer, at least the most honest answer, is that I feel like getting published traditionally would legitimize me as a writer. The thing is, that’s a bunch of bullspit. What I really want is for people to read my writing and like it. If that happens then it really doesn’t matter if it happens traditionally or not.

Halfway Done!

As of tonight I am 43,000 words into my 75,000 word goal! Whoa, right? It’s crazy that I’ve been able to get this much done while still taking a full load of graduate level coursework and being a pretty solid dad and husband. All in all I’m pretty proud of myself.

This experience has also made me think a ton about going back and reworking another manuscript I have. It was this little YA ditty I wrote about a girl who, living in a world where title and societal role is passed from parent to child, is forced by tradition into a role of leadership. It’s all about how she doesn’t want to take on the role and how she deals with the pressure of being forced to live a life she doesn’t desire. The first draft left me feeling less than stoked when I first finished it, but having gone through this process of writing has me thinking that maybe I ought to reexamine what I wrote. This current manuscript is going to need some serious rewriting so it doesn’t seem too crazy to take on rewriting the previous story as well. I reread the first couple of chapters and it doesn’t suck nearly as badly as I remember, so that’s something. Plus, the first draft is about 125,000 words and I loathe the idea of all that work going to waste.