on the value of networking

For those of you who read helluo librorum regularly, you know that Monday is the day I usually post. Last week was completely blown away from me by a much-needed and most excellent vacation to the lovely city of Miami, and the incredible good fortune to land Weronika Janczuk of the D4EO Literary Agency as my agent. I had just enough time to write a brief post about the experience, and I promised I’d return this week and go into the details of how it happened.

When I decided to re-enter the mad world of publishing after a long hiatus, I spent a lot of time studying the changes in the market. Everything from how to query to social networking had changed dramatically since the early 80s when I first started writing. To bring myself up-to-date, I relied on several marvelous agents, who spend a great deal of time coaching writers through their excellent blogs. You can find some of the agents I followed on my Writing Links page.

One agent, Colleen Lindsay, advocated becoming a member of the online community at Backspace: the Writer’s Place. It was the best move I ever made. You see, while I was working on my novel, I was also working on my query letter, and one of the fine services you can find at BackSpace is a thread devoted to query critiques. Any Backspace member can post their query, and other writers will review and critique it. I posted my query and received valuable feedback from a lot of different writers. Two ladies in particular came back and gave my query additional feedback, Sara J. Henry and Weronika Janczuk.

I visited the web pages of each author who took the time to give me feedback on my query, and I ended up following both Sara and Weronika on Twitter. Some time went by and one day in the spring, I just happened to catch one of Sara’s tweets about Weronika. Sara tweeted that Weronika was offering to critique queries and the first ten pages of manuscripts for free.

So I went to Weronika’s blog and read her posts. I saw that she was interning for some excellent literary agencies. I was also very impressed with the number of accomplishments Weronika had achieved at her age, and she immediately struck me as a person who knew her goals and how to achieve them.

Since I had worked on my query and hired an editor, Kristen Weber, to help me polish it, I thought this would be a great opportunity to see if it worked. So I sent my query and first ten pages to Weronika, who made some more recommendations about my query and was very complimentary about my writing. However, other than a brief thank you e-mail from me to her, Weronika and I had little or no contact from that point on.

I continued working on my edits for An Autumn Tale, determined to make the novel as polished as possible before querying. I missed my personal deadlines a couple of times, but I decided I’d rather be late rather than query too soon. Whenever I felt like giving up, I would go back to Weronika’s encouraging e-mail to give me hope that I did indeed have what it took to be a writer.

More months passed and the magic moment finally arrived: the novel was complete and I was ready to query. I didn’t send queries in batches; I was very selective about the agents I queried. I sent one query and received a request for a partial. The next week I sent another query, waited one week, and sent another one.

Two rejections came within a couple of days or weeks from sending the queries, and I have to admit, no matter how gentle the agent is, it’s still like getting kicked in the teeth. I knew their rejections weren’t personal and, truth be told, I was really glad they got back to me quickly so I could cross them off my list. Yet when I first see the rejection, there is always this awful doubt that rises up to grab me by the throat and just screams that I’m not good enough. It’s a terrible feeling and it never gets easier.

So I held out hope on the partial and scoured Publishers Lunch to stay abreast of the market and agency news. While scanning Publishers Lunch on my lunch hour one day, I saw the formal announcement that Weronika Janczuk was now a literary agent with the D4EO Literary Agency.

I remembered how enthusiastic Weronika had been about my writing, and I knew I had nothing to lose by querying her. Knowing that new literary agents often fill their lists fast, I didn’t waste any time. I queried Weronika with a “you probably don’t remember me, but . . .” and she immediately replied that she did remember me. She wanted to read the full. I was stunned, but not so stunned that I didn’t turnaround and immediately send it to her. I was also completely upfront with her about the other agent who had the partial.

Weronika got back to me in a couple of days and wanted to schedule a phone conversation. She also wanted me to send her any other partials or synopses that I may have for other projects.

I’m not sure what happened next, because I think I stopped breathing . . .

Everything I had for my other projects was all in my head, so I spent my Sunday writing a synopsis for Guillermo and a brief outline of the Katharoi series. Let me pause here to say that nothing lights the creative spark beneath a writer’s fingers faster than having a literary agent request a synopsis. Guillermo, which had been hitching and gasping along, suddenly came to life.

Then I e-mailed two writers who have been a steadying influence for me. Both of them cautioned me to breathe and that everything was going to be fine. Kat e-mailed me a hoard of sites with questions writers should have on hand to ask literary agents. I found a set I really liked and printed them out.

Meanwhile, the literary agent who had asked for the partial, requested the full.

I’m not sure what happened next, because I think I stopped breathing . . .

At that point there had been no official offer of representation by anyone, so I sent the agent the full and decided to see how the call with Weronika went. There was the chance that Weronika wouldn’t offer representation, and if she did, I would tell her about the full then.

I had asked Weronika to let me call her, because of my hearing and my phone situation, and on Monday evening, I made the call. I’d be lying if I didn’t say my heart wasn’t in my throat, but I also figured that if Weronika and I didn’t click, then I just hadn’t found the right agent yet. Personalities play a big part in the writer/agent relationship, and being able to feel very comfortable with the person representing me was a big part of my criteria for an agent.

At first I was concerned about Weronika’s age, but after talking to her, I realized I’d pegged her correctly from reading her blog. I was extremely impressed with her demeanor and professionalism. I only needed the list for a few questions, because Weronika had anticipated everything else and had answers for me.

We discussed marketing the book, and after listening to her for a few minutes, I was ready to buy my own novel. She also impressed me with her knowledge of the fantasy market and the changes we’d need to make to bring An Autumn Tale up to par for the market. Weronika and I discussed a few changes during that conversation, and everything she recommended was dead-on. We talked for an hour and Weronika offered representation.

I explained the situation with the other agent; I also let Weronika know that I had told the other agent about her, and the agent said she would be back in touch within a few days. Weronika said it was no problem, she understood, and I told her I’d let her know as soon as possible.

After I got off the phone with Weronika, I researched the D4EO Literary Agency and could find nothing but good things about Robert Diforio and his agents. I was becoming more and more comfortable with Weronika by the moment. She is also a rare creature in that she is an editing agent and that was a heavy plus on her side for me.

Now I dreaded having to make an awful decision by having to choose between two very competent agents. My husband told me not to worry and to enjoy my vacation, and his advice was on the mark. The only difference in our travel plans was that the laptop I had intended to leave behind came with me to Miami so I could monitor my e-mail.

The other agent was true to her word and got back to me within a day or so with the news that she had to decline representation on An Autumn Tale. She was complimentary of my writing and told me if I ever wanted to send her other projects, to please do so. This was a classic case of the book wasn’t right for the agent. Nevertheless, I felt like I’d been kicked in the teeth (it’s that rejection thing I talked about earlier), but I also experienced the most intense relief that I wouldn’t have to choose between the two agents.

I immediately e-mailed Weronika to let her know the news. She was delighted and so was I. I am extremely comfortable with the DE4O Literary Agency’s Author Agreement, and the way things worked out. Weronika is a dynamic, long-term planner and I love her high energy. The D4EO Literary Agency is a solid agency that has been around since 1989 under the steady guidance of Bob Diforio.

If you’re still with me so far, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with networking. It all boils down to this: if I hadn’t started my blog, joined Twitter, then Backspace, Weronika and I never would have connected. It is just that simple.

Networking doesn’t have to happen online. Michael Hughes talked about attending Tom and Elizabeth Monteleone’s Borderlands Press Boot Camp. Stay tuned, because I’ll be telling you more about the Borderlands Press Boot Camp later this week.

Michael achieved representation as a direct result of attending the Borderlands Boot Camp. I took a slightly different route and cultivated online relationships, and now I’m in the same boat as Michael in that I’m going “from nowhere to somewhere, but not quite there yet.” However, like Michael, I’d like to give you a few tips that might ease your way on that road to representation:

  • Don’t query too soon. Write the best possible novel you can, then query.
  • Get online. Weronika is answering questions on her blog, and she has a great answer about online platforms and web presence here. I definitely recommend that you blog.
  • Blog about things that will interest other people. I didn’t want helluo librorum to be just about me. I wanted to create a community where writers could meet one another and share their ideas and experiences.
  • Visit other writers and their blogs and comment. If you love seeing comments on your blog, imagine how that makes other people feel.
  • Take advantage of any opportunity for help. If I hadn’t responded to Weronika’s offer of help back in the spring, I wouldn’t have had the edge of saying we met. I really believe that helped.
  • If you join no other social networking sites, join these: Backspace, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Go to conferences, workshops, and conventions. If all you do is go up to an agent and say “hello, my name is _________,” you’ve made contact with another person. Don’t just talk about yourself and your novel. Talk about the agent’s clients and their clients’ novels, talk about the agent’s blog and what you’ve learned from them. The more you make your conversation about other people and their interests, the more you will be remembered.
  • Blog, tweet, and comment regularly. It doesn’t have to be every single day, but do keep a schedule.
  • Remember that it takes time to build relationships. Sometimes you will feel an immediate connection with someone and other times it will take months before you and another writer feel comfortable with one another.
  • Don’t come off too strong at first with online relationships. It’s one thing to comment regularly on someone’s blog or on Twitter, but don’t treat a new connection like your best friend on the second comment or tweet.
  • Another writing community that I really enjoy belonging to is the Online Writing Workshop (OWW). I found some very special critique partners at OWW.

Whatever you do, write, and don’t give up. I commented to a good online friend once that I hoped he would remember the little people when he was rich and famous. He told me that he didn’t know any little people, just rising stars.

Now stay tuned. Later this week, I’m going to tell you more about the Borderlands Press Boot Camp, and very soon, I’m going to interview my agent and give you the opportunity to meet Weronika. I think you’ll like her — I know I’m really looking forward to working with her.

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About T. Frohock

Please visit my web site at: www.tfrohock.com
This entry was posted in Literary Agents and Blogs, publication, query letters, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to on the value of networking

  1. Teresa,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I was on pins and needles just reading about it. Also, thanks for the tips. Congrats again and good luck as you continue on your path to publication!

    • Hey Jonathan, I can’t wait for when you finish your novel and are ready to start submitting. It’s really an adventure, and you meet so many wonderful people along the way.

  2. erikamarks says:

    Such a great tale of your journey, Teresa. I too have been looking forward to reading the story of how your and Weronika’s partnership came to be.

    Networking IS so important. People are often under the misimpression that you have to “know” someone in the business to get an agent. Not true. What you must do, certainly, is be and stay connected to the network and always maintain professional correspondences along the way. Agents remember their contacts too.

    It’s such a wonderful feeling to finally have that support of an agent, that person in your professional corner–congratulations again!

    • I think that’s a great way to put it, Erika, about staying connected with professional correspondences. Of course, you should know! 😉

      Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back your way soon; I’m still playing catch-up from being away last week.

  3. Kelly Bryson says:

    Hey Teresa- Thanks for sharing with us. It’s so nice to see good things happen for others, not as strikes of lightning, but as a result of hard work, flying kites in a thunderstorm, as it were 😉

  4. Lindsay says:

    Teresa! Mucho congrats on your agent acquisition! I even enjoyed the story you told with this post, so I’m sure we’ll see AAT in print soon. 🙂

    • Hi, Lindsay, I’m so glad to see you! I hope we get Lucian and company in print, it would be wonderful. 😉

      I’m looking forward to seeing good news on your site too.

  5. kim says:

    I’m so happy for you, Teresa. You’re spot on in your post. True about social media. And landing a great agent is the best–so valuable to you and your writing career. I know, I was lucky to find my dream one.

  6. Congrats!! Weronika helped me a great deal with my MS as well! She’s great! Congrats!

  7. Joan says:

    This post was amazing, with lots of juicy details and great advice!
    Congrats on getting an agent (especially with someone as impressive and talented as Weronika) and I hope to see your book on stores soon 🙂

  8. tikiman1962 says:

    Lord Byron stated “I awoke and found myself famous.” His irony is duly noted. No one who writes and wishes to become involved in the BUSINESS of writing has any honest illusions about what to do and how it gets done. Hard work and dedication are obvious traits (and you have always shown those, Teresa, in your blog commentaries). But there is also something to be said about the stars aligning, being in the right place at the right time, etc.
    This detailed entry almost seems like a screwball comedy with ups and downs and twists and turns and yet everything coming out all right in the end. I’m sure while the events were playing out you never thought of it in those terms. What you have done for me (and I’m certain countless other writers who follow you) is to present that glimmer of hope and show the Reality of it.
    We share our stories, our success and lack thereof. We take from them and we learn. And when something like this happens, we rejoice.
    May it be the start of something fantastic.
    H.B.

    • Ah, HB, famous I’m not . . . infamous, perhaps. Thanks for your support, though. It all boils down to careful planning and a good sense of time along with a hefty dose plain, blind luck at times. But it’s like Michael Hughes said, celebrate every success, no matter how small and prepare for the work that is to come. Thanks for stopping by and hang in there.

  9. jenniferneri says:

    Teresa this is so exciting – you made the whole process sound so exciting! Good for you – and Congratulations! All the best.

  10. kat magendie says:

    I am just sitting here with a stooopid grin on while reading this – the energy, the happiness, the excitement in this post! And, as I said, your getting an agent that quickly says big things about you and your work . . . I’m so impressed . . . I’m equally impressed by how you went about it. This is how authors become successful, not only by writing books, but by the hard work that comes with it -things that seem to have nothing to do with being an author, but certainly do – especially now!

    You reminded me to renew my Backspace dues! I’m ashamed to say I let them lapse for a long time – over a year at least! I renewed and paid my dues (which are cheap!) before I finished reading your post, just so I wouldn’t get busy and forget. 😀

    Your writing about Weronicka makes me want her on my side *laughing* But, seriously, she sounds wonderful . . . but more important, she sounds like a champion for your work, energetic champion, and that’s golden.

    So very excited for you, Teresa — just can’t wait to have your book in my hands! or should I say “bookS” 😀

    • Hi Kat, I’m so happy you’re along for my ride. Part of what I learned about social networking I learned from you, so you were teaching even though you didn’t know you were teaching! I’m glad you renewed you Backspace dues. I’ll keep mine up too, although I haven’t had time to get there as often as I like. Although I won’t be posting on OWW, I intend to keep my dues active to support the site. I’m also keeping those critique partners who hung with me through the 1,000 re-writes I did to get AnAutTale off the ground. 😉

  11. Fantastic post Teresa! My phone call with Weronika – actually, we spoke on skype! – was just as positive as yours. I am thrilled and honored to be represented by such a talented agent and agency. Here’s to us, agent sisters! Cheers!

    • Hi Dawn! Now I know what Weronika meant when she was talking about trying to schedule a Skype conference. I think we’re in good hands, and I’m looking forward to seeing your work.

  12. Lua says:

    Your story is truly inspiring Teresa- thank you so much for sharing it 🙂 And those are some great tips, no good can come from rushing, we should take our time, write the best novel we possibly can and then query.

    • Hi Lua, thanks for stopping by! Trust me, there were times when I wanted to say oh the heck with it and send it off, but I really made myself wait until I knew the story was as right as I could make it. It’s not done yet. There’ll be more edits along the line, but I’m not worried about that.

  13. Oh, T, ever since I heard the news, I’ve been dying for the details. I hadn’t realized you and Weronika had known each other for a while. That had to have been especially reassuring when you were trying to locate your respiratory muscles. 🙂

    As has been commented on before, between your writing, your level head and your work ethic, I knew it was only a matter of time until a discerning agent swooped you up. Congratulations! Can’t wait until you’re blogging about a sale.

    • I’m so glad you’re back! Thank you, Jan, but we might be a tad longer before the sale post is up. Meanwhile I’ll keep you posted on the angst of edits. 😉

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