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.