© Cheryl Colombo 2012
First, thanks so much for inviting me to do this guest post, Michelle!
Like many other writers, I’ve spent several years in the query trenches, writing, re-writing, and submitting, all in the hopes of finding that one agent who loves my work. I’ve had more than my share of highs and lows. The 3rd novel I queried came particularly close, garnering a large amount of requests, but in the end, no offers. So when it came time to query MONSTROUS (my 7th book, but 4th I’d decided to query), I had reached a point where I was paralyzed by fear.
I was absolutely (and foolishly) terrified to send out this book. I was scared to send it to my crit partners. Then once they approved, I was afraid to send it to agents. I was even nervous to enter it into blog contests (which normally I love to do!). MONSTROUS is hands down the weirdest and most challenging book I’ve written to date and I was very emotionally invested in it. The thought of it coming close and not being good enough to get an agent yet again stalled my forward momentum, despite my full awareness that I was being a complete ninny.
Then came the Writers Voice Contest in May (hosted by the lovely foursome of Brenda Drake, Cupid, Krista Van Dolzer, and Monica BW). I got up the nerve to enter and was shocked and thrilled that 3 of the judges wanted my weird little book to be on their team. By the time the contest ended and the agents had voted, I had several requests for MONSTROUS.
This was exactly the push I needed to start sending out queries. I began researching agents on my list who I thought would be a good fit with renewed gusto, but still held back a little. I queried in fits and starts and only when I was in a Go Big or Go Home frame of mind. I’d send them out late at night before I could think better of it and usually woke up the next morning thinking I was crazy to have done that. This was not my normal querying process by any means! Usually I’d send out 5-10 at a time to a range of agents so I didn’t burn through my top picks before perfecting my query. But this time, I felt confident my query and first pages were good (it was just the rest of the book I worried about!) and I ended up querying only my A-list. I was blown away by the response – I only sent out 20 queries, but my request rate was about 70%. Including the ones from contests, I had 18 requests for MONSTROUS.
But, of course, I was still getting rejections – it’s inevitable. About 6 weeks after I sent out the first batch of queries, I got an email response from an agent as I was walking home from the train station. I nearly fell over when I saw the preview of the message on my phone read “Would you be available to chat this week?” I kept telling myself she probably wanted major revisions and that she wasn’t calling to offer. But it was an offer! And she was lovely and she was excited about my book and I was pretty much on cloud nine! After I talked to Agent #1, I nudged everyone else reading my book (8 at the time) and all the outstanding queries (another 5 or so). A couple got back to me bowing out, others with requests.
One of those requests happened to be from a particular agent who I’d long considered to be someone I’d give my right arm to work with, so I was over the moon that she wanted to read MONSTROUS! I sent the manuscript off right away and she got back to me later that night to let me know how much she was enjoying it so far. She finished reading within 24 hours and emailed again, gushing about my book (!), to arrange a phone call.
That was about the time my head exploded.
Fortunately, I managed to pull myself together for our call a couple days later! Agent #2’s enthusiasm for her work, her clients’ books, and MY book completely blew me away. Add to that the fact that her suggestions for revisions were spot on and she was easy to talk to, and I had a feeling she was going to be the right agent for me.
The happy dancing officially reached epic levels (to the point where the excessive flailing was scaring my dogs)!
But I still had several agents reading and wanted to be sure I gave everyone who was interested serious consideration. You really don’t know how you’ll click with an agent until you talk to them. Out of those agents, I received another offer and had another Call with Agent #3. She was as excited about MONSTROUS as the other agents, her clients loved her just as much, and her sales record was stellar. She was even easy to talk to. I could tell she’d be a great advocate for my book.
Then came the hard part – I had to make a decision. All three agents were awesome. I felt certain they’d all work hard to sell MONSTROUS and they were all interested in helping me build a career. It was both wonderful and terrible because I’d have to say no to two of them and there’s nothing I like less than disappointing people (especially nice, awesome people).
But when it came right down to it, I kept coming back to Agent #2. I felt like we really clicked over email and the phone, and she’d made a point of keeping in contact over the course of that week. Not only did I like her ideas for revision just a little more than the others, but her level of enthusiasm was higher and I believed that would translate over during the submission process to editors. When I finally emailed Suzie Townsend to tell her I was delighted to officially accept her offer of representation, part of me was terrified it was all just a dream and she’d email back “Just kidding!” Fortunately, that was NOT the case J We’ve been working together for the past few weeks preparing to go out on submission and she’s been absolutely fantastic!
BIO: MarcyKate Connolly is a writer and arts administrator who lives in New England with her husband and pugs. She’s also a coffee addict, voracious reader, and recurring commuter. She blogs at her website and the From the Write Angle group blog, and volunteers as a moderator at AgentQueryConnect.com. Her work is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media. Her short story “Connected” was recently published in the Spring Fevers anthology by Elephants Bookshelf Press.