I'm so happy to bring you another story of inspiration and also confirmation that contests do help. Can I get a Whoop Whoop for a former Minion from Nightmare on Query Street--Aimee Hyndman! (See her contest entry here.) Congrats on getting an agent, Aimee, and good luck on submission. I can't wait to read Hour of Mischief!
Well, here we are, and as I sit here typing this, I am floating in surreal clouds of happiness.
I was a sophomore in high school when I finished my first book and decided to get it published. Not that I had any knowledge of what publishing entailed. For all I knew, the magic book fairies came by and *poof* a book was made. But, just in case book fairies didn't exist, I plunged into research. I wanted to educate myself before sending my query into the great unknown. I wanted to find the best agents for me, write the best query, and have the very best book. So when I finally sent off my query, I was sure I would get a positive response. After all, I'd done everything, right? I'd done my research and it was going to pay off.
Well, I didn't get any bites. Because no matter how much research I did, my first book really wasn't ready. It belonged to a saturated genre and the pacing wasn't where it needed to be. In the end I got two partial requests in all: one from the slush pile and one from a contest. But both partials were rejected because, honestly, the writing wasn't ready. No matter how many stories I heard about failed manuscripts from other querying writers, I never considered that mine might also fail. I thought I had done everything. I had gone through all the motions. But it didn't matter. I still needed practice. I loved my first book but in the end I set it aside, deciding to work on other projects before I took it back to the editing stage.
I wrote HOUR OF MISCHIEF, the YA Steampunk Fantasy that would eventually be my winning manuscript, for fun in the fall of my senior year of high school. I expanded it off of a short story I had written at a writing camp and planned to expand later on. I started typing and before the month ended, the manuscript stood completed at just over 60,000 words. I edited the novel over the summer, but I hadn't really considered querying it any time soon as I wasn't sure I wanted to jump into the fray again. After all, it was my freshman year of college and I had a lot to focus on, so querying would just cause undue stress and--
Yeah, that lasted about two weeks. And within those two weeks I stumbled across #pitmad, a twitter pitch contest. Without giving myself much time to think about it, I cast my story to the wind. Just like that, I was back in the trenches.
This time, I was met with different results. Agents actually requested partials and fulls, a phenomenon which I hadn't been expecting at all. I mean, HOUR OF MISCHIEF was something I wrote for fun because I liked the characters. I didn't consider the possibility of it being my winning manuscript.
I guess that shows you what I knew.
The surprises continued with one too-good-to-be-true event after another. I entered in the Nightmare on Query Street contest, hosted right here on this blog. Again, I expected nothing. Again I was surprised. Michelle selected me for her group of minions. The contest was better than I'd ever hoped for and I walked away with several requests. And the same weekend I got a full request from another agent with my partial. I didn't even know how to handle myself.
I didn't know it at the time, but my road to an agent started with that weekend. As the end of the year hit and things slowed down, I tried to distract myself from the waiting game with homework and more writing. But a few agents had had my manuscript for longer than their stated response time so I figured I should nudge. I'm so glad I did. The agent who requested my full during the weekend of the contest had never gotten my email. In fact, I had email problems with this same agent, with my initial submission back in the fall. Apparently our emails didn't want her to see my MS. From the get go, this agent was super helpful and communicative. When I nudged her about the full, she told me that her email had eaten it. And, even more excitingly, that she had been thinking about my MS the other day, wondering why she rejected it.
Wait really? Thinking about my manuscript? Really?
I was over the moon as I resent the full MS to her and she promised to get back to me quickly. My mind flip flopped endlessly between 'maybe this is the one' and 'maybe it isn't'. A few weeks later, I woke up to an email asking to schedule a call. Perhaps THE call. I recall rolling out of my bed, crawling over to my roommate's bed and poking her until she woke up so I could scream about it with her. Then I breathed and tried to keep a level head (which worked for two seconds), and emailed back to schedule a time. Then I waited for the call, trying to convince myself that I shouldn't get my hopes up and this was probably a revise and resubmit at best.
I was surprisingly coherent for the call. I didn't black out which I think was a good sign. Not even when she offered me representation, though I came close to swooning at that point. I certainly started belting Let it Go at the top of my lungs as soon as I hung up (As that is the only proper expression of happiness).
In the end, this agent did up being the one. I only received one offer but several congratulatory step asides. And I was fine with that. Because my now agent, Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary, was the perfect fit for HOUR OF MISCHIEF.
When I look back on my querying process, I realize that ALL of my major success came from contests. Laura found me through #pitmad and most of my partial requests came from Nightmare on Query Street. I got a few bites from the slushpile but not nearly as many as I got from contests. My point is: enter in contests. They help you stand out from the pack and they help you connect with other writers. They're subjective of course (I entered into several contests with HOUR OF MISCHIEF and only got in one/ THANKS MICHELLE!) but they can really pay off. Take a risk and enter. You might find the beginning of your own success story.
And now what everyone wants: Query Stats-
Books queried: 2
Books picked up: 1
Queries Sent: 52 (27 for first book, 25 for second book. I am not a mass querier)
Contests Entered: 6 (2 for first book, 4 for second book)
Contests Accepted into: 2 (1 for first book, 1 for second book)
Partial Requests: 12 (2 from first book, 10 from second book) Full Requests: 4 (0 from first book, 4 from book second book)
Offers of Rep: 1
Offers Accepted: 1
Aimee picked up a pencil as soon as her toddler fingers could and started writing stories in the underappreciated language of gibberish scribbles when she was four years old. Since then, she has always known she wanted to create, and whether on stage, in video editing software or on a blank word document, she has done just that.
Aimee is currently a freshman at Coe College, attempting a triple major in Creative Writing, English, and Film Studies because, according to friends, she is crazy. She is also an intern to the Kimberley Cameron Agency and enjoys reading the work of other aspiring writers every day. She is now, of course, represented by Laura Zats and crossing her fingers for good things in the future.
On Twitter: @AimeeHyndmanOn Pintrest: http://www.pinterest.com/AimeeHyndman/