Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Getting the Call: Dan Koboldt

Querying is a difficult process. You never know what the day will bring. Dan Koboldt found out how necessary it is to be prepared and that got him a great agent! Now he's going a step farther by taking his love of speculative fiction and helping others. 

Dan is hosting a twitter pitch party for those who write fantasy or science fiction on June 11th. Here are all the details. You know I'll be there to retweet for my fellow speculative fiction writers.

Thank you, Michelle, for inviting me to share my story about finding representation. Most authors make (at least) one classic mistake when querying agents. I thought that if I studied the process intensely, I'd avoid every single pitfall. I was wrong. 

Last October I was revising my NaNoWriMo novel from 2012. It was about a large corporation that had discovered a portal to a pristine medieval world. This wasn't my first attempt at a novel -- it was my third or fourth, actually -- but it was clearly my best. Good enough, perhaps, that I could send it some agents. 

I began studying the query process, and I found it enthralling. A one-page letter to pitch your book didn't sound so onerous. It actually sounded kind of fun. And though my book wasn't quite finished, I thought, what the hell, I'm going to send a few out. Everything I'd read suggested that querying usually takes a long time, 1-2 months, so I'd easily be able to finish writing it. And that was my blunder.

I queried too soon. It would be another couple of months (December) until my manuscript was done, and truly ready, for an agent to see it. I squeezed some queries in before the deluge that all agencies see right after January 1st. Then I promised myself I wouldn't query in January, because Anne Mini says that you really shouldn't. 

Right as I was gearing up for some serious querying, I got a partial request from Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary Agency. She'd read my letter and wanted to see three chapters, which I sent right away. Within a couple of hours, she wrote again: "I read the first chapter. You wowed me! Please send the full."

This time, I was prepared. I had the full manuscript polished and ready to go. I had a separate document, a secret weapon of sorts, that I sent along with it. I sent it to her and tried not to dwell on it too much. I began sending out other queries, too. Another agent requested the full. 

Then something interesting happened: the agent said she'd finished my book and enjoyed it. Since it was clearly meant to be part of a series, had I written anything down for the other books? I sent my series synopsis (3 books). Five days later, she wrote and said she'd like to set up a phone call.

Importantly, this wasn't an offer. At Red Sofa Literary, the first call is an interview. It gives the agent and the author a chance to get to know one another better. And it lets the agent ensure that the author is not a crazy person, which is quite possible. These things can be hard to do over e-mail. 

We talked for about 40 minutes, and it went well. I had a number of questions I wanted to ask, but I tried to let her drive the conversation. The things she said about my book had me feeling very warm and fuzzy. Yet this was still not an offer of representation. She wanted to see a few revisions. Another test, if you will. I liked her suggestions, and agreed to do all of them. I had them back to her within a day or two. She replied with a note that she'd get back to me soon.

That note was the last thing I'd hear for weeks. I knew these things take time. I knew I should be patient. But waiting is hard, particularly when you feel like you're close. It seemed disingenuous to send out more queries, so I kept busy in other ways. I made some new author friends. I entered a different novel, my YA fantasy, into the fantastic #PitchMadness pitching contest. 

Finally, 3 weeks and 1 day after the R&R, the good news came. Jennie wrote to make an offer of representation, and I was thrilled! It was a Friday afternoon. That weekend there was much celebration at the Koboldt household. 

If Michelle put a gun to my head and demanded that I offer some advice to other authors (which she did not; she's far too nice), I'd make two suggestions. 
  1. Do your research. Study the query process, the do's and don'ts, and the agents that you want to query. You should know their history, the kind of books they like, their recent sales, how long they've been at the agency, etc. 
  2. Be professional. It's not easy to handle the waiting and the rejection that comes with querying. But maintaining a professional face, in your e-mails, on your blog, and on social media, can only help demonstrate that you're the kind of person an agent would like to represent. 

Keep at it, my aspiring author friends. The next "Getting the Call" post on Michelle's blog could easily be yours!


Dan Koboldt has worked as a genetics researcher for over ten years. He writes fantasy and science fiction, and is represented by Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary Agency. He's also an avid hunter and outdoorsman. Every fall, he disappears into Missouri’s dense hardwood forests to pursue whitetail deer and turkey with bow and arrow. He lives with his wife and three children in St. Louis, where the deer take their revenge by eating all of the landscaping in his backyard. 

He will host #SFFpit, a Twitter pitching event for authors of science fiction and fantasy, on June 11th. You can find him on Twitter as @DanKoboldt or at his website,

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