How I Got an Agent: Part III

Alias: The Complete First SeasonWelcome back to another exciting entry into this series, started here and continued here. When last we met, I had admitted to being extraordinarily stupid. Not that that’s anything particularly noteworthy for me, but in this case, the stupidity had to do with my approach to writing and trying to “break in.” What approach?

The “write a book, submit it to an agent, get a nice rejection and write a new book” approach.

In my defense, I didn’t just pursue this approach. Once my final draft was rejected, I sent it around to other places, as well. Not rabidly. I didn’t send out hundreds of queries. I didn’t query everyone in the book. I would send it to some agents I thought might be interested, and I would send it to some editors who also were open to queries. Over the years, I did have more nibbles. Some requests for full manuscripts, some more personalized rejections, but no Big Results.

So how was what I was doing stupid? For one thing, I wasn’t approaching writing as I approached getting a library job. When I wanted a job badly, I sent out 50 applications in the space of about three months. I would have sent out more, but those were all the jobs I qualified for. And those applications took time and effort to seek out and complete. It was hard work. When it came time to query about getting a book published or getting an agent, I sent out sporadically. I’d send three or four, then wait a few weeks or few months and send a few more. I wasn’t methodical, and I didn’t devote a lot of time to it.

Would things have gone differently if I had? I can’t say. What I can say is that I didn’t approach it on a professional level, and so I got amateur results. If you’re not willing to put in the time and effort to doing this as a business, it might always remain a hobby. That makes sense to me now, and I hope it will continue to do so. Then, I was too afraid of rejection–or at least that was my mental excuse. But come on–when the time came for me to get a job, I applied like crazy, rejection or not. You can’t lose a game you don’t play, but you also can’t win, if you know what I mean.

The second stupid thing I did was not revise. I saw “no” and my brain shut down there. Are the five books I submitted bad books? No, I don’t believe they are. They just weren’t ready yet for the next step. They weren’t at a high enough level. In this instance, I blame me being new at the whole writing thing. If you hike halfway up a mountain–higher than you’ve ever gone before–then you feel like you’ve accomplished something, and you have.

But you’re still only halfway up the mountain.

What I should have done with those rejections from Joshua is looked at them, analyzed them, and then continued doing whatever it was I had been doing up to that point. Writing whatever book I was working on. Finished whatever project I had going. Then, when I had a bit of time to think and be more objective, I should have gone back to the rejections, reread the books, and done another draft of them. Polished them even more. Granted, nowhere did Joshua say “Please revise this and send it back to me.” I would have done that if he had asked. But he also left the door open, saying he could see potential, but he couldn’t decide if it would be worth my while to revise, or if I should just try something else.

Maybe I could have not revised one or two books, but five? I should have tried something different–actually revising–before I ever got to five submissions. Live and learn, right.

All of this will make ever so much more sense once I get to Part IV, but there are a few things that need to happen for me to write that one, so I’ll just end it here for now. Next week, Part IV will come.


4 thoughts on “How I Got an Agent: Part III”

  1. Yeah. It’s easy for me to say now, and looking back on it, I should have done it . . . but life just gets so BUSY, and rejection is such a downer. I know why I didn’t query more than I did, put more time into it–but knowing I should do something and actually doing it are two very different things. Also, I much prefer writing novels to writing summaries, queries and the like. So in my limited amount of writing time, I chose to write, not try to get published. I suppose what I should have done was choose to do both–give up movies or sleep or something. I didn’t. I certainly wouldn’t judge anyone who makes the same choice I made. It’s always easier for someone to stand up and start pointing fingers once they’re safely out of finger-pointing range. 🙂

  2. Yeah, you really should have given up sleep. I don’t know what you were thinking.

    I don’t feel like you’re pointing fingers. I feel inspired to do better, not guilty about not doing better.

  3. Good. That’s my hope with these articles–not to seem pretentious or full of myself. I just was always really curious to find out what people did to land an agent, get a book deal or whatever, and now that I actually can tell other people what I did, I’m happy to do so. Case in point: World Fantasy is this weekend in Ohio. I know Eddie Schneider is there, and I know they’re still actively looking for clients, so meeting him in person and talking about what he’s looking for would undoubtedly be to anyone’s advantage (if they could gather the gumption to talk to him and still manage to form coherent sentences).

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