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honeysock
05-20-2010, 06:39 AM
I'm starting this thread for those of us who need to vent about *almost* nabbing the agent. We almost hijacked an agent thread in Bewares and Background Checks so . . .

I actually have TWO "I-came-this-close" stories. I'll put them up in a minute . . .

honeysock
05-20-2010, 07:06 AM
In the last two days I've completely changed my perspective on getting published, and I'm gonna blog about it, but in the meantime, my two "jilted" stories:

Flashback to 2004: Wrote my first novel; queried randomly, stupidly, and blindly and somehow landed an agent, albeit a brand new inexperienced one. She had similar luck with my ms, and we garnered the interest of an editor at Penguin/Plume. Revisions were requested, I complied, sent them off, and . . . the editor was laid off in a massive cut-back the very DAY my revisions landed on her desk. My agent quit agenting two weeks later, I couldn't get another agent interested when they found out it had already been shopped, so I opened a restaurant. Ha! Told them!

Yesterday: got a 3-line form rejection after The Dream Agent emailed me in January: "I would like to help you make this marketable." I pulled all other partial/full manuscripts from play. It's excruciating because this particular agent has been in the business 25+ years and has tons of clients, some bestsellers, and should know better than to make flimsy promises. I TRUSTED her because of her experience. I thought it was a gamble worth taking because she's been doing this for so long.

If she didn't like the revision, she could have said so. She could have said "I can't work with this" instead of "Sorry I haven't gotten back to you . . . I'm afraid I don't love this enough to take it on."

I'm banking on Three's a Charm. Got a fresh query brewing over in QLH. Yes, I cried all day yesterday and then DIDN'T have wine so I could wake up to a shiny new beginning this morning.

Those of you who have been jilted--what are you doing differently this time?

SELF-SERVE: *MARGARITAS with a Don Eduardo floater* *CHILI-CHEESE NACHOS*

Crzywritergrl
05-20-2010, 07:56 AM
oh girl. That is rough. Bad sucky-luck rough. Now I feel horrible that I even critiqued your query letter at all.

My latest rejection was actually kind of funny. I sent out a letter to a guy who had a close to same last name as another agent. He is awesome and great and has a long list of sales. Then came the rejection. I "oh %$#@" when I opened the e-mail then I "what the heck...?"

For the record I am a bit prudish. I don't write sex and I probably never will. The agent who's name was close to the same as the agent I wanted repped erotica and I just sent her a straight up, zero romance urban fantasy. Note to self: Make sure to send query to correct agent.

On a suckage note... I had two agents reading my last ms and both passed. It made me so jumpy that now that I have three agents looking at my latest ms, I have zero excitement about it.

I need a double shot. Burbon or whiskey? You choose.

Celandine
05-20-2010, 01:11 PM
Oh Honeysock, how unbelievably painful. On so many levels. Repeat after me: It's not you, it's them, It's not you, it's them....

Crzywritergrl, sorry about the full rejections. I've recently had a couple of those as well. And at least the mix-up rejection ended up being for an agent you didn't want anyway!

The agent I had this experience with had actually approached me after seeing a story of mine in a contest. She's very established, has some excellent clients etc. She asked if I had a novel. I'd just started one and it was in decent enough shape so I took the risk and sent her the first 25,000 words. She really liked it, wanted to see it when it was done. She actually emailed me about 6 months later to ask how it was going. When I did finally finish (I'm not so fast, so this was about a year after her first contact) I sent it off to her. She read it in two days and immediately emailed and left a phone message that she liked it "enormously" but had some reservations. She invited me in to her office to talk about it. We chatted for maybe 2 hours and the feedback she gave me was great. She really "got" what I was trying to do, but the conclusion was that the whole thing needed deepening etc. So it was a revise and resubmit thing.
Anyway, as I said, I'm not a fast writer and this revision and her feedback really pushed my thinking about the novel to the next level. It took me about 18 months to get it to a place I was happy with it.

And ok, that might be some of the problem. In those 18 months the economy tanked and perhaps the agent's list had become much fuller and perhaps all those clients' books weren't so easy to sell anymore. I get that. So when I finally re-sent I first asked if she was still interested in seeing it. I wanted to give her an "out". But she acted as enthusiastic as ever. So I sent it off and never heard from her again. That was 6 months ago. I mean, we'd actually met each other and not even a rejection?

And, like I said over at the nearly hijacked Foundry thread, I do still hold out a tiny bit of hope that she might get in touch some day. But it's only a very tiny bit of hope, barely visible with the naked eye.

The one thing I decided early on was that I wasn't going to do the revisions just for that agent. I knew almost everything she'd said to me was right and I decided that I would work on the revisions until I had a novel that told exactly the story I wanted to tell. I wanted to get it right for me, so if she rejected it I would just feel like she wasn't the right agent for it. I think I nearly achieved that, but self doubt is quite a powerful beast. Maybe in the end I lost everything that was appealing about the old draft of the novel and she just didn't have the heart to tell me that!

Hmmm, I think I need a straight gin on that one. And maybe a peanut or two.

Thanks for setting this up, Honeysock.

K. Taylor
05-20-2010, 01:46 PM
Celandine, maybe she didn't get it? Or maybe her response somehow didn't get to you? If it was me, I'd nudge her after 6 months. Good luck!

kaitie
05-20-2010, 03:29 PM
See, this sort of thing is precisely why I don't let myself get my hopes up period. *Hugs* guys.

Crzywritergrl
05-20-2010, 05:30 PM
No, but it still hurts Katie. We all work so hard and when it falls flat like that, hopes up or not, it just bites. I've been reading a lot of entries on Absolute Write. The wait times for partials and fulls are lengthening. No responses are becoming so common it's scary. I am a born writer and will be until I die, but this new trend is disheartening.

Wayne K
05-20-2010, 05:47 PM
Can I vent about almost getting published here?

Getting the agent was hard enough, heart breaking enough and took me almost two years, but the past six months I've read R after R from editors who love my writing and the story, but don't think they can sell a memoir by someone without a big name.

I'm waiting for Jason to come up with a plan other than to dump me. The truth is, that may very well happen.

My thoughts? Screw it, I'll write another book and start over. This writing thing of ours is thankless.

honeysock
05-20-2010, 06:51 PM
Crzywritergrl to me: "Bad sucky-luck rough. Now I feel horrible that I even critiqued your query letter at all."

Hahahaha! That was my morning laugh. Thanks. : ) Heading over to that thread in a minute . . .

Celandine, I'm thinking like K., that maybe you should still do some soft nudging. The agent obviously keeps you in mind or on some kind of list somewhere.

And Wayne, yeah, publishing almosts count too. I didn't know memoir was such a tough sell, but then, publishing has changed so much in just the last year . . . .

rosiecotton
05-20-2010, 06:52 PM
I was represented several years ago by a great British agent. It was kind of an urban fantasy before the urban fantasy explosion and she was pretty upfront that only the big houses would probably take it on. They didn't.

Life moves on.

Though I was always writing, I didn't send anything out for a long time. I'm now in another country and back on the 'I'm going for it' wagon. Queried my paranormal mystery last year. Got one full out of about fifty queries (I major suck at query letters, which doesn't help) and came pretty close to representation. Agent eventually passed because there were things she wanted to change but didn't have enough time to commit to it. BUT, she loved my writing--strong, compelling--and she's passed me on to her YA colleague (I'm now querying a YA fantasy I wrote while submitting my paranormal).

Horseshoes and hand grenades? I'm queen. I started my first novel at age 23. I'm now 36. I look at those 13 years as a long apprenticeship. I've learned a lot and my writing is a ton better for it. Though I fear I'll always be the one who 'also ran', I'll never give up. It's gotta be our time soon, right.

Celandine
05-20-2010, 07:04 PM
Or turn the memoir into a novel? It makes no sense that you need a "name" for a memoir yet people are perfectly willing to read novels where the story is not only about characters who don't have a "name" but don't even actually exist! Best of luck hanging on to your agent and finding an editor who can think beyond the same old received wisdom.

Yeah, the agent did get the manuscript, K.Taylor. It was snail mail and I emailed her a few days after sending. She said she got it and she hoped to get back to me within the month...Oh well. I know lots of people have similar stories.

Wayne K
05-20-2010, 07:15 PM
I'm thinking of legally changing my name to "Anonymous" for the shock value

Celandine
05-20-2010, 07:17 PM
Yeah, some kind of list, Honeysock...but what kind exactly??? I have nudged (asked her a writing related question once and a plain out nudge another time) and both times she's responded within a few days saying she's been busy (which I'm sure is true), but at this point it seems pretty clear she's not really interested in the manuscript anymore.

So did you part ways with the agent, Rosie? My timeline is similar to yours. Started writing in my early 20s---short stories mostly---eventually got a few litmag pubs and contest placings. Started this novel about 5 years ago now and I'll be 40 this year, so very much feeling the 'also ran, always the bridesmaid' vibe. I'm in the UK. The agent I wrote about is a British agent. Now I'm querying both US and UK agents.

rosiecotton
05-20-2010, 07:56 PM
Celandine, we did part ways--or more kind of drifted apart. She got me a gig writing for Mills and Boon (which is a really long story) and, though they loved my writing, they passed too. I almost forgot about that. The agent was lovely, but old school, so she held off contracts unless she sold--that was more common back then.

I live in the US now and am querying US agents, though I yearn for the days of three chapters and a synopsis back in Blighty. I really struggle to do my novels justice in a query. It's a genetic defect.

I feel your frustration with this agent, but... You've done everything you can. Move on. Move forward. Maybe she will finally respond, but don't wait around for her to decide your future. You know, you read posts at AW and some folks are like, 'It's all luck' or 'It's all who you know' or 'If your novel's amazing it will get picked up.' From my experience, it's not just one thing that lands you an agent/book deal; it's everything coming together at that one moment. You've just got to keep sending out your material to catch that moment.

Miss Plum
05-20-2010, 08:06 PM
Heh, might want to check out some of the stories here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=178277), too.

I have a story of despair . . . and a ray of hope.

My experience in screenwriting was one long almost. I think it was Pauline Kael who said that Hollywood is the only place on earth where you can die of encouragement. For years I was always six weeks away from the Sale. I had -- I think -- four agents; I lost count. That's a town where you can sit down with a major agent, a producer, and another produced screenwriter, all of them loving your concept and your execution and your style, and then suddenly fall through the cracks and into a black hole so deep you feel invisible -- all while Transformers II is going into production. A lot of it is about connections and synchronicity; your script gets passed in a daisy chain from a powerful person who likes it but can't themselves get it greenlit, but who can pass it up or sideways, and it seems like it's always six weeks between passes, and then at some point -- INTO THE BLACK HOLE. Nary a word of what happened, what might happen next, what you could do to improve things, or even if it was you; it might have been that some guy got fired from his studio job or some news story makes your story toxic. The Black Hole that hurt the most was at ICM. It took me all kinds of effort and impressing a particular guru to get that read. The young agent who had my script liked it, but he was busy with other, bigger projects and never got around to shopping my script. A certain amount of time passing without a word from your last contact = Black Hole. Lather, rinse, repeat. And that was enviable success for most writers. Just getting read in that town is akin to being published in the book world.

After a few years of dying of encouragement, I rewrote my most colorful script as a graphic novel and started timorously querying literary agents instead of Hollywood agents. It was weird, writing to New York instead of L.A. I was stunned at the rapidity with which they responded -- hell, that they responded at all, even to say No Thanks. Even more stunned at the requests for partials and fulls. I never thought I'd be so grateful for a pile of rejections in my Inbox. And one of the agents who IS reading my graphic novel at the moment is with none other than ICM's lit department in New York. All I had to do was query, and she responded within days with a Please Send. (I'm awaiting the R, but at least I feel I'm getting a fair read and a fair chance, unlike the guy in L.A.)

Just for laughs I went back to some of the old forums where I used to post as a screenwriter, and man am I glad I got off that boulevard of broken dreams. I'm reading column after interview after blog post from professionals saying that a writer with a quality spec script in her hand is the most pathetic, powerless figure in Hollywood right now. Crazy success stories do happen, but that's just about your only hope.

I've had some big disappointments seeking representation for my graphic novel -- it's a tough genre to sell -- but at least it doesn't feel so arbitrary and uncontrollable.

honeysock
05-20-2010, 09:25 PM
I've always heard, Miss Plum, that the best way to sell a screenplay is to write a novel. Dying of encouragement--great saying. I hope it's not what I die of. : )

Good luck with those fulls out there. Poetic justice or simple irony, if an ICM agent takes you on? : )

MsJudy
05-21-2010, 05:53 AM
My one-that-got-away was 15 years ago. I wrote a mystery, had an agent ask for revisions, tried my best to follow her suggestions. But meanwhile...I was pregnant and discovering that impending fatherhood was not so good for my bipolar husband. There was just no way I could do justice to those revisions at that point in my life. So I don't blame her that she passed, but it sure felt discouraging at the time. Life took over, and I wrote very little for the next six years. Then, one summer when my second child was a toddler, I just started writing ideas for children's books. I was reading so many as both a mom and a teacher, and loving them all. The fire relit. So now I'm 46 and back in the query pond, though I still feel like I haven't quite reached my full potential.

But in the meantime, as everyone has pointed out, the market has changed. 15 years ago, she took a chance on a very rough novel and guided me through some revisions. Now I'm querying work 1000 times more polished, and I'm lucky to get a single request to see the full MS. So far not even a whiff of "I'd like to see more."

Sigh.

Crzywritergrl
05-21-2010, 07:27 AM
Oh yeah... things have definitely gotten tougher. I have a friend who has an agent and that one agent kept her on for fifteen years of writing novel after novel until finally one sold. That agent has a partial of my ms. If she takes me on, I think I will cry.

blacbird
05-21-2010, 09:34 AM
There is no such thing as "close". This is a binary system. Your work is either accepted, or it is not. "Close" is an illusion.

caw

honeysock
05-21-2010, 06:35 PM
There is no such thing as "close". This is a binary system. Your work is either accepted, or it is not. "Close" is an illusion.

caw

You're right, blacbird--hence the title of the thread. But as far as emotions go, particularly hope, anticipation, and excitement, "close" feels all too real, and it takes you very very high before the drop. Check the postings by those of us who have what we term "close calls" from years, even decades ago: even a distant memory of one still holds pain.

honeysock
05-21-2010, 06:50 PM
JudScotKev, you mentioned "But in the meantime, as everyone has pointed out, the market has changed."

Do you know of a thread on AW anywhere that addresses the changing definition/expectations of "writer"? It's really been bothering me, especially this last week, that simply wanting to write and publish the best book ever is not enough for a writer anymore. I had an argument with an agent on twitter about it: he won. He won't take on any writer who doesn't have a strong internet presence. (He googles their names. I know he's not alone, agent-wise.) My argument: I'm a writer, not a social media expert or marketing guru. Plus, I don't have time to both write *and* build an internet presence.

The traditional publishing industry feels very earth-quaky to me. And I don't know what direction to run in. (My husband, in an insensitive moment last night, pointed out that I shouldn't worry--I wasn't *in* the publishing industry. Ouch! Salt for your wound, anyone?)

Crzywritergrl
05-22-2010, 12:01 AM
(My husband, in an insensitive moment last night, pointed out that I shouldn't worry--I wasn't *in* the publishing industry. Ouch! Salt for your wound, anyone?)

Salt, pepper and a little lemon to boot. SOunds like something my hubby would say. No worries though. I hate blogs and twitter. I've been avoiding them like the plague. However, the marketing guy way right. Once I got off my duff and put my name out there, I got a million more hits and more interest in my book. Bites, but you gotta start somewhere.

Jamesaritchie
05-22-2010, 01:20 AM
JudScotKev, you mentioned "But in the meantime, as everyone has pointed out, the market has changed."

Do you know of a thread on AW anywhere that addresses the changing definition/expectations of "writer"? It's really been bothering me, especially this last week, that simply wanting to write and publish the best book ever is not enough for a writer anymore. I had an argument with an agent on twitter about it: he won. He won't take on any writer who doesn't have a strong internet presence. (He googles their names. I know he's not alone, agent-wise.) My argument: I'm a writer, not a social media expert or marketing guru. Plus, I don't have time to both write *and* build an internet presence.

The traditional publishing industry feels very earth-quaky to me. And I don't know what direction to run in. (My husband, in an insensitive moment last night, pointed out that I shouldn't worry--I wasn't *in* the publishing industry. Ouch! Salt for your wound, anyone?)

That agent was an idiot.

MsJudy
05-22-2010, 05:11 AM
honeysock, sounds to me like that's one agent I will be avoiding and I guess you should, too.

Getting yourself out there is important, of course. Once you have something to sell. Until then, well, it might help or it might hurt. I know people who caught an agent's eye by posting/blogging/etc. It can happen. But it certainly isn't the only way to get an agent!

Jennifer Laughran was very clear in her thread here that she expects her authors to focus on one thing: writing another excellent book. If they enjoy blogging or twitting or whatever, then great. But if they don't, she won't push them to.

So not all agents agree with the one you argued with!

honeysock
05-22-2010, 08:54 AM
"That agent was an idiot."

You know, James, that's why I argued with him! I thought he was too. But then I started reading up on the direction publishing is headed in and then I started thinking about all the great writers I know who can't get an agent (and all the blogs I read for writers who have sold books recently *because* of their blogs--and they all have the exact same sarcastic, over-the-top contemporary voice--) and I wonder if maybe it's time for me to change my perspective . . . if I want to get published.

I truly believe things have changed tremendously this past twelve months. No, I don't believe books are going away, but I'm starting to believe the internet will drive the sale of books in all forms.

Disclaimer: as my husband said, I'm not *in* the publishing business. So I could be very wrong, and the bibliophile in me hopes I am.

Crzywritergrl
05-22-2010, 09:07 AM
Personally I was very reluctant to begin a blog. If I was going to write, it was going to be on a novel and not a short essay on whatever peeve hit me that day. I've read some very intelligent blogs along with a load that are far below my expectations. What I agree with is the fact that people have this urging need to connect. I know that if Rowling had a blog I would blog stalk it daily.

I write for my readers on my blog, allowing them little snippets of myself and my writing style every day. If an agent had any qualms, I would hope that they could see the dedication I put into my writing, whether that be blog or novel.

And that means, even though I don't particularly like blogging, I do it. Whatever gets me a little closer to getting published. I go at everything full tilt and there is no such thing as half-assed in my vocabulary.

honeysock
05-22-2010, 07:03 PM
My sentiments about blogging are exactly the same as yours, Crzywritergrl.

See ya on the River Twit(ter)!

Jamesaritchie
05-22-2010, 10:13 PM
"That agent was an idiot."

You know, James, that's why I argued with him! I thought he was too. But then I started reading up on the direction publishing is headed in and then I started thinking about all the great writers I know who can't get an agent (and all the blogs I read for writers who have sold books recently *because* of their blogs--and they all have the exact same sarcastic, over-the-top contemporary voice--) and I wonder if maybe it's time for me to change my perspective . . . if I want to get published.

I truly believe things have changed tremendously this past twelve months. No, I don't believe books are going away, but I'm starting to believe the internet will drive the sale of books in all forms.

Disclaimer: as my husband said, I'm not *in* the publishing business. So I could be very wrong, and the bibliophile in me hopes I am.


It isn't that you don't need some sort of web presence at a given point, but if you do, you have a minimum of eighteen months to establish one after the book sells to a publisher.

I an in publishing, and the only real change I've seen in the last year is a wider distribution of e-readers. But this is good, not bad, and it doesn't change one crucial fact. You can't sell anything until you have something to sell. A new writer has nothing to sell, and won't have until after the book they've written goes on the market, which, as I said, will probably be at least eighteen months after the contract is signed, and probably at the very least, two years after an agent gets his hands on it.

Another thing that hasn't changed is that word of mouth still sells books. This is not going to change. The Internet is a very, very good tool for word of mouth, but again, people can't talk about a product that doesn't yet exist.

It's easy to say that you should get knowledge of your book on the Internet long before it even goes to a publisher, and this would be fine, if your book was the only one out there. But millions and millions and millions of new writers, or self-published writers, of failed writers, of writers who never will actually finish the book they're talking about, are crowding the Internet to the point where it's meaningless. It's all static, white noise.

The kind of Internet presence a writer needs, and the right kind of presence is a very good thing, has nothing at all to do with what agents like this think matters.

When the time is right, when the book is actually available, preferably from a good publisher, and if the book itself is actually worth talking about, the Internet can be a powerful word of mouth tool.

But an agent who won't take on a new writer who lacks an Internet presence is, to say the least, just not very smart, and simply has no clue about publishing, or marketing.

Jack Parker
11-15-2010, 09:48 AM
James, you've set my mind at ease more than you can know. I'm new here and new to writing with hopes to be published. I've been writing all my life but for enjoyment only. Now I'd like to shoot for publication but I've read a lot of what honeysock was talking about. Writers "must" have a web presence. Publishers "demand/expect" writers to have a successful blog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.,

That turned me off for a long time. I don't want those things. I enjoy my quiet, peaceful, anonymity. I have no desire to have a web presence of any kind. I just want to write and, if my stories are good enough, be published. If my work ever reached the level where doing book signings or tours was necessary, that's fine. I'm as co-operative as can be. But, I have zero desire for a web presence or doing my own marketing. Does it get to the point that publishers will demand it?

My relief is in the fact that I don't have to worry about that now. My full attention can be on writing and not divided into having to create a successful series of internet sites now in case I need them later. After all, an elephant is eaten one bite at a time.

Jamesaritchie
11-15-2010, 09:27 PM
I'm going to add to this just a bit. Only the mechanics of publishing is changing, not teh reasons a book sells or doesn't. Nor do writers get published because of a blog or a website. These writer get published because of what they write. It matters not where that writing is, in a query letter, a manuscript, on a blog or website, as long as the right agent or editor sees it.

A sarcastic, over-the-top contemporary voice sells because a particular agent and editor is looking for just that. Other types of voices sell because other agents and editors are looking for that. Go into a bookstore. There's more variety in voice and style and subject matter that there ever was back in the "Good Old Days."

The Internet may well be an ever larger driving force in the selling of books, but this changes nothing. That's marketing, not writing. From an insider's view, I know agent and editors are still looking for good stories, just like they always were. I know agents take on and editors buy thousands and thousands and thousands of novel each and every year, and many of these, more than ever before, are from brand new writers.

And I know that far, far, far more often than not, the Internet comes into play only after we find a good book, not before.

Look, the hardest part of getting published has little to do with talent, nothing to do with the Internet, and nothing to do with how the publishing industry may or may not be changing.

If you have the talent, you first learn how to write a good story, but then comes the hard part, which is learn which story to tell. Some talented writers are fortunate, and talent, skill, and knowing which story to tell come at the same time. But many take a long time to learn that what you write, which story you tell, is even more important than how you write it, and many never, ever figure out that just writing well isn't enough.

You do have to change with the times, but this has nothing whatsoever to do with the publishing industry changing. All these changes in the publishing industry make it easier for writers, not harder. You have to change with the times because society changes, technology changes, the things people do in everyday life changes, lifestyles change, language changes, mores change, and your writing must reflect this in order to be realistic.

Jack Parker
11-16-2010, 06:27 AM
Thanks again, James. That just confirms to me that I'm on the right track. I've been spending my time and energy writing. If a web presence is expected of me at some time in the future, I'll deal with it at that time. Right now I just write. Clarity is good.