“… I am calm and collected right now, but I won’t be when I hang up the phone.”
That’s how I wrapped up an amazing phone call. On the other end of the line was Jennifer Mattson, a well-known literary agent, who had just offered to represent me!
I am incredibly grateful and honored for the opportunity to join the Andrea Brown Literary Agency (ABLA) family. When I decided to query agents, ABLA quickly rose to the top of my list because of their experience, reputation, and bookshelf. Jennifer’s interests and represented works attracted me immediately, so without hesitation I queried her.
Everyone’s writing journey is different. My original intent was to self-publish. After reading endless blogs about the insurmountable odds of being traditionally published, I decided to not bother trying. Joining SCBWI opened my eyes to possibilities and challenged my preconceived notions. And, am I glad!
What I’ve learned so far:
- Craft a solid story: A manuscript is like a house; it needs a solid foundation, structure, framing, and attention to detail. This is not accomplished overnight. Take your time. Write, edit, erase, write again. It’s a process. I have worked on this manuscript for 9 months!
- Phone a friend: My manuscript was read by more than 20 individuals before I engaged an editor. I don’t know if that was overkill, but as a marketer I thrive on gathering data. My friends, family, and critique partners helped guide my process.
- Get professional help: I joined a critique seminar through SCBWI. My manuscript was reviewed by a published author. Her feedback was positive overall, yet it let me know my work wasn’t done. I was able to focus on specific areas of the story and celebrate the ones I had gotten right.
- Work with an editor: Working with a professional editor was a turning point in my writing journey. The perspective, insights, and knowledge I gained from the interactions with the editor were priceless. I worked with an editor who understands story development and verse.
- Polish the query letter: While I did not follow a specific formula on my query letter, I did follow the specifications provided by each agent. Query Tracker was my best friend that weekend! Agents who read query letters are looking at the content and presentation of the letter, don’t underestimate either one of them.
- Do the research: I started with a list comprised of 13 agents with diverse bookshelves representing authors and books I enjoy. I visited their social media profiles, read blogs about them, etc. Armed with this information, I earmarked a few dream agents on my list. I also figured it would be wise to query a small list at a time in case constructive feedback was provided.
- Every response counts: I received 4 rejections, a ‘let’s connect in the spring’, and of course, my dream email from Jennifer. Although I didn’t jump for joy with the rejections, it was nice to know someone had read my submission. At the time, I was still considering self-publishing as an option, so the nays didn’t completely feel like a closed door for my book.
- Into the unknown: We have gotten this far and I am excited to see what comes next. Jennifer has already provided excellent feedback on my manuscript. I am excited to see how her ideas take our story from good to excellent. I am a little obsessed with how details make everything awesome, so this will be fun!
Gratitude is key
My mom used to reward good grades with books. It seemed silly, we wanted ice cream or toys, not books. Yet those books fed my hunger for the written word. I am grateful for her wisdom.
My husband and kids cheered me on as I dove deep into my desire to write. Immersing myself in my kids’ world reignited the childlike side of my creativity. No business rules, no business jargon, no agendas … just an open sea of possibilities. I am grateful for our crazy awesome family.
If you share this love for storytelling in written form, pursue it. Our writings will outlast us, they will serve as proof of our time on this earth.