Writer to Agent to Editor

The fingernail biting has begun! I have a project on submission. My agent just sent out queries to a list of editors. I’ve been at this writing thing a loooooong time, and I know better than to sit around staring at my email. I might not hear anything for several weeks, even several months. Sometimes nothing at all, not a yes, not a no, just silence.

My novel is solid work – definitely my best. But it may never get published. That’s how the industry works, so I’m more nervous than arrogant.

My goal was finding an agent who specialized in children’s literature. Sure, agents can – and do –  represent multiple genres and still sell books and make a great living for their authors. No question. I had one of those agents, before we parted ways. This time, I wanted a genre expert. I also wanted someone with strong marketing instincts.

Here’s how I know I’ve got a shot at publication: agents’ responses are a litmus test.

I sent query letters to four agents, along with the first 10-15 pages of the book. One responded in ten minutes. Three others responded within the hour asking for full reads.

Agents have heaps of manuscripts to read. And I mean heaps! Reading their current clients’ work come first. Then there’s all those pressing agent things I don’t understand: writing pitch letters, negotiating with publishing houses, reading contracts, making sure authors got their royalties, and much, much more.

Back to my agent search. While those first agents were reading, I queried a few more. The bottom line:

  • One agent said she’d take it in a heartbeat, but all she’d signed lately is middle grade authors. She didn’t want similar projects competing with each other, and she needs to build up her YA (young adult) list.
  • One agent said she’d take it in a heartbeat, but she was going on maternity leave.
  • One agent – the one who asked to see this novel, plus any other novels I’d ever written – didn’t respond.
  • Two said it was a very, very close call – an almost yes – but it didn’t feel quite right. If I revised, they said, please resend and please send any new work.
  • One said, “Stay in touch! If I can help you with industry questions, let me know.” I took her up on her offer a few times, and she’s always answered. My writer friends were stunned. This doesn’t happen!
  • Then I had two offers of representation.

Best day of my professional life! So the waiting begins …

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