Monday, July 11, 2011

The Lyrical Long and Short of How I Found My Agent

I am represented by the awesomely brilliant agent-extraordinaire, Jill Corcoran of Herman Agency. My friend and fellow critique group member, author Jacqui Robbins, introduced me to Jill at the SCBWI LA conference in August 2009. At the time, BLIND SPOT was a chaotic mess; I was rewriting it in first person and destroying plot lines (see my post 'Oh The Places I had To Go') and it was nowhere near ready for submission. So I tucked Jill's name away in a list of agents I'd like to query and continued working.

Eight months later, when I felt BLIND SPOT was ready to be seen again by people other than my critique group, I queried two agents who had read all or part of my previous version and had asked to see it again. The first was no longer taking new clients. Bummer. The second, who I'd had a manuscript consultation with at the 2009 SCBWI LA conference, not only requested the full - she asked for an exclusive.

I was oober excited. I'd never been asked for an exclusive and thought this was  a sign that I was on the right track. I tried to focus on a new project while I waited to hear from her. Six weeks later, she sent me a short and sweet email that basically said she loved my writing, enjoyed my novel, but just didn't feel 'connected' enough to the manuscript.

I won't lie. I was disappointed, but I knew from the bizillion agent talks I'd attended over the years, that not feeling a connection didn't mean she thought it was crap. She just wasn't in love with it. I pulled out my agent list and picked the three I wanted to query the most, one of which was Jill. As I prepared my queries, however, I hesitated with Jill's. In her 'what I look for' description she said she liked lyrical writing and I was afraid that wasn't me. Ellen Hopkins and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer - they were lyrical. Me? Not so much. So . . . I shelved Jill's query.

I queried three other agents instead. All three requested partials. All three responded back, again with the 'you are a talented writer but I am just not compelled enough to offer representation.'

That nay-sayer who sits on my shoulder began whispering that maybe my novel sucked, maybe it wasn't ready after all. I had sent in the first chapter for a manuscript consultation at the 2010 SCBWI LA conference - so I told myself I wouldn't query anyone else until after my consultation. I also decided that if I saw Jill again while in LA, I would talk to her, kind of do a mini-pitch, to see if BLIND SPOT might interest her despite its non-lyrical-ness.

I didn't see Jill. However, I did have an awesome consultation. The agent I met with only talked about the positives in BLIND SPOT; she asked me about its history, who had seen it, etc. She asked me what else I wrote; she basically interviewed me, and then asked me to send her the full. I was ecstatic. THIS WAS IT! Woo-hoo! I went home, frantically went over my novel one last time, and then, pressed send.

A few weeks later, I got the very long, very disappointing rejection. She and her assistant had read it, and although there was a lot they loved about it, there were things they just didn't feel worked (which she went into detail about) and, therefore, it was a no. Not a 'fix this and send it back'. Just a no.

I was devastated. I had been so sure that this was it. I felt crushed and deflated. I popped off an email to my critique buds. They all responded with sympathy and support - then helped me wade through what I thought were all negatives, to discover the truth in that long rejection. They helped me see what I needed to fix.

Then Jacqui said, "have you queried Jill yet? I really think she would like this."
 No, I hadn't, I thought. But . .  what the heck? Forget lyrical! I was going to query Jill right now! Well, as soon as I fixed the manuscript.

I powered through the stuff that the other agent had questioned, pulled up the query I had written Jill before but had shelved, and sent it off with my first ten pages. It was September 16th, 2010 at 2:00 pm.
27 minutes later I received an email from Jill requesting the full.

Woo-hoo, I said. Then stopped. I wasn't getting my hopes up this time. And even though she said she didn't want an exclusive because the industry is tough enough for writers these days, I gave her one. Because, who was I kidding? She was going to hate it anyway and then I'd know this novel was just drivel.

October 25th, I found an email from Jill in my inbox, sent at 3:04 am (she's west coast, so that was only midnight for her!): "I am loving BLIND SPOT. 100 pages to go . . ."

Again, I said "woo-hoo!" And again I stopped myself; I'd heard that before.

Same day, 3:21 pm, Jill emailed me: "It is a bit long.....hopefully, you haven't read it for awhile. perhaps you can see if there are any places to cut. I'll be back to you soon."
3:31 pm, she added:  "Man, I'm loving this!"

Hmmm. What was going on here? Did I dare allow myself to hope? I thought about what she said and wanted her to know that I was willing to work at it.
4:07 pm, I responded, saying I had no problem cutting.

4:11 pm, she emailed back: "but there is so much I love, I can't find a thing i want out." Then she listed specifics on a few things maybe I could change . . .

I admit it. I was over-the-top excited now.
4:44 pm: I told her I was going over the specific pages she mentioned, looking at what she had pointed out, seeing what I could cut . . .

4:46 pm she responded: "do that thru the whole ms....and by the way, I MUST REP THIS! Okay, 24 more   pages to go...."

LOVE the way she just slipped that "I must rep this" between 'go through your novel' and  'I am still reading it', don't you?  :)

I signed with her the beginning of November, and did two revisions for her before she started submitting BLIND SPOT in mid-January. By mid-March she'd found the right editor for me - the equally brilliant and awesome editor-extraordinaire, Karen Grove of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Oh and that whole thing about lyrical writing? Turns out, I am a lyrical writer. Jill was referring to writing with rhythm and assonance, simile and metaphor; writing that is poetic but not necessarily poetry. :)

2 comments:

  1. Laura, what a great story! I love the little back and forth email communique you two had. Hilarious! It was obviously meant to be with Jill. :-)

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  2. Oh, I love a happy ending!! It was meant to be!!

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