Thursday, January 6, 2011

He Said/She Said: Happily Ever After

(Read previous installment HERE.)


JOSH: Let me explain very quickly: I’m wickedly picky because by the time Authoress queried, I was already representing two very different dystopian novels—a YA zombie/vampire story with a remarkably light touch, and an adult masterpiece that was basically Faulkner with zombies (The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell—read it!). So I needed any additional dystopias to be different. And this was. But still needed work…

AUTHORESS: Shortly after I sent Josh my full, Beth Revis sent me her much-anticipated critique of the novel. I don’t call her Diva for nothing! Beth’s editorial letter and in-line notes provided me—for the first time ever—with a vision for just what might be wrong with my manuscript! It was too much to swallow all at once, but it gave me hope. I figured I’d wait to hear from Josh and then decide my next course of action—rip once more into the manuscript, or shelve it.

JOSH: So this is the way I go through queries, and the relative efficiencies, and lacks thereof, in the process.

First of all, I get between 10 and 20 email queries a day. If I'm interested in the topic and think the writing is reasonably strong, I'll ask to see 50 pages or, occasionally, the whole thing.

Most of the time I'm reasonably quick responding to initial emails. (Note: not in the last two months or so. My very delicate balance between "just a bit behind" and "totally screwed" tipped over to the latter. Part of the problem is that I do indeed read them all, even if it's only to realize two sentences in that it's totally wrong for me.)*

So let’s say I’ve asked for a partial. Somewhat unfairly, that's where the REAL bottleneck happens. A query only takes a few minutes, but a partial is often a significant time commitment, and it's time that is very hard indeed to carve out. The most unfair aspect of that is that these are manuscripts I already think COULD have potential, and they often linger in my "partials received" email folder for months. I say that I try to respond in eight weeks, but that is an estimate, and is entirely slave to my other time commitments.

Incidentally, so you know, the most significant time commitment is reading and editing manuscripts submitted by my current clients. The reason my delicate balance went to "totally screwed" is that in one week at the end of October NINE of my authors submitted manuscripts. I then needed to read those first, give edits--occasionally line edit--and prepare them for submission to publishers, and then submit them. I was working fourteen hour days through November and December, so I couldn't even take more work home than I already was.

Which again gets back to our Authoress. There have been a couple of times in this process where she clearly HAD to have been giving up on me. But fortunately, she didn't, and we were able to connect. Here's that part of the story.

When I read her manuscript for the first time, I thought, "Geez, there is really something there." For the first part (and not surprisingly), the writing was strong and clear. This is the single most important thing for me. You don't need to be Proust. But you DO need to be readable from beginning to end. Not overwritten, not flowery, not too spare, either. As a novelist, you are telling a story, and you need to skip the histrionics and just tell it. Authoress did that.

Second, her idea was interesting and creative; complex, sure, but understandable. It's dystopian, which I like; but fundamentally about interesting, sympathetic characters.

And that's the other thing. You don't necessarily need to reinvent the wheel plot wise in order to be successful. But I must be engaged with the characters. And I felt that way with Authoress's "scooby gang," as I called them, of teenage rebels.

But with that, I didn't offer representation right away. I thought there were some serious holes in the plot and the dystopia, and felt that they were significant enough to make me need to wait and see whether Authoress was able to make it work. So I did something I do rather rarely--I had a full-on editorial conversation with her and suggested the significant changes, and said I'd re-evaluate after she sent them in.

AUTHORESS: Wow. I didn’t know I had a “scooby gang”!

So Josh and I talked on the phone for the first time on August 4th. He’d only had my full for a month and half, so I didn’t feel liked it had taken that long to hear from him. (Once, an agent had one of my partials for a year and half. Seriously.) True confession: I hate phones. So I was incredibly grateful that the call was scheduled ahead of time, and that Josh emailed me right before he called to let me know he was calling.

And something amazing happened. I listened to someone talking passionately about my story. And my characters. Passionately! And I knew—I knew!!—that Josh was the first and only person who had truly captured the vision of my novel.

Despite the novel’s brokenness, he “got” it!

I scribbled half-legible notes as Josh detailed the areas of the manuscript that he felt needed work. If I decided to take this on, it would mean sweeping revisions. As in, sweeping. Not the basic plot; not the characters. But sweeping nonetheless.

In the course of the conversation, Josh asked me what my plans were for the novel. I told him I was nearing the end of a long string of rejections and that I was considering shelving it.

“Don’t shelve it,” he said.

Words to live by!

Also? Josh’s suggestions lined up SO CLOSELY to Beth Revis’s notes that it was almost uncanny. The proverbial lights came on.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t completely ready to dig in. Wasn’t sure how to start. Meanwhile, a couple of my emails to Josh went astray, and when he didn’t answer them, I assumed he’d changed his mind about me. Like, maybe I came off as a blathering moron on the phone and he’d thought twice about working through the revisions with me.

Which, yanno, was entirely possible.

About a month went by, and my thoughts on the novel started to crystallize. Then, just when I’d written Josh off for good, he emailed me. He asked me how the revisions were going and—wait for it—said, “I keep thinking about the [story] and all the potential there is for the book, and can't wait to see what you've done with it.”

I responded as soon as I regained consciousness, and then dove into the revisions with gusto. It was admittedly a difficult leap, because I was in the midst of a WIP about which I was equally passionate (it’s a YA urban fantasy), and it was hard to set it aside and switch gears. For a while, I worked on both simultaneously. But ultimately I honed in on the dystopian, determined to get the revised version to Josh before Thanksgiving.

Type A personality for the win! I sent him the revision on November 10. And the nail-biting began.

JOSH: So I waited a few months for the revisions, figuring that they were taking a while, but really looking forward to it. I didn’t know that Ms. A was emailing me (which, BTW, is why it’s fine to—occasionally—nudge an agent when you haven’t heard from them, in case they actually aren’t getting your emails!). But then I emailed her to see what was up, and she said she’d been trying me, and (all things happy) I received the revision--just when I was hitting "totally screwed." so I took forever once again to read it.

Only this time, it was really killing me to take so long. I had anticipated that Ms. A was going to be able to hit the mark (and I felt guilty about the last one), and was totally frustrated that I wasn't able to get to it.

But I did, and the next conversation would be a fun one. At that point, we’d been back in touch as I participated in the Baker’s Dozen agent auction—which, incidentally, was a hoot from the agents’ perspective. There was all manner of trash talking going on, and real intensity as we bid on the manuscripts. But at the same time, I was getting some comments ready for ANOTHER revision on the dystopian. It’s really close, but there were a couple of not unsubstantial elements I wanted to see tweaked.

At that point, though—right before Christmas—I realized that I was really acting like Ms. A’s agent. I had asked her to do a bunch of work on spec, which she did despite the lack of commitment on my part; and she was clearly going to be able to finish the job. And anyway, I liked it! And her! And knew that we’d be able to work together. So when we decided to talk about the revisions, I told her I would be very, very happy to represent her.

AUTHORESS: And now you know what was going on "behind the scenes" during the Baker's Dozen Auction. I was having twitch-fits every time Josh bid on something!

Josh’s much-anticipated email arrived on December 17. He said he was almost finished reading and wanted to have another phone conversation. He also said that he already FELT like my agent, but wanted to make it official.

That’s when I started dancing around the kitchen.

I was delighted to know that he already felt like my agent, because at that point I kinda felt like his client. And told him as much. So when we finally had our phone conversation three days later, it was with the knowledge that everything was good. Which made waiting for the phone to ring far less painful.

I mean, heck. I already had his name in my cell phone.

So there you have it. We had a virtual handshake and made our plans. As of this writing, I’ve just (as in JUST) sent him my latest revisions. We’ll see what happens next.

And, yes. We’re definitely going to continue the he said/she said through this process. So stay tuned! Because…you’re all a part of this journey.

The rest of this story hasn't been written yet!





*Josh offers his apologies to those of you who are waiting to hear from him.  He's working hard to catch up!

50 comments:

Michelle said...

What a fabulous story, proving that good things come to those who wait...and revise...and do good things for others!!

Congrats all over again, to both of you!

Samantha VĂ©rant said...

I really loved the format of this "not quite an interview." Love that Josh, while still extremely busy, took the time to enlighten readers with his process. But even more, I love that Authoress has an agent who believes in her and her work. Patience (and hard work) really pays off. Here's to more dancing in the kitchen, a quick sale, and an epic year! Hats off to both Authoress and Josh! Right, Authoress? The hat really IS going to come off, right? Ahhh....the suspense.

Amanda said...

I love the "he said, she said," and am glad to hear it will continue. Great story!

Monica B.W. said...

LOVELY story!! And finally, I got to read the offering part. SQUEE. Seriously Ms. A, you had me hooked! LOL

I'm so really happy for you!! *SENDS VIRTUAL HUG*

Marybk said...

Laughing at "regained consciousness" and almost tearing up when he asked to be your agent.

Loved, loved, loved this true story. Fantastic format. I can't wait to see your book in print.

Thanks for sharing this with us!

cdowdy said...

Congrats A! You have earned it!
CD

Magan said...

This is my FAVORITE journey story ever. I can't wait to hear the rest when that publishing contract has been announced, BUT I'm plugging my ears when you announce your real name. To me, you will always be Authoress.

Lauren K said...

I think I might have already said this, but Congratulations! What a great story and you definitely deserve it.

Girl Friday said...

Congrats again, and v excited to hear that you'll both be blogging more about the process in future! Can't wait to read those posts.

Vicki Schultz said...

What a wonderful story! Thanks so much to both of you for sharing.

Will-o'-Writer said...

That was fun to read. Getting both sides of the story definitely adds more color to it :)
Congrats again and good luck! I'm definitely buying the book when it's out––from what has been mentioned about it it sounds like it is right up my alley!

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

this was an awesome story and makes me want to jump in even harder with my revisions.
Congrats to both of you!

folksinmt said...

Yay for you Authoress! It's been fun to watch your journey. Best of luck when the book finally goes on submission!

Bradley Wind said...

fun to read of anothers interaction with Josh (my agent as well) He's terrific...
thanks for sharing.
-=Bradley

Sean said...

Thanks for sharing such a fantastic story! It really is inspirational.

As is the recent story about that awesome homeless man, who has been given a PA job and LeBron James' old house - wink,wink - by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Anything is possible and it's never too late...

Holly Bodger said...

Scooby Gang? *cough* Why didn't I think of that???

Krista V. said...

I've said it once, but I'll say it again: Congratulations, Authoress. Way to stick with something that wasn't easy.

I especially liked how you both came to the realization that you were already acting like agent and client, so why not make it official? :)

Kate Larkindale said...

What a wonderful story! And I loved hearing it from both sides too.

Congratulations! You deserve it!

Kate Larkindale said...

What a wonderful story! And I loved hearing it from both sides too.

Congratulations! You deserve it!

Sarah said...

Yay! A fun read and a great story. I'm glad that everything worked out for you both. :)

Laura said...

Delightful! Thanks for giving us the story and hope for ourselves. You're so lucky to have found someone to believe in you. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your road to publishing.

Lyla said...

I've loved reading this story! I'm (still) enormously happy for you, and pretty much DYING to get a blurb on the story! Is it up someplace and I missed it?

alexia said...

You two have great chemistry! I've often heard that an agent and an author have to spark together, and you guys seem to illustrate that perfectly. Since I'm still trying to get an agent, I feel reminiscent of those teen years when you read a love story and have that hopeful glow... maybe one day it'll happen to me!

rhea said...

Great story, Authoress. Revising can be fun and nerve-wracking, but down right scary and exciting when an agent, especially your dream agent, points out the plot holes. Thanks for sharing.

Karen Akins said...

What a fabulous story! Love the word "twitch-fit", btw. :)

ChristaCarol said...

Josh sounds like a fab agent! Been loving these installments. Seeing behind the scenes is so exciting and brain-growing. Thanks for sharing, and congrats to both of you!

Alli Sinclair said...

This appears to be a match made in heaven. It's so lovely to hear adventures from both sides of the fence. Congrats to both for finding each other! Authoress, your posts about your have been inspirational. I'm diving into querying right now and I hope to have a fabulous "call" story to tell--just like you!

sally apokedak said...

Great story. Thanks for taking the time to let us go on the journey with you.

Danielle La Paglia said...

What an amazing story. Thank you guys for sharing it with us. It's fun to see how the whole thing played out and I can't wait to read more as the journey continues. Good luck to you both!

Cat Schield said...

Congrats to you! Sounds like you're going to have a wonderful relationship. There's nothing like having someone in your corner.

I've been following your blog since the beginning. Never participated in one of your Secret Agent contests, but read them all with interest. You might be surprised how many people you never know you helped.

It's nice to see yet another success story come out of your blog. And it's about time that it's yours!

Derek Whisman said...

This makes me happy in all kinds of ways :)

Great story! Go get em' A!

Joan Strading said...

YAY!! Happy clapping and cheering!

Thanks for the rest of the story . . . well the part that's been written anyway. ;-)

I enjoyed reading about your journey, especially having both sides of the story!!

therealtwinmom said...

Very inspiring!

Thanks for sharing your amazing story, Authoress. Good for you for sticking in there with revisions and patience.

Patricia A. Timms said...

I really enjoyed reading this journey. The first one made me feel a little hopeless about the writing/querying process. By the second installment I was hopeful and in there with you. And now today was just great! I really like the he said/she said aspects. It's good to know what's going on with the agent and how you're feeling on your end. Thanks for sharing this.

beth Hautala said...

My favorite part of this entire thing:
Well, ok. TWO favorite parts:

1) Authoress' persistance despite what looked like abandonment/failure/hopelessness

2) Josh's vision. He saw the potential, offered a little direction/thoughts despite is own craziness, and presto!

Brilliance.

Thanks for sharing. This makes me hope.

Wulf said...

I'm so excited that you _have_ an agent story. Much less, an awesome one ; )

Heather Kelly said...

Congrats! What wonderful news! And, it's so cool that you both got to try on the client/agent hats with each other before anything official. You already know that you work well together. YAY!

Reesha said...

That's an amazing story.
I'm so happy for you both. Just reading about Josh's reactions to the book makes me want to go out and buy it right now.

Debbie Barr said...

Wonderful! I was grinning and almost got a little teary eyed at the end, there. I am so happy for you, and it looks like you guys have a great relationship going already! (Gosh, my comment makes it sound like you're getting married, hah!)

Miss Aspirant said...

Wow Authoress -- so many nail-biting moments in this story! It's really great to hear from both sides and to know that the delays in the agent reading the partial / full is not due to lack of interest but time. Look forward to the announcement of a sale!

beth said...

***beaming at you***

Merc said...

Aww, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (and not from mold). Fabulous, Authoress and Josh! :) I definitely anticipate more She/He Said installments in the future.

Bron said...

So exciting! It was really interesting to read it from both points of view. Josh's comment about the nine manuscripts in one week especially struck home. We can all tell ourselves that agents are busy and that's why we have to wait for responses, but when you have a concrete example like that, you realise just how busy an agent's life can get!

Eagerly awaiting the next he said/she said... hopefully news of a sale? ;_)

Jon Paul said...

Hearing all the behind the scenes stuff is so groovy! This is truly fantastic! Thanks for sharing the blow-by-blow. It really helps the rest of us out here stay focused and understand the journey ahead.

Laura Pauling said...

That was awesome! Thanks for sharing! And congrats.

Maurene J. Hinds said...

This is such a great story! Thanks to both of you for sharing it!

Roberta Walker said...

Inspiring and fun...Thanks for sharing and giving hope to the rest of us struggling with rewrite after rewrite.

Kathleen MacIver said...

Hi!!! I pretty much dropped out of the writing world last summer, and I know no one probably missed me...but I decided to drop in and see what all you were up to, and I find your wonderful news! Congratulations SO MUCH, Authoress! I'm so happy for you!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I'm such a sap because I just about cried at your happy ending/new beginning! This is awesome! Thank you to both of you for taking the time to share it!

Excited about the rest of the journey!

Cat said...

I'm late to the party, here, but I just discovered your blog a few days ago and have been reading, reading, reading!

Congratulations!! What a wonderful story :D

Thank you so very MUCH for this blog! This is a fantastic resource, and I've found it at precisely the right time in my writer's journey....