I swear these keep getting better!
I’ve been inspired by the recent success stories people have sent to you to send you my own (this is a new story): I stumbled upon the Secret Agent contest sometime after finishing my first novel. At that point, I’d already decided it would probably need to be shelved so I didn’t enter my first page. However, I read the archives of all the past Secret Agent contests diligently. I scanned through all the comments, trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t and gave myself the goal of winning the Secret Agent contest when my next book was finished.
I entered the February 2010 contest with my brand new novel based on everything I’d learned from reading the past entries, and held my breath for the next week or so. The comments coming in were mostly positive and when my entry was announced as the only winner for that month, I was ecstatic. Not just because I won, but because I proved to myself I could accomplish what I wanted if I worked hard enough and set my mind to it.
My prize was a query critique from Nathan Bransford along with along with an autographed SECRET YEAR bookmark from one of his then clients – Jennifer Hubbard. When I got the query critique back, Nathan said it was actually quite good already and requested a partial. Everything was falling exactly into place and it felt too good to be true. And it was. Nathan didn’t end up requesting the full, but he did give me a bit of feedback that I ended up using later on. Soon, I got the bookmark in the mail, but by then my spirits were a bit squashed. After staring at the bookmark and trying to figure out what to do next, I figured I might as well read the book. I bought THE SECRET YEAR and read it in a few hours. And something happened. I fell in love with YA.
I hadn’t picked up a YA book since I was a young adult myself, and I realized I’d been missing out! After much consideration, (and many more YA books read) I decided my book needed to be YA. I did a lot of research, went to a conference, and tackled the rewrite that spring and summer. I was ready to query again in the Fall with a brand new query, and yes, I even changed most of that first page I’d worked so hard on (talk about killing your darlings).
My request rate went from 8% to 50% and I had 3 agent offers by February, exactly a year after winning the Secret Agent contest. I signed with Meredith Kaffel at Charlotte Sheedy Literary and am now trying to survive submissions. :-)
So thank you for all the work you do on this blog. My journey wouldn’t have been the same without it!