Today's story reveals a few of my naive escapades when I first entered the publishing world. You may find them amusing... or cautionary. :-)
In June 2007, I found two critique partners in my hometown. We met once a month to exchange constructive comments on each other's work.
Two of us signed up to attend a local conference. I was enthusiastic about my appointment with one agent who would be attending. She was a general market agent but had brokered a few CBA deals.
By the time the conference finally rolled around in April 2008, I was ALMOST finished with my novel.
Do not use an impending conference as a deadline to finish a novel draft.
Because if you stay up late at night finishing your draft the night before the conference, you may be in a slightly emotional state when your agent appointment rolls around.
NAIVE MOVE THE FIRST: THE WEEPING WRITER
Yes, it's true. I stayed up far past my bedtime finishing that novel. I didn't realize how sleep deprivation plus the emotional wallop of completing such a long project would affect me.
It wasn't the best pitch you've ever seen. Ha ha!
I knew what I was supposed to say, in theory, but when I actually made it to my place in front of the agent, I sensed that my general pitch might not be exactly what she wanted to hear.
"What else would you like to know?" I asked, staring at her like a deer in headlights.
"Tell me about your heroine and your hero."
"Well, they're both based on real people who lived in a small town in Ohio in 1854..."
So far, so good. But as I described these real people, I choked up and my eyes watered. I was overwhelmed by the realization that my long, solitary work was finished and it was finally time to share it with the world. I really, really loved these characters, and I couldn't believe I had made it to this point.
Fortunately, I recovered myself sufficiently that I didn't burst into a full sobbing fit during the pitch, but it was very embarrassing nonetheless.
The agent was nice enough to request a full manuscript. I was overjoyed! But I was also a little nervous. What if this agent made me an offer? I hadn't really clicked with her on a personal level. All sobbing aside, I sensed that our personalities probably were not a perfect match, and I knew nothing about how she would work with a client.
About a week later, my little family headed to California for the annual Pepperdine lectures. Before we bunked down for the night in a hotel room, I checked my email.
Lo and behold, an announcement from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) had arrived in my inbox. A friendly fellow writer wanted to pass along a message from Rachelle Gardner, who had recently joined Wordserve Literary as an agent after many years as a high-level editor.
Rachelle was seeking quality manuscripts in my genre.
I immediately went online to investigate her credentials, and found that she was my dream agent. Her editorial background was superb. I could trust her to know good work from bad, and to care about quality as well as commercial appeal.
NAIVE MOVE THE SECOND: THE STINKY QUERY
I wrote a really, really awful query letter in the darkness of that hotel room, while my family slept.
Oh, the pitch was OK, if not perfect. I presented my novel well.
It's the OTHER stuff that stunk to high heaven.
Some of it I can't confess even now, though you would howl with laughter if you heard it.
Here's just a teeny, weeny sample. In my ignorance, I told Rachelle that I really wanted her to be my agent, but that another agent already had my manuscript, and I was afraid she might take it before Rachelle could respond.
(Pause here while I simultaneously cringe and chuckle at my own foolishness.)
NOW, in hindsight, I know that publishing moves at a glacial pace, and that there was almost no chance that the other agent would have responded to me in a week, or even three weeks.
THEN, I was honestly filled with dread that the other agent would call me up, drooling over my manuscript, and I would miss my chance to sign with Rachelle, the agent I really wanted.
Ever gracious, Rachelle said nothing about my faux pas at that time. After reviewing my query and sample, she requested that I send her a partial manuscript.
O frabous day! Calloo! Callay!
Despite NAIVE MOVES THE FIRST AND SECOND, I seemed to be headed in exactly the right direction.
Next: My Publishing Journey #4: In Which Our Hapless Writer Faces a Reckoning