The second post, in which I wax a little about getting an agent…

Published November 25, 2011 by christinenorris

So I hope all of you in the US  had a wonderful and filling Thanksgiving and you spent your Black Friday doing whatever you wanted, either shopping like mad or sitting at home.

My day was filled with online shopping, finishing a paper for Grad School, and putting up the Christmas tree. And here I sit, already falling behind in my promise to myself to keep up this new blog and to be madly interesting and give you all kinds of great tidbits about publishing and writing. So I decided that I’d do a bit of recycling. I wrote a post awhile back on my old blog about the five emotional stages of getting an agent. Now that I HAVE an agent, I think this deserves another go-round. I can honestly say that this is pretty much exactly what I went through, over and over, until I got ‘the call’.  Enjoy!

Let’s say you want to find a literary agent.  *waits as you all reply “you want to find a literary agent” and I roll my eyes at you*. Got that out of your system? Good. Much like grieving, there are the Five Stages of submitting your work to an agent, in the time between your submission and their reply. They are as follows:

Giddiness: you’re so excited. You’ve finished your manuscript, edited it to pieces, and either still love it or you’re sick of looking at it. You’ve done your homework and made a list of agents that you think are a PERFECT fit for your Magnum Opus. You’ve worked on that query letter for weeks, fine tuning it until it’s pitch perfect. You’ve poured over guidelines and put together your submission packets, made sure you have the correct email addresses (you DID do that, right?), and hit the send button. There’s excitement coursing through your veins as you imagine the delight on the agent’s faces when they read your material. You fantasize about getting multiple phone calls and having the tough decision of which agent you’ll choose. There may also be some daydreaming about your book on the NYT list and what you’ll wear as you accept your Newbery/Caldecott/Stoker/Nebula/Printz award, but that’s optional.

Impatience: Three days after you send your email, you start looking for a reply.  Why haven’t they responded yet, it’s been THREE WHOLE DAYS!!! My book is BRILLIANT and they MUST read it NOW. (In the old days, these are the people who sent materials by Express or Priority Mail. It doesn’t work – you still get stuck into the pile with everyone else.)
You click onto your email so often, even the gmail server starts telling you to Get A Life.

Self-Doubt: “Oh my god, what have I done!!! ” You look over your manuscript and suddenly all you see are mistakes. Typos, slow dialogue,  places where you could cut and tighten. A dropped comma. Suddenly you wish your submission fell into the deepest hole of cyberspace and you could start over. You dive into a quart of ice cream and get completely Chip-faced.
Desperation: After months of waiting, you’re ready to offer your first born for a reply. Then the reply shows up in your mailbox, and you re-visit the Self-Doubt phase. You can’t bear to open it, because as long as you don’t know, you have hope. You wrestle with the decision, but finally click the button. And…
The next stage is any one of the following. Most likely the first.
Soul-crushing despair: You got a form rejection letter, ‘not right for us’, ‘not a good fit’, whatever. The high you felt when you sent the submission is deflated like a balloon at a five-year-old’s birthday party. This is often followed by
Denial (aka delusional), where you come to the realization that the agent doesn’t have a clue what she or he is talking about and you’ll remember to send them a copy of book when it’s published and at the top of the NYT list. Yeah, don’t do that.
Defeated but not broken: Maybe you still got a form rejection letter, but you’re not going to let it get you down. Maybe you got a personalized rejection, in which case you’re disappointed but you do a little happy dance because at least the agent thought enough of your work to tell you what they liked and what didn’t work for them. That’s REALLY REALLY good, because most writers NEVER get that far. So you let the feedback sit for awhile, decide if you should revise, and then either DO it, or you decide to leave it as is and send it out again.
You get an offer of representation: This is rarer than a blue moon, the phone call we ALL wait for. Then you do a really BIG happy dance and buy champagne and stand in your living room and go ‘neener-neener-neener’ to all those agents who rejected your work.
And then you go and write your next book. Which you should have been doing all along anyway.Once you HAVE an agent? Exchange the word ‘agent’ for ‘editor’, rinse and repeat.

One comment on “The second post, in which I wax a little about getting an agent…

  • Christine, I laughed out loud as i read this and remembered. I was so excited when an agent said she laughed when she read my chapter about taking my dad’s keys away and could imagine going through that with her dad in the near future, but… And then along came Terrie!! Love your new blog.

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