Friday, September 19, 2008

Very nearly a cautionary tale...

You know that Simpson's episode where Bart is reading a scouting manual titled "Don't Do What Donny Don't Does"? Heh. Substitute 'Lesley' for 'Donny Don't'.

First of all, don't take over a decade to write your first book.

Second, don't wait for a single, pretty obviously unmotivated, agent to read said book for almost a year without querying other agents.

Third, don't wait to start writing another book while you're waiting for agent responses.

Fourth... aw hell. I could go on and on about the pain and horror that was my first bout on the query-go-round. Suffice to say: not fun. I did pretty much everything wrong. Don't do that.

DO, however, listen to your boyfriend (or other relevant influential person in your life) when - on the occasion of sitting patiently while you whine for the umpteenth time about how 'no one wants to rep your precious baby' he finally snaps and says "Would ya shut up already and write another book?" (Or - y'know - loving words to that effect...)

DO write that other book (maybe don't make it - y'know - 7,000 pages in a down-market genre this time).

DO research appropriate agents and DO query widely.

Perhaps DON'T start said 'querying widely' until you've actually FINISHED writing the dang book. Which is what I did. Hence the 'very nearly cautionary tale'...

See, my past experience had indicated to me that agents were predisposed to take FOREVER to get back to querying writers. I figured - enh, send out a couple of queries now! You'll have weeks to finish up those... LAST. FOUR. CHAPTERS. Weeks, I tells ya!

Let's be clear on this point: I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS METHOD.

Because, of course, I had neglected to take into consideration the decrease in response time with a lot of agents who had moved to accepting e-queries. Yup - I'm an idiot. Im a LUCKY idiot. Because when, after receiving my (admittedly kickin') query, the MARVELOUS Jessica Regel at JVNLA responded only a day or two later with a gleaming 'please send the entire manuscript' (not 'please send the first 50 pages' - which is what I was counting on...) she didn't, at least, ask me to email them.

So. I responded with a hearty "absolutely! heck ya! I'll get that in the mail by the end of the week!" and then I panicked and didn't sleep very much for the next six or seven days. 'The end of the week' turned into 'the beginning of next week' as, baggy-eyed, quivering and wan, I trundled my MS to the post office, figuring that I'd pretty much blown my big chance with an agent I really really really wanted.

When Jessica called a week later to offer representation, I spent most of the conversation too preoccupied thanking my lucky stars to hear much of what she said. Although I WAS paying enough attention to know that she was awesome. The agent for me. The agent for my career. Smart, supportive, savvy, gets me, gets my writing...

And she came fully equipped with a sense of humor, thankfully.

I finally got around to mentioning my - heh - questionable querying methods to her last time I was in NYC (because Harper Collins was interviewing me for their website about the books Jessica sold them - not even the same one I queried her with but that's another story, entirely...). When I sheepishly finished my tale, she just looked at me and laughed. With me. Not at me. That's how awesome my agent is.


Tracy Madison said...

Lesley--I'm so loving reading each of the posts this week, and yours was a delightful addition. And once again, it shows how every writer's path is different. I can't wait to read your book. :)

Adrienne said...

lol, yes, yes indeed.

I met Lesley almost exactly two years ago now, both of us in our capacity as actors. But we quickly discovered we had the writing thing in common too.

What we also quickly discovered was that our submission to agent stories were almost IDENTICAL. I too submitted without having finished basically that many chapters. I too heard from my soon to be agent the next day. I too had to spend the rest of the week in a rush of panic and adrenaline finishing up the MS. I too had an agent with a very good sense of humour.

And I too would most definitely, absolutely, without any fear or doubt, would NOT recommend this method.

At all.

Just . . . don't.

(and Lesley, Jessica is so totally awesome! You really lucked out!)

Jillian Cantor said...

I loved your story, and I'm so glad it ended the way it did. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who had to write a second book before finding an agent.

I'm happy we both listened to our signficant others and kept at it, and that we both found the absolutely awesome Jessica!!

I'd love to hear the story about your other book (the one you queryied with) some time, too :-).

Kerry said...

Hi Lesley, thank you for your story! (I hope we can hear the one about the other books too!) I have the same question as for Jillian - after you had an agent, was it long before you had a publisher? This blog is great! From Kerry

lisapatton said...

Lesley, My book start to finish took about a decade, too. by the time I pulled it in and out of my drawer, all the while reasoning with myself about whether or not I could actually do it!