Thursday, March 20, 2008

It just takes ONE

Tip of the Day: and are two valuable resources when researching agents.

This has been a great week with some fabulous advice and samples of query letters that have worked. I'm also going to share the query letter that landed my agent. I've been thinking about what tips or advice I could give, and I don't know that I have anything to add to the other great advice.

But I do want to reiterate the fact that so much of this business is luck - right place, right time. You absolutely need to have a polished query letter and a fabulous manuscript, but most of the time, that isn't even enough. I've seen writer friends get so discouraged as they query and get rejected, query and send partials, and yes, query and send fulls. After a few rejections, it's easy to think - that's it, my novel sucks, I'm done.

Now, if you are getting form rejection after form rejection and the only people who have read your manuscript are your mother and your Great Aunt Pearl, you may need to take those rejections to heart. But if you have run the manuscript through your critique group and done everything you can to make it sparkle, it may just be that you haven't found THE ONE yet.

I was rejected like a million times before I got my agent. Okay, maybe not a million, but a lot. When she sent an e-mail letting me know how much she loved it and that she would be "the most enthusiastic of advocates", I literally stood up and backed away from my computer as I clutched my chest, like I expected to have a heart attack right then and there.

I think agents, and editors too, are faced with a daunting task each day, and there are probably a hundred reasons at any given moment why they turn down a manuscript, and it's not always going to be because it's bad writing. I know it's hard, but you can't take rejections personally. Sure, if you get five, and all of them are saying the same thing, then some revisions are probably in order. But I really think most of the time, it just comes down to taste, and you have to keep going until you find one who clicks with your writing.

So here is my query:

Dear Fabulous Agent:

Fifteen-year-old Ava is heartbroken over the death of her boyfriend, Jackson. But it isn’t long after his funeral when she discovers while he may be dead, he definitely isn’t gone.

At first she’s thrilled to know his spirit has stayed to be with her. He lets her know he’s with her by playing particular songs on the CD player, appearing in the mirror occasionally, sending her brief mind messages, and visiting her in her wildly intense dreams.

And then, one day, when her parents whisk her away to the beach, she meets Lyric, who reminds her what it’s like to laugh and flirt and talk with a real, live boy. She begins to realize that having a ghost for a boyfriend is neither easy nor fulfilling.

How can she ask the love of her life to leave when he seems unable to leave her behind and when she is harboring some guilt over the accident that killed him? Will he leave peacefully, or is Ava destined to be haunted by Jackson forever?

I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, is a 13,400-word story of life, death and love told in easy-to-follow, yet engaging verse. I think Sonya Sones has proved that teens will read poetry and ask for more.

I am the author of BABY CAN'T SLEEP, which Publisher Weekly calls "...a charming tale about luring baby off to dreamland." Because the picture book market is tough right now, I decided to write something different. And I have to say, I loved writing this book. Now I want a good agent to help me sell it.

I would be happy to send you all or part of the manuscript. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Lisa Schroeder
SCBWI Member

To all of you on the agent hunt, may the luck o' the query be with you!

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed


Emily Marshall said...

Lisa this is great. Thanks for the encouragement to keep going. You are so sweet and nice that we all can't help but try to follow your sincere advice.

And I was wondering what the word count for your verse novel was. Amazing how much story you packed into such a few words. Very well done!

Kate Fall said...

Lisa, I love your story of backing away from the computer. Hearing/reading about your writing journey is so inspiring.

This has been a great week for thinking about luck. Although we didn't uncover any weird superstition rituals in sending query letters yet!

DeenaML said...

Awesome query letter! Sparse and powerful, just like your book. Did you get lots of requests for it, or did you hear from some agents that they don't rep novels in verse?

Lisa Schroeder said...

Em - when I submitted the thing, it was only at about 14,000 words. It expanded during the revision process with my editor to about 17,000 words.

Kate - I'm glad it's inspiring. I really do believe you just have to keep trying!

Deena - One agent said I couldn't possibly have a novel with that few words (after that comment, I took the word count out) and it was more likely a novella. Another agent said, I wouldn't even know what makes a good verse novel good, so I'll have to pass. A couple said they already had an author on their list who wrote verse novels and didn't feel they could take on another. So yeah, quite a few of those kinds of replies without even reading it!

Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

All right,'ve convinced me. I'm going on the hunt! And I'm starting with my two "dream" agents--well, the two I think best fit with me and my style.

Now to writing that query...

Lisa Schroeder said...

Good luck Ghost Girl!!!!

Emily Marshall said...

Ghost Girl good luck on your agent hunt.