Thursday, March 6, 2008

Remember Your First Time?

TOD: For giggles, report any e-mails your e-mail provider sends to you back to them as spam.

No! Not THAT first time. Though if you want to swap horrible first time stories you can e-mail me on the side. Ha! No, I’m talking about that very first query letter that you sent to an agent. What was it like for you? Were you nervous? Scared? Excited?

I sent my first query at the end of July 2006. And I was SO nervous. Really. I had just written this book—my very FIRST book and I had no idea if it was any good. And no one—not a single other person—had read it to tell me yay or nay. This was before I took Lauren Barnholdt’s YA chicklit class, and before I met my wonderful critique partners, and before I joined LiveJournal and Verla Kay’s. So yeah, I knew squat. What I did find online was Robin Schneider’s blog and later her awesome querying experience chronicled. What can I say? I was inspired that she was selling books at like 20 years old so I thought maybe I could do it too.

So I made up a short list of agents to query (and this was before I discovered Agentquery, which makes life a million times easier when querying) and I looked at it for about a week. I wrote my query letter, which turned out to be a WEE bit too long (like a page and a half), and I tried to mentally prepare myself to start querying. But I was SO scared! I think I imagined these super powerful, smart people sitting in uber-tall NY buildings reading my letter and laughing—“Ha ha ha! She thinks she can write!” (That doesn’t really happen, right?) When I actually got up the nerve to e-mail that first query, I literally had to hold my right hand with my left to click Send. And then I just sat there staring at my e-mail because you know, the fabulous agent would write me back immediately of course.

Well, if you’ve sent out one or a hundred queries you know this generally isn’t the case. But I was totally in shock because this super sought after agent e-mailed me back in thirty minutes requesting a full! I couldn’t believe it! Of course I called my husband right away and told him this whole agent hunting thing was a snap. I should be agented by the weekend and a sale probably the following week. Alas, that did not happen. The very next day I received a very nice, long rejection from this agent. And I was SO mad. See, now I went from scared to even query to how dare she reject me in just 24 short hours. I’m talented like that. It took me like, 10 more rejections to realize that the first rejection I received was the nicest and most helpful one. She had even offered to look at it again if I revised.

Ok, now came the time where I slowed down a bit, joined the YA class, met great critique partners and worked more on the book. And wrote another one. I was still slowly querying (and started querying my second book near the end of the search)—and actually I queried for almost nine months before finding the right agent. But I was a whole lot smarter about all this stuff by that point too. Rejections Shmections—they just rolled off my back. I believed in my writing a lot more by this point and I knew it was just a matter of time before I got an agent and sold.

Your turn now—what was your first time like?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub


Lisa Schroeder said...

My first time querying an agent was to Steven Malk, on a picture book. He was the only agent I wanted. I worked for days perfecting the query letter. He of course rejected me, but it was a very kind rejection. I tried him a couple of more times through the years, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

Emily Marshall said...

My first time was also incredibly scary. I sat literally amazed that I got a response for a partial in a few days. I jumped up and down...till the rejection came (form) and felt much like you did. It definitely gets easier with each query that goes out, though.

DeenaML said...

Mine was after a year of querying editors. Then I was reading Verla's at my old job and saw all the benefits of having an agent. I thought, maybe that's the way to go! So I e-queried one agent that afternoon from my work PC. I had the form rejection within an hour. :)

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

Tina, I haven't queried an agent, yet, but I remember very similar feelings when I first started subbing to editors. I had my little list and thought, if I screw this up, I don't get a second chance! Ah!!! But then I started getting those fabulous rejections, some helpful, some not so much.

I'm still trying to figure out if it's time to look for an agent. Yikes!