Sep 22, 2009

Successful Query

I have an agent. Holy smokes, did I say that? I think I did. It must be real.

We're working to get RUDY TOOT-TOOT in shape for submission to a publisher. If you search for Rudy Toot-Toot on this blog you can find the queries, but they aren't what was important, to be honest with you. The important parts were the characters and the writing. It didn't happen overnight. [NOTE: It happened over an hour in the afternoon. You can move fast when the manuscript is only 4,000 words.]

Some history, because this is what's important:

I've been reading agent and editor blogs for about 18 months (I'm a parent, so I speak in months up to 3 years. Do the math.) I've tried to participate by commenting frequently, to show a professional attitude and foster discussion about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. And also be an occasional smart-ass. But I was careful to stay on topic and not hijack a thread (I probably just got on twelve NSA lists for using the word "hijack." You just made three for reading it.)

I've queried and been rejected many times for other works. I've had an agent review a partial, but declined the full with helpful feedback. To be honest with you, it wasn't ready. As hard a pill as that was to swallow, all that work on my first novel had to be re-done. WIP. But the re-write is better. A lot better. Good enough? Time will tell.

I also had a picture book manuscript, but most agents don't represent picture books. I found a couple that do and queried but never got a reply. Eventually I came across news of a children's publishing veteran joining a literary agency, and I reached out to her through the email address on her blog, indicating that I was familiar with the books she works with (i.e. picture books and children's books). I also noted that I read her preferred submission methods (which did not include querying), and asked if she would was open to a query for my picture book. She said for picture books she prefers the whole manuscript, but recommended I wait until her official start date at a new agency about 3 weeks later.

I had the patience to wait until her second day at the agency, mostly to make sure her email account would be set up. It took a couple weeks before she responded with very good feedback, but ultimately saying it wasn't enough and encouraging more from the story. She ended with "please stay in touch."

So I got to writing. After another three weeks the 500-word picture book grew into a 4,000 word chapter book, and a quick sit-down at dinner grew to a full day of doing chores at the family Bean Market.

I re-queried by replying to her last email with the new query, and I attached a copy of the manuscript again. This is good protocol, it helps a busy agent remember who you are, and they don't have to dig for a prior email. But alas, I received an out of office reply that said she would still check messages when possible.

One month passed, and each day I wanted to email her and ask,"Did you get it? What'd you think?"

But I didn't. I waited a full month and then I decided to follow-up via email. I very politely mentioned that I re-queried with a new MS a month ago and got an out of office reply, so I just wanted to make sure it didn't fall through the cracks. I did this by forwarding the prior query (which had the entire originating thread) and I re-attached the manuscript.

It turns out the other email did fall through the cracks, and she read the re-submission right away. She got back to me within the hour (4,000 words = 16 pages) and said she would like to help get it in shape for a publisher, and the rest of that day was spent discussing the story and what it needs. This morning I woke up early to get writing before my day job, and my alarm's set for an early rise again tomorrow.

And the rest is history (in the making)...

NOTE: I have not given up on my other two works in progress, but they are on the back burner for a short while. Must keep writing. For now, this is a great step on my path to publication.