Monday, December 6, 2010

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Or Adventures in Queryland

Illustration of the Planets in Alignment

This is not the blog I wanted to write. I’ll admit it—I got carried away last week with the high hopes that I would be getting The Call. If you’re an aspiring writer, you know what I’m referring to. Here’s the sad story:

Late in September I got a request for a full from Agent 1. Cool beans. The next day, another request for a full (Agent 2). Very cool beans. My query is schmokin’! Except Agent 2 wants to read the ms as an exclusive. Sorry, no can do.

Agent 2 says they’ll read the ms immediately. I get excited. Then two days later, I get an email. Agent 2 stopped at page 100. They can’t offer me representation without some major work, but here’s the catch: They won’t work with me while I’m still in contact with Agent 1. Major nail-biting time.

The potential information from Agent 2 is too good a carrot for this mule, so I bite. I rescind my ms from Agent 1 as gracefully as I can. Agent 1 is understanding and wishes me good luck. I email Agent 2 and get my list of changes.

Six weeks later, the work is done. The manuscript is way, way better and almost 15 K words shorter! I’m stoked as I send the revised ms to Agent 2.

Then the weeks start mounting: one, two, and then just before the third week is over, I crack under the pressure and send a nudger, expecting the worst. Agent 2 sends message back: They’re on page 200, I’ll hear from them in a week or so. !!!!!!!!

After this, my hopes really soar. Page 200! They’ll finish the ms and love it, I’m sure. I get my list of agent questions ready and try to calm down. Each morning I wake up wondering, “Will this be the day that changes my life?” Every time the phone rings, my heart skips.

A week passes. The next day I’m in and out of the house running errands, doctor’s appointment, playdate, the whole suburban mom routine. I don’t get a chance to check my email until after 7 pm. There it is. A message from Agent 2. Not good. I know before I read it. Rejection.

Here’s the take-home message, folks: If an agent loves your ms, part of that love is feeling confident they can place it with an editor who will also love it. And if this editor is with a larger publishing house, there may be a whole hierarchy of people who need to love it too. The planets must align in your favor, or no sale, no soup for you, go back to start, pick your metaphor.

This stings, but it’s not a complete disaster. I sent the new, improved ms back to Agent 1. I still have a strong query and a new list of agents to contact. This is not over.

Would I recommend ‘working’ with an agent who hasn’t signed you? For me, it was worth it. I got a lot of solid information that transformed the manuscript and will make me a better writer. If this opportunity comes your way, take it, but don’t overestimate your status with the agent. Don’t assume they will sign you just because they asked for revisions. Keep querying.

I didn’t get what I wanted from Agent 2, but did I get what I need? Time will tell.


  1. Oh my goodness.. I was holding my breath throughout this entire story! I'm so very sorry it didn't work out Tamara :(

    That was some experience, and although it may have been one of the most nerve wracking experiences for you to go through, I know you're stronger because of it. I have full faith your MS is going to find a terrific home soon!

    Thank you so much for sharing this story and for the invaluable advice :)

  2. Yep, it was quite a ride. I just read a blog yesterday in which the writer got an agent, but has been stuck in submission limbo for two years! It's tough all over, so we have to find a way to dream big and keep our feet on the ground at the same time. Hard balance to find sometimes.

  3. If you had two agents bite so quickly on the *old* MS, I'm sure you're going to get some good results now that it has been overhauled. A rough road, but you're in a pretty good spot! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.


I will do everything in my power to visit commenter's blogs unless I've been abducted by aliens or my children get sick. (If my children get abducted by aliens, I will be very busy, of course, catching up on my sleep.)