Or, as I’ve often said might be my epitaph or the subtitle of this blog:
MISTAKES WERE MADE. LESSONS WERE LEARNED.
To which my copyeditor friend Vince always adds: PASSIVE TENSE WAS USED.
Previously on Girl Detective: I have a young adult (YA) manuscript (MS) that’s written as well as I’m capable of right now. I’ve started to query agents. I send them an email telling them a little about the book and hoping they request more of it to read. The goal is to find an agent who loves it and tries to get it published. This is usually a years-long project fraught with rejection and the odds aren’t in my favor.
Two short stories, and one long about my query process thus far.
1. Researching agents online, found an interview with a new one whose wish list had some close (but not exact) matches to my MS. Sent in a query. Got a form rejection (my first!) within 48 hours:
Thanks so much for being in touch and sharing your query. Unfortunately I don’t believe this is a good fit. I hope you’ll continue querying the project and I wish you much success with your publishing career.
Lessons learned: Keep an eye on my query letter. Such a fast rejection might mean it needs work. (Most agencies say that their normal query response time is 4-6 weeks.) Also, I suspected this agent wasn’t a good fit, so look for better fits.
2. My friend Sam said ‘you should query the agent for X (a well-established YA author.) Me: are you kidding? X’s agent? I’m not in Xs league! Sam: who cares? send it anyway. Me (easily bossed around, but also respecting Sam’s expertise): OK.
So I did. The next day (again, very fast) I got a personalized sentence in a form response:
Thank you so much for your query. While we found your concept to be engaging, we don’t feel that your work is right for us at this time. Due to a very full client list, we need to be especially selective about pursuing new projects. We wish you the best of luck in finding representation,
Lessons learned: Woo hoo, my concept is engaging, which is positive feedback from an agent who reps a famous author with similar audience! But again, quick rejection. Keep an eye on future responses to see if query letter needs work.
Finally, the longer story which might be subtitled Rookie Mistakes.
Got a request from an agent to send first 50 pp. Over several hours, laboriously formatted them, made a PDF, sweated over query wording, was ready to send, but paused before I hit SEND to check the submissions guidelines on the agency site, where it said to include text in body of email, and not to send attachment unless it had been requested.
Woo, close call, right? Not so fast. Went to copy and paste in the 50 pp. Poof. Bye, bye, laborious and lovely formatting. Now in single spaced lame font with no tabs. Nearly cried. Decided to send PDF attachment anyway since pages had been requested, it was so many pages, it looked so much better and I couldn’t face putting 50 pages of tabs into an email. Said why and that I could paste into email if didn’t work and hit SEND.
Proceeded to wallow in self-centered paranoia about whether sending attachment was presumptuous, whether doing so would have gotten it summarily deleted for not following directions.
While waiting to hear back, I spent many hours trying to figure out why I couldn’t copy and paste formatted text into my email. Asked around, tried different browsers, tried saving file in different formats, checked out many forums online.
Lesson learned: if I want to paste double spaced formatted pages into the body of an email, I have to use Word, which I don’t have on my machine, and which my husband and I are philosophically opposed to buying for many and various good reasons. I CAN paste pages into the body of an email in my desired font with tabs and formatting, but only in certain browsers, and only when I don’t use “paste and match style.” which bizarrely REMOVES the style.
After 6 weeks, I hadn’t heard from the agent. I sent the polite email agents say is OK to send after their stated time. Added a note about how I’d found something agent had written helpful in revisions, then included original query and the original 50 pp in body of email thinking that would be helpful now that I knew how to do so.
Alas, saw agent tweet later about how someone had sent a revised MS, and that was OK but she answers query by date, so that moves query to end of line.
At which point I gnashed my teeth, pulled my (now really short) hair, and realized that my sentence and the attached pages made it sound like the 50pp were revised, but they weren’t! It was just the same 50pp sent the way it should’ve been sent the first time! I’d added insult (gambling on attachment) to injury (sending myself to back of line) TO MYSELF. Like shooting myself in foot, then dropping an anvil on it.
At which point I resisted the urge to tweet or email about this and instead decided to learn my lessons, which include but probably aren’t limited to:
1. That moment I paused before I hit SEND? I should have extended the pause, and taken the due diligence that followed about figuring out how to paste decent looking pages into body of email BEFORE I sent instead of gambling and explaining the attachment and sweating over it for weeks. So, follow directions, and don’t be in a hurry to send.
2. For the reminder, could have waited a bit longer than exactly the 6 weeks, and simply sent email like this (tweeted by another agent) with nothing else in it.
Dear AGENT, I’m writing to check in on [title], sent [date]. Hope this finds you well, [Name]
And so, here I am with two rejections, one with a bit of positive feedback, and three other queries out in the wild, one of which I’m now at the end of the queue for. Also, slightly wiser as I gear up to send more queries.
My husband G. strongly advised me not to post anything about the last story online. I’m doing it anyway to reinforce the lessons of FOLLOW DIRECTIONS and DON’T BE IN A RUSH TO SEND and because I hope it’s not a bad thing to expose the embarrassing bits of my learning process to make you laugh, and so others may avoid them.
Writing it anyway exemplifies another one of my potential epitaphs/subtitles for blog:
WASN’T SURE IT WAS A GOOD IDEA. DID IT ANYWAY.