The Grooming Habits of Agents

Or: A Brief History of My Journey to Indie Authordom

Photo by Julie V. Photography


Once upon a two-years-ago, I met a real live acquisitions editor.

I’d let my mother talk me into attending an Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. Conference at a hotel in south OKC. Introvert and publishing world n00b that I was, I required a lot of convincing. The carrot that got me was Mama’s offer to pay for the whole thing. So, off I went to the writers’ conference.

After I got over myself, I had fun. Some neat people talked to me, so I tagged along with them all three days of the conference. One of them had published a few novels with a Christian publishing company, and he introduced me to his acquisitions editor.

My face was all polite smiles and wittiness. Inside, I was thinking,

“Hmm. Acquisitions editor? Foot in door? Is this it?!?”

Eventually, during a break between lectures, there was a little circle of conversation at the hotel coffee shop. I don’t recall how it happened, but something I said about my in-progress novel led to this editor’s turning to me and asking, “So, Courtney, what is your book about?”

Inside, I said, “Um.”

Back Story

Before the conference, I’d signed up to pitch my epic high fantasy novel Triad to one of the agents who’d be at the conference. Now, I had with me a carefully crafted cover letter and the painstakingly polished first three chapters of said high fantasy novel.

I had not come to this conference prepared to talk to anyone about my Christian fantasy novel, Colors of Deception, which was then in first draft stage.

Fast-Forward

So, when Acquisitions Editor Attached To Christian Publisher asked me what my in-progress novel was about, I had about half a second to come up with a pitch.

Inside, I thought, “Um.”

And then, I thought, “This IS it!!!

Outside, I said, “My novel’s about a group of Christian college students who are being stalked by demons.”

To which Editor Attached To Christian Publisher replied, “I’d like to see that.” And she gave me her business card.

Outside, I said, “Great! I can have the first three chapters ready for you in a few weeks.”

Inside, I said,


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Happened Next

Not long after that conference — and with manic re-writing in-between — I sent Benevolent Acquisitions Editor an email, asking in what form she’d like the first three chapters. She replied with instructions to mail her a hard copy.

I did that.

I waited two months.

Then, I received her email thanking me for my submission and stating that my story was not what her publisher was looking for at this time.


 

 

 

 

 

Turning the Beat Around

I felt crushed. Beaten. I didn’t understand. Why would she show such interest in my story, if it wasn’t the kind of story her publisher was interested in? Why did she get my hopes up like that? Shouldn’t she know better than to treat a fragile, sensitive writer’s heart this way?!

Of course, with hindsight and a bit more education about the publishing world, I now understand it was nothing personal. Either my writing style wasn’t what she was looking for, or my story really wasn’t the kind of story her company was interested in, after all.

Of course, the notion that my writing was, at that point, simply not good enough is completely preposterous.

*ahem*

Anyway, by now it was fall of ’09, so I made an early resolution: 2010 would be The Year I Found An Agent.

A flurry of agent-y research ensued. There was intense poring-over of submission guidelines. There was much flipping through of novels to see which authors credited their agents. By February 2010, I’d compiled a database of 35 agents, their preferences, their guidelines, their faves, their published authors, their grooming habits, and their agencies. All I needed was to re-visit my query letter, perfect it, and start sending it out.

If You Need Something Done Right…

Then, in March 2010, my friend Aaron approached me about founding a non-profit organization to support the arts. How he talked me into it and how The Consortium came to be is another story and shall be told another time…

…but the end of the matter is that instead of getting an agent, I got an indie publisher. I got a published novel. Colors of Deception, that story about Christian college students stalked by demons, is in the hands of readers who, by all reports, are enjoying the heck out of it.

Maybe I coulda been traditionally published. Instead, I’m indie published. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

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My most darlingest inklings! Are you agent-hunting? What’s your process?

Are you querying? What’s your greatest query letter challenge?

How do you deal with rejection letters from editors or agents?

If you’ve gone indie or self-pub — what was the legacy-pub straw that broke your writing camel’s back?

Let’s talk. : )