I was very firmly and kindly told by my blog friends that I had to put up a post on how this whole agent thing happened, and that they would put live badgers in my computer bag if I failed to do so.
Okay then, here goes.
To start off with, I need to make one thing perfectly clear. I don't put much stock in the idea of luck when it comes to my own life. I know many agent/publishing stories with an element of luck, almost all of them in fact, but I never expected my story would become one of them.
(I never believed in the idea of soulmates either, and then I ended up married to mine. This is why I try to keep my words sweet, because I eat them so often.)
The story starts here...
In 2007, I started writing my second book, The House of a Thousand Dolls, about a girl in a caste-based society who has to try and solve a murder. The book took about a year and a half to write, which I felt was quite fast, given that my first book took me almost ten years to finish.
In early 2009, I started querying. I got some nibbles, but mostly it was form rejections. One of the agencies I queried that year was Andrea Brown.
While I was querying, I kept busy. I wrote another book and then another. I learned how to blog and facebook and twitter. I made awesome online friends. And I continued to query Houses off and on with no success.
Then in 2010 I got a phone call from an agent. He was really excited about Houses, but felt there were some fundamental problems with the worldbuilding. Ultimately, he decided not to offer representation, but asked to see my next book.
So I shelved Houses and worked on getting my next book Life as a Cat up to speed so I could send it.
It came back with a form rejection.
I had pretty much exhausted my options (I thought) for Houses, so I shelved it and went back to work on Cat. I polished it up and sent it out on another round, where it failed dismally.
I was crushed. I took a query hiatus, played around with a just-for-fun project and started planning another book. And the whole time, part of my brain was wondering about Houses. Was it fixable? What had I done wrong?
Then a light-bulb went off, one of those industrial fluorescents that take forever to light up. Slowly the pieces started coming together. The problem was that the book started in the wrong place. It started with the third murder and went from there. But that didn't give us enough time to become invested in the world. So what if I started with the first murder instead?
It took a LOT of work. A lot of rearranging and rewriting and about ten thousand new words, but I fixed it. By then though, I had a new project that I was really excited about and an agent interested in Cat. Actually two agents, one of whom had read the synopses on my blog and wanted to see both books.
Both agents were very encouraging and said very nice things about my voice and writing style, but ultimately neither one felt invested enough. I got the last email December 2010.
And that's when things got interesting.
I knew if I got rejected after being so close it was going to hurt like hell. And I knew I had to do something to keep myself from giving up. So on the day I got the last email, I decided to send out a query. One query. To Jennifer Laughran at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Now I knew Jenn (twitter handle @literaticat) fairly well, in fact she was on my agents-I'd-love-but-who-are-out-of-reach-list. I followed her on Twitter and had read three of her client's books in 2010. She also had recently started following me back, so I figured my chances of getting a semi-personal rejection were pretty good.
The reason I thought she was out of reach was because I had already queried her agency with my book. But after checking the agency website, I figured enough time had gone by that I wouldn't look like a total dork if I queried her. Plus the book was a lot different now. So I took the file of Houses that I had sent the last agent and pressed send.
It was a purely defensive maneuver. I had given up on Houses. But I knew that Andrea Brown had a no-response-means-no policy after six weeks. That would give me enough time to polish up this other project that I was really excited about, and if I didn't hear from her in six weeks, I could start querying all over again.
That was my plan, anyway....
Stay tuned for Part Two!