Requests and Milestones

On Wednesday, while I was doing my Wattpad updates, two emails came in. I ignored them until I finished what I was doing; both rejections for Blackout Odyssey. Fine. Whatever. It was lunchtime and my attention was elsewhere. I recorded both in my spreadsheet and then closed the browser. Juuuust as I did so another email popped in, with only enough time to read the “query” in the subject heading. I stared at my cleared desktop for a moment then sighed and opened Chrome, feeling a heavy “well, might as well get it squared away before I go eat”.

But it wasn’t a rejection.

It was a request for the full manuscript.

So How Goes Trying To Get Published, Victoria, the “Full Manuscript Request” Edition

Querying a novel is very much like cold-calling for a job. Despite technically being a millennial, I was out and about in the job market before 2008 when you could just call up companies and see if they are hiring. (I know it sounds like science fiction; I have trouble believing it myself. But it’s true. I’ve done it.) Querying is very much like that crossed with the job market post-2008, namely: every agent is inundated, overworked, and desperate for “that perfect candidate” that they won’t know until they see but that’s okay because there are 500 emails in their inbox right this moment and they can be as choosy as they want.

Even with a solid query letter ready to go (after weeks of workshopping it around and tweaking it) I have to source agents that a) sound like they might like my stuff b) work for reputable agencies and c) are open to cold call queries.

When I was sending Creampuffs and Ashes out, it took me roughly 8 months to find and send and hear back from 50 agencies for Creampuffs, and about 6 months for Ashes to accomplish the same thing. There was some overlap but not a lot, so it’s not a stretch to say I queried about 90 agencies altogether, each of which had to be thoroughly researched. Quite a few agents ghosted me. Many sent form letters. Some sent personalized rejections–usually to say that they liked the idea or the writing style but something else was missing or that they had no idea how to market that book in particular and it was better off in someone else’s hands.

One agent in particular liked Ashes; she liked the synopsis and my writing style and sample, but just wasn’t as wildly excited about the book as she’d need to be to move forward. (This is the agent equivalent of the phrase “it’s not you, it’s me”.) Still. It was a lovely rejection as rejections go (especially as it came on the heels of someone suggesting I needed to visit a site called WRITING TIPS 101.) I made a note of it in my spreadsheet (of course I have a spreadsheet), coloured it blue for “personal and complimentary” and moved on to the next agent in my research list.

As I started to query BOO I went back to my spreadsheets to begin working through the blue response list. Not everyone was as open to something more fabulistic and less outright fantasy. Not as many as I’d like, but some, and I queried them first.

And that agent who sent the loveliest rejection? I sent her BOO and a 25 page sample as her guidelines stated. She read those 25 pages and then wanted to read the rest. She didn’t even ask for a synopsis first.

Fuck yes.

That’s why I keep all my notes in a goddamn spreadsheet.

So Now You Get A Publishing Deal And Everything’s Hunky Dory, Right???

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH *wheeze* AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH–

… I don’t understand.

Having an agent ask to read a full is A Very Big Milestone, and I am very very excited about it, but it’s like going in for an interview. Except that I’m not going, BOO is going, and BOO may not be wearing the right type of blazer and also it’s behind closed doors.

The agent gave me a ballpark time of 6-8 weeks to read BOO and get back to me, and to “definitely follow up” (like, who wouldn’t follow up at this point??) which I will do at the beginning of March. That’s it. That’s all I can do (besides continue to send out queries and focus on my other stories/books/pursuits).

Since I’ve had several people excitedly message me to ask if I’ve heard anything yet–when it’s been less than a week–I thought that it might be good to spell out in a friendly-neighbourhood-querying-author way what I expect moving forward.

The normal progression, as far as I can gather from articles, books, online discussions, Twitter threads, and eavesdropping at Con parties, is as follows:

  1. Agent asks to read your full manuscript (or a partial, or a synopsis).
  2. Weeping with relief and pent-up frustration, you send them the manuscript.
  3. Agent disappears for several months.
  4. You try to go about your normal life trying to not constantly daydream of Big Five success for your weird-ass novel that maybe a dozen people will find as entertaining as you do, especially that bit in Chapter 8 with the phone booth that used to be a pigeon.
  5. Agent may ghost you or reject you with a form letter.
  6. Courage in hand (or glass; that’s right, ice coffee gives you strength), you finally follow up with agent. At which point:
    • Agent may ghost you or reject you with a form letter.
    • Agent may request rewrites.
  7. You process this. Weigh “Your Vision” against their requests; realize you don’t have a leg to stand on because you need an agent to get published by the Big Five and earn acclaim or maybe just $, and maybe they know something you don’t because they are an agent and you are you; decide to edit the manuscript to their liking, and resend.
  8. Agent disappears for several months.
  9. You sacrifice an all-white dove, an all-black dove, and maybe even some gray ones just to be on the safe side before remembering that you are not an ancient Roman and you do not know how to augur bird innards.
  10. Agent may ghost you or reject you with a form letter.
  11. Clean up leftover innards. (Stock pot?)
  12. You follow up and remind them that they have had your manuscript for over a year now, if not two; time & death comes for us all.
  13. Agent may ghost you or reject you with a form letter. OR, if ye gods of publishing are pleased with thy innards sacrifice, agent may offer you a deal of some kind.
  14. Either way, much weeping and consuming of ice cream.
  15. If weeping with despair, dry your tears before repeating query process with next agent.

So, yes: I am very excited to have sent my full manuscript to an agent. No, I have not heard anything yet. No, I am not even close to success. Yes, please do light a candle for me; I have no idea which gods are listening and after last years failures I am happy to take any supernatural help on tap.

Believe me, should anything interesting develop, I will 100% be sharing it on the blag. Until then, I will be here on the rooftop, scattering breadcrumbs while scanning for flocks and attempting to divine meaning.

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