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Why I Turned Down an Agent’s Offer

Everyone tells you to research an agent before you pitch. Like most writers, I nodded and gave every agent a brief glance before I queried, although I took it further and read a few articles about them, if I could find one.

I recently found myself in a situation I’ve only heard of from one other blogger: an offer of rep from an agent who, after further investigation, wasn’t an agent I wanted to accept representation from.

Let me back up.

I began querying my MS, Twist of Fate, mid-January, 2014. In total, I sent 42 queries, and garnered 4 full requests and five partials (one partial turned into one of the fulls). Not bad stats.

One agent requested a full within 2 days of receiving my query and first three chapters. I decided I was in that dream scenario: fast request, followed by a fast offer. I wasn’t wrong. I received an email within 12 hours: I love this, couldn’t put it down. I want to rep you. Let’s talk.

To say I was excited is an understatement. I texted my family, friends, CPs. A dream had come true: I’d found an agent who loved my story as much as I did. How could I not love her in return?

I’d read articles on what to do next. I asked for 2 weeks to decide. She agreed and offered to send her standard contract. That evening, I sent off emails to all my no-response queries, as well as to the fulls and partials still pending.

Two agents said they’d read ASAP. I received a flurry of rejections with a wish you all the best from others (let me tell you, rejections still suck, even with an offer on the table).

I read my potential agent’s contract and did a more thorough investigation. She wasn’t a member of AAR. Not horrible, but a little of my enthusiasm faded. I investigated the sales she’d made in her six years as an agent. Nothing to large or mid-sized pubs; only sales to small pubs, pubs I could sub myself. Hmm.

I wasn’t so excited after all, but the clock was ticking.

The contract wasn’t what I believed was standard, i.e., we want to rep all your writing, within reason. This agent’s contract spoke of repping my WORK, as in one manuscript only, for one year. I hadn’t realized such contracts existed, although I’ve since discovered they’re common.

By then, an uneasy feeling flooded me. I told myself I’d take the two weeks to seriously think about the offer.

I turned her down. Without another offer on the table. The other agents sent very nice emails explaining why they didn’t wish to rep me or my MS.

Why would I turn down an agent’s offer?

Here were my reasons:

Not a member of AAR.
No big sales after almost six years of business.
The one-year contract. What happens if the book doesn’t sell? What if she’s subbed it to multiple publishers, without a sale? What were her chances of selling it if she had few contacts? What if she rushed the subs, because of the one-year clause?
My gut feeling. If you feel uneasy about something, I’ve learned you need to trust your instincts.

The day of my deadline, she emailed, asking if I’d made my decision. I had, but it wasn’t an easy one to make. I thanked her for her offer and told her I had to pass.

So, I’m back in the query trenches, right?

Not exactly.

One of my partials called a week into my deadline and asked for more time. She had things going on in her life, but liked the premise. By then I leaned toward turning my original offer down. I explained the situation. We had a great discussion about my career goals, where I saw my MS going, and about ourselves. A mini “the call,” before she’d read my partial.

The day of my deadline came, without another offer of representation. I felt like that little doll on the Island of Misfit Toys, hoping Santa would show, but knowing he’d most likely pass.

My son told me the agent with my partial called while I’d been at work. Controlling my giddy kitchen dance, I called her back. She liked my partial, my story actually made her laugh out loud at one point, and, could SHE HAVE A FULL?

Of course, she could. I sent it within 48 hours (she prefers a hard copy).

So, here I am, still without an agent, but still clinging to the hope of finding one soon.

Maybe the agent above will like the rest of the MS as much as she did the first five chapters. Maybe she won’t.

Maybe a week from now, I’ll find myself on that query roller coaster, chugging up one side before cresting the peak to plunge down the other side, looping and whirling until I come to rest at . . .

I’m not sure where yet, but the journey sure is fun.

March – In like a lion, out like a lamb, I hope

We’re still in the deep freeze in Maine, so I’m hoping for the lamb thing by the end of the month.

In February, I announced I would write a NA sci-fi thriller. While I’m thrilled with the MS, and have 30K written so far, a different story is yanking me in another direction. A NA contemporary romance called 100 Kisses. Sweet and snappy. I’ve written 4600 words, and Madison’s tale is flying from my fingers.

I have a query! What do you think?

100 Kisses:

Fatty Mady, least likely to be kissed. That’s what someone scrawled in Madison’s senior yearbook. Determined not to spend her first year of college succumbing to an additional freshman fifteen, Madison takes up running, and by her junior year, sheds one hundred pounds. Although she’s gained a sexy new shape, her self-confidence lags, because she’s still never been kissed.

When she’s offered a summer internship at an archaeological dig in Rome, Madison sees her chance to pop her kissing cherry. Her cousins make it a dare, but it soon morphs into Madison’s mission: one hundred kisses by the end of August. Armed with plenty of lip gloss, and a kickin’ ass wardrobe to show off her new bod, Madison hopes to lure in a few of Italy’s finest.

Only one thing stands in her way: Raffaele, the smart, elusive, modern-day Indiana Jones who offers to supervise her kisses, and serve as her hands-off translator and guide. Before the summer’s through, Madison wonders if winning the bet is worth losing the guy she’d most like to kiss.

February Thoughts

So, lots of fun stuff is happening with my writing. Sun vs Snow netted me 2 partial requests (and my fingers are crossed while I wait to see what the agents think!). #AdPit brought me two more requests (now I’m really biting my nails). And I have a full out! My very first.

I’ve started a new MS: tentatively entitled Phoenix Rising. It’s a NA science fiction thriller. For the first time in my writing career, I’m outlining. We’ll see how that works out. As a pantser, it’s a new and heady experience to see where the MS is going before I get there.

January Update

Well, Pitch Wars has come and gone, and I survived. While I received no agent love, I’m not taking it hard. As I said, it’s all part of the journey. And it’s awfully hard to stand out among 156 entries.

My manuscript, Twist of Fate, is polished and ready to query. Yeah!

I entered Michelle Hauck’s Sun vs Snow contest and was delighted to be chosen for Team Snow. I’m also thrilled by the mentor comments I’ve received on Michelle’s blog. Check out my entry here: http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.com/2014/01/svs-12-twist-of-fate-na-historical.html. I believe I’m still gushing, blushing and incredibly humbled by the entire experience. The contest goes live for agents February 1, and I’m crossing all my fingers and toes that I’ll gain some recognition, and even better: a request! Then you’ll see some arms in the air/butt wiggling in Maine. Maybe. I’m kind-of reserved. But for a request, I may leap out of my chair and shake it.

If you don’t know Michelle, you should. She’s a wonderfully thoughtful writer who gives a considerable amount of her time to help other writers through the writing, editing, and querying trenches. She’s also written some fantastic stuff herself. Check out Kindar’s Cure here: http://www.amazon.com/Kindars-Cure-Michelle-Hauck-ebook/dp/B00EPUPLD2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386161649&sr=8-1&keywords=Kindar%27s+cure

In between then, I’ve picked up some fantastic CPs who are helping me banish any lingering telling in my stories. Pesky things.

New ideas are swirling in my head, itching to take hold. I hope to begin considerable work on either a rewrite of my trunked novel, Gone Wild (which needs a new name) or Twisted Tail soon. Or maybe my pirate adventure.

Stay warm!

 

Thoughts for a Saturday afternoon

I’m so thrilled with my new blog! For my first post, I want to share a little of my writerly journey.

Ever since I won first place in a writing contest in third grade (I wrote a short story about a cabin boy on a clipper ship), I’ve wanted to put a pen to paper. But other than the technical writing I do in my day job, which is less than exciting, my stories have been reserved for my kids (endless tales of the moonlight unicorn, a tiny, colorful horse who gets lost in the cave of doom every single night).

A year ago this month, a story kept running through my brain. The character’s voices pestered me until I yanked my laptop onto my lap and put their words on the page. My first novel, GONE WILD was born, and I’ll freely admit it needs a rewrite. But while it’s far from perfect, I’m proud of the 89,000 words I produced.

Once I finished the book, I went online to figure out how to polish it. A Google search led me to http://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php, where I learned I had so much more to learn. Pesky adverbs? Check. Thesaurus-tweaked dialogue tags? Unfortunately yes. Purple prose? I hang my head in shame.

I picked up a few critique partners who gave me lots of great advice before fading into internet land. Then I found more CPs and they’ve stuck around to share my journey (thanks Tiffanie, Shannon, Sonia and Renee!).

I wrote a fair query and sent it out to 30+ agents with the required pages. Nothing. Sure, a few sent polite no thanks replies, but many didn’t reply at all. We’ve all been there, right? Okay, I thought, it’s all part of the process, bumps in my journey. Move on.

In September, a new voice screamed in my head: Pandia. She is a fluff of a goddess, full of attitude, with a story of her own to tell. She introduced me to a steamy gladiator: Caladus. Poor guy, once she saw him, he didn’t stand a chance. Pandia wouldn’t leave me alone, day or night, until I scribbled her tale on the page. I wrote the first draft of TWIST OF FATE in three weeks. I edited it and read it a billion times more. I proudly sent it out to my CPs, then made more edits based on their recommendations. Pandia is ready to share with the world. I’m so nervous! It’s like sending your five-year-old off to kindergarten on the first day of school.

In December, I entered Brenda Drake’s PitchWars Contest (http://www.brenda-drake.com/). For those of you who don’t know Brenda (how could you not?), she’s a fabulous writer who constantly does things to help other writers. I’m thrilled to announce I was selected as Shelley Watter’s first alternate. The contest goes live in January, and until then, I’ll polish my manuscript until it’s so sparkly it gleams.

Writing’s a journey, with the usual bumps and side trips along the way. I look forward to all the fun times I’ll have as I travel, the new friends I’ll meet, and the memories I’ll make. I plan to savor every minute of it.