I'm thrilled to introduce my first guest blogger, YA fantasy author Christa Conklin!
Christa recently went through the querying process to land an agent for her debut fantasy novel, and has graciously agreed to write about the ways that her perspective has changed as she's gone from querying to now being agented.
So, without any further ado.... here's Christa Conklin!
Typing "The End" is Just the Beginning
By Christa Conklin
Finding an agent is not easy.
When I first began querying agents and publishers, I was in newlywed love with my manuscript and prepared to protect it from the onslaught of contract offers soon to be thrown my way. My confidence was boosted by what was included on the “do not” lists of submission guidelines. Apparently, enough writers send baked goods and spray their query letters with perfume and glitter that these tactics warrant being listed as methods to avoid. I had never even considered such devious designs. Clearly, I would rise to the top of the slush pile based on scruples alone.
Well, that didn't happen. My needless contract shields were lowered. The chip on my shoulder was thrown in the compost.
There are countless writers out there trying to get published. Authors and agents are swimming in a sea of elevator pitches and manuscripts, cookie crumbs and Chanel No. 5, trying to find each other.
Thankfully, the pros are willing to throw in a flotation device once in a while. Early on, I read and heard fabulous, but hard to swallow advice. I promptly ignored it, did things my way, failed, and finally acquiesced.
The honeymoon was over. My manuscript and I needed help. I made some investments that ultimately resulted in a contract with a literary agent: contests, a conference, and a professional editor. Or, as I call it, the old Co Co Pro plan. Okay, this is the first time I've called it that, there's nothing old about it, and I didn't plan the pieces to work together, but they did. And, c'mon: Co Co Pro! Admit it. You've read worse.
Writing contests that provide judges' comments reward writers if they win or not. Feedback I received from these contests revealed some big issues that had been holding me back.
Writers conferences that include one-on-one time with an editor are the way to go. Having an editor walk through the beginning of my manuscript with me, pointing out what does and does not work for her, was invaluable.
Hiring a professional editor to help clean up the final draft was a big decision I will never regret. Even after having friends, including a published author and a professional writer, read and comment on my manuscript, the wisdom of the professional book editor enabled the transformation into a novel.
I love my story. I want it to come alive in the hearts of readers. Therefore, spending time and money grooming it was a necessary step.
These days, my agent is the one trying to win that publishing contract, and receiving the rejections. The control freak side of me misses keeping track of every query sent and manuscript requested. I don't mind not reading every rejection letter.
A rejection letter is a “no”. But they often say more than that. Sometimes the information is helpful, but mostly they try to make you feel better about being turned down. These letters just make me mutter to myself about the irony of my critic's unconvincing composition.
My favorite rejection read, “Thanks for the read. This isn't for me.” Perfect. If you don't have time to help me improve, make it quick.
After I signed with my agent, I did what is expected by most agencies. I wrote to those who still had my queries, and withdrew my submissions. Yes, I got to reject them.
Pride re-entered stage left. Never fear, there was a remedy hiding behind the curtain.
Many of those agents, whom I had pictured deleting my information from their in-boxes with tears in their eyes, still sent me rejections, even months later. Bad record keeping and a waste of time on their part. A punch in the ego for me.
Do I still dream that an editor has read my agent's query, jumped up, requested the full manuscript from a standing position, did nothing but stare at her screen, hitting refresh, until it arrived, at which time she let out a peal of laughter, downloaded, and sped home for a long weekend to read my story, shouting to her assistant to get Hollywood on the phone first thing Monday morning?
Why yes, I do.
Hope, imagination, neuroses, I have them all, and they all play their part in the perseverance it takes to publish a first novel. Patience is not my gig, but I can act the part, as long as you don't live with me.
There will be more rejection, but it must be accepted as a part of an author's life. There are terrific rejection letter quotes from famous authors.
Even the letter J.K. Rowling received as an offer to publish stated, “The editor agrees to publish but advises the writer to get a day job since she has little chance of making money in children’s books.”
Stephen King covered a wall in rejections. One stated, “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
Knowing that great writers did their share of waiting, and giving pieces of paper a piece of their mind, helps a great deal. As does writing. Therefore, thank you for welcoming me onto your screen today, and for reading to the end. A writer needs readers, and I treasure every one of mine.
Christa Conklin is an author working with her literary agent to find a home for her debut young adult fantasy novel.
She is the home educator of her two children. She received her Bachelor's Degree from Rutgers College, Master's Degree from Monmouth University, studied in France, and once took first place in a solo women's kayak river race.
Christa worked for five years in the education department of the New York Philharmonic and another five years for Young Audiences New Jersey. She brought professional artists to schools to work with students and educators, and often joined teachers and students in theaters and studios for them to experience the arts as creators and audience members.
Christa studied dance and received a degree in music performance. She keeps these passions alive through her own practice and teaching others. Always an avid reader, and having worked with artists in all genres, including writing, she feels blessed to have found her voice as an author.