So I have this little book, a lighthearted romantic mystery about a struggling actress and above-average dog walker who has inherited a police dog with a nose for crime. She's kind of ridiculous, and she has a major luck problem—which is how I could describe myself. No surprise then that I would feel daunted at the prospect of looking for a literary agent.
Before I began my search, I belonged to a Facebook group of authors who were in the midst of querying, and the tales of spreadsheets, rejections, R&Rs, or the dreaded silence made the prospect seem bleak at best, muse-killing at worst. But the fact is, there are a lot of manuscripts out there and a finite number of agents. And each of those agents represents perhaps a few genres, and then, within those genres, he or she has preferences, wish lists, and an existing stable of authors with work that shouldn't be cannibalized by something similar. I'm sure many agents dread their inboxes full of queries that miss the mark. As writers, it's our responsibility to get to know as much about each agent we query as possible to increase our chances of a good fit.
Luckily, the internet and social media now offer some fun and efficient ways for agents and writers to meet. PitMad, generously run by the author Brenda Drake, was my first taste of Twitter querying. In this quarterly Twitter pitch party, writers have 140 characters to pitch a book (including the hashtag for the genre and the #PitMad tag). Agents liking the little taste of the writer's style and the book's pitch can favourite the tweet to request a query. See? Very efficient. And quite a rush. And it's where I got my heart broken with a so-close-but-yet-so-far R&R rejection.
But just like I used to hit the gym hard when a second date led to rejection, this time I hit the keyboard and kept making my manuscript stronger. Because I had been close.
Finally, a couple of drafts later, I felt ready to get back out into the querying pool, and my lovely friend, the author Lynne M MacLean, recommended a contest at the blog Miss Snark's First Victim. Here, the hardworking Authoress provides a super-supportive critique forum and runs a number of very successful competitions where writers and agents can meet. The one I took part in was On the Block, which was an agent auction. Twenty entries were chosen from the submissions, and our loglines and excerpts were posted for one week. At the end of that week, each book had a ten-minute auction window during which the agents "bid" using pages as currency. Whoever bid to read the full manuscript first would get a week's exclusive access to it.
And that's how I met Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency. She duelled for my manuscript, and a week later, when we talked for an hour, she won my heart. I loved her enthusiasm for my characters and her thoughts on the different ways my book might fit in the marketplace. I felt creatively engaged during our discussion of my character's arc throughout the series. And I felt heard. And comfortable. And I think that's very important when you're creating something. And better yet, Rena represents sectors and genres I also have an interest in writing in: middle grade and speculative fiction. To be completely corny and continue the metaphor, she feels like someone I can grow (old) with. Okay, okay, you get it.
So I have this little book. And maybe someday you'll actually get to read it. I'm feeling lucky.