Tuesday, November 18, 2014

________ is the virtue writers need the most.

Blog #2 of 5 Blogs to Agented

If you have ever been to a Writer's conference, you have seen the long lines in front of the Meet the Agent tables, the writers tripping over themselves trying to be the first person to buy drinks for the agents in the bar (Ok, so that was me) and the--really desperate--few agent-seekers hanging out in the bathroom waiting for those Gin and Tonics to hit the exit ramp. (Thankfully, not me.) Why? It's simple really--a writer wants to be signed by an agent. And for good reason. (For the six major reasons why a writer wants to be signed by a literary agent, check out this thread on Wattpad.)

The problem is, when the writer is trying to find an agent, it often feels like the agent would rather develop explosive diarrhea than offer the writer representation. I feel like something of an expert in this department, having spent nearly five years querying, submitting, revising, resubmitting, etc, before I got that contract in the mail. (And on great stationary as well.)  I tell you this because I am trying to make a point: You are not going to get your dream agent with your first query--and there is a very good reason for that.

The reason is that the writer sending out her first query is no where close to being signable--I made that word up but you get the idea.  Wait a minute, didn't I say 'Agents want to sign Writers as much as Writers want to be signed by Agents?' Yes, I did, but what I didn't mention is that Agents want writers who are ready to be published, and the odds are that the sender of her first query letter (good writer though she may be) is not ready by a long shot.

The 64K dollar question is, then: What makes a querying writer ready to be published? Well, the writing obviously, but it only starts there. Having said that, the writer's journey to being published starts with good writing and it ends without good writing. Yet there are many good writers who never get that coveted offer of representation: Why not?

The answer goes back to what I was saying about the poor chances that the writer's first query letter will attract an agent. Why won't it? The agent is looking for MORE than just good writing. The agent is looking for three other things and I am just going to tell you what they are:

1) Patience: I am here to tell you that signing an offer of representation--albeit gratifying--is not the end of your hard work and toil. It is, in fact, just the beginning. An agent offers a writer representation because she thinks the writer's manuscript has the potential to sell--which is not the same thing as being sellable. This is where patience comes in. As a writer, I had already put in years of work to get to that signable level, and I was ready emotionally to get to the next level, the publishable level. But I was not there as a writer yet. So I had to be patient, and give myself time to improve. Fortunately, on the short list of my personal assets Patience was right there on the top (thanks, Dad), and rather than throw in the towel I bellied up to my keyboard and made the needed improvements. Am I there? I truly think so, although only time will tell. But that isn't the point I am trying to make.

The point I am trying to make is that since patience is so necessary agents are looking for good writers who are also patient. This is one of the reasons why the process of getting an agent takes so long. (It is by design.) Send three query letters. Wait. Get three rejections. Send three more. Wait. Get a request for a partial manuscript. <Happy Dance> Submit partial. Wait. Get rejection. Send three queries. Wait. Get three more rejections. Revise query letter. Send three revised queries. Wait. Get request for full manuscript. Wait. Wait more. Never here back from agent. Keep sending queries. Keep waiting. Keep getting requests for partials and fulls. Keep getting rejections. (Finally) get some interest. <Happy Dance> (I might be interested in this manuscript if.....) Revise manuscript. Resubmit manuscript. Wait...... Wait.... Wait....
(On the left, Liz Kracht, my fabulous agent, with Kimberley Cameron, the founder of KC&A.)

I think you get the point. A lot of writers are going to give up and satisfy their lifelong desire to play Canasta (my mother has a group if anyone is interested). And that's good; if you don't have the patience that is required, you may as well find out as early as possible and start putting up the card table. Many other writers, on the other hand, will have the patience to keep going, and I hope that is you. In my next post I will give you some hints on how to stay patient, and tell you the two other assets you need to be signable.

ps If you made it to the end of this post, I have good news for you: you've got plenty of patience. I am also happy to announce that The Intern, the serialized novella I am writing on Wattpad, has been chosen to be on the Featured list. Click on the link and check out and what my mother and her Canasta group have been all abuzz about.

In case you missed the post #1 of 5 Blogs to Agented, here it is for you: How to get an agent without the indiscriminate use of duct tape.

 Before I let you go, for any #nanowrimo peeps: great news. Fiction Writers Anonymous is sponsoring a #bestfirstparagraph contest for #nanowrimo2014 participants. The contest is free, and the only entrance criteria is to join the Fiction Writers Anonymous community on Google+. Entrees open December 1, 2014 and close December 31, 2014. Winners will be announced January 25, 2015. To enter, simply paste your first paragraph onto our feed along with your e-mail address. You may include a one sentence pitch if you want. Please do not submit any links: the judges will determine the winners from the first paragraph only. Make it count. The top twelve writers will be featured on the Prose&Cons blog, one winner every month for all of 2015. Judging will be done by the staff of the Prose&Cons blog, a group of published authors, editors, writing coaches, literary agents, and book reviewers. (http://www.auniqueandportablemagic.blogspot.com).

Please share this with any  peeps, and on social media sites devoted to writing and reading. And keep on writing, November is slipping away. Good luck.

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous), and LinkedIn (Tweets, Novels and Blogs); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.



Sue Coletta said...

Your posts crack me up. Thanks for the laugh. I wish it wasn't so true!

Eliza Cross said...

Patience, persistence, tenacity, resilience -- we writers have to be a tough lot. Kudos to you for having all of these qualities and a fine sense of humor, too.