“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
– Robert Collier
First things first: the concept of using GIF’s to explain a process wasn’t originally my idea. By all means, before you read my take on this, I’d highly recommend checking out Nathan Bransford’s hilarious blog post, The Publishing Process in GIF Form. Mine is a bit different because it uses mostly different images, has a few paragraphs between each one, and focuses specifically on the process of getting a literary agent rather than the entire publishing cycle.
(In Star Trek villain voice): Shall we begin?
So I talked last time about the process of writing a query letter, which is one of those you-get-there-eventually tasks. Once I got there, and edited said query letter to death, it was time to look for a literary agent. I turned to the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents. I was hoping that flipping through that would be something like this:
But instead it took me a solid few days to read the advice in the first half (what? Yes, I’m a teenager and I actually read advice!) and then another week at least to carefully scan through the agent listings, highlighting those that seemed like good fits.
(In case you’re wondering, I made all of the non-animated memes myself).
Once I had a highlighted book full of potential future agents, I typed up said agents’ names and agencies in a document on my computer. That may be a little too organized for most people, especially seventeen year olds, but I’m not most people.
So then it was time to start reading over the submission guidelines for each agency, and I started to feel a lot like:
And then I learned that I’ll need to include a synopsis along with my query letter and sample pages, and my reaction was:
But I researched the best way to write a synopsis, hammered out a rough draft, then let it sit for a few days before revising it until it was in the best possible shape. And now everything was finally, really done, and I was just about ready to prepare everything for hitting ‘send’ to the first of the agents on my list.
That’s the stage I’m at now. Everything is all ready to be sent. And I wish I could tell you I’m all like:
But in reality, I’m feeling closer to:
Okay, I promise I’ll actually write a bit of a blog post now.
Being the way that I am, I feel the need to break down every process into smaller steps. So, for my own personal organization, I’ve broken down the process from query to representation into three ‘battle rounds,’ if you will.
Round 1: The agent reads over your query.
So you send off the letter, completely prepared for the worst:
And you can only imagine what the agent is thinking as they read it:
I should clarify that these memes are meant to be a parody of how people perceive agents to be, not how agents actually are.
Admittedly, no one’s odds are good here. As Nicola Morgan wrote, “Be prepared to be rejected, often. It’s not a lottery but a very difficult game.” All I can say is that every author will get their tsunami of rejection slips. Myself included.
BUT. It should be well noted that agents aren’t heartless, bloodsucking leeches whose mission in life is to destroy prospective authors. Their mission is to find the truly good ones. And though this is a tough part of the fight for aspiring novelists, the reward of survival is valuable: an agent asks for a partial manuscript.
Round 2: The agent reads over your partial.
What’s unfortunate about this stage of the process is that your stress level will probably jump up. I can only imagine being at the point where an agent loved my query letter enough to ask for some of the book, then I’m left praying I don’t get rejected for a lack of writing in the manuscript itself. I wouldn’t call this the hardest part of the process, unless you’re someone who can write a decent letter for a terrible book. That’d be an interesting skill to have; I’m pretty sure I have the opposite problem.
This round is hard to survive, too, but the prize is grander still: an agent asks for your entire book. Eeep!
Round 3: The agent reads over the entire manuscript.
I don’t know from experience, but I would guess this is the most nerve-wracking point of the journey. On one hand, you’d think the author would feel good, because they know their work is enough to attract significant interest from an agent…but, on the other hand, now is when it gets down to a generous chunk of the luck involved with this. The agent hopefully likes your writing as well as your story, but now is the time for them to decide if they would be the best agent for it. And there is a scary plethora of reasons as to why it might not work for them.
But, if you survive this round, the prize is metaphorical wealth beyond the young writer’s imagining; the Holy Grail of storytelling, the Triwizard Cup of the typed word: an agent’s offer of representation.
Which, I can only imagine, goes something like this:
But, for now, I’m just getting ready to send off my query letter. So, for now, I’ll say the same thing to every prospective novelist that I’m saying to myself, as I dive into this great (and terrifying) industry:
I think that about sums it up. Best of luck, authors.