Hundreds of Queries Later...

Okay, so it's been a great theme week here at The League. We've been sharing stories of how we got our agents. I'm up today, and while I think my story is pretty fantastic, it was not-so-fantastic as I was living through it.

That said, I hope it'll inspire just one person to take the next step in their creative endeavor, whatever that may be. Writing, photography, painting, dance, etc.

So let's do a little flashback in time.

2007: Elana begins writing. Everything is awesome! Every word well-chosen and perfectly placed.

2008: Elana queries her first novel. Everything is not awesome. Every word is wrong, and every sentence awkwardly constructed.

I learned in 2008 that the first book I queried was not good enough. I sent nearly 150 query letters, and everyone told me no, either on the query or on the submission.

While I did not find a literary agent with this book, I did discover how to write a query letter. I even went so far as to put together a guide on how to write a query letter. It's free, and you can download it here (scroll down to the bottom to find the link).

I learned that I love writing query letters, and I still write them to this day, either for myself or for others (go to my blog to see what I mean!).

During the rejection-hell-of-2008, I wrote Possession. I was querying The Other Novel, though, so I set it aside. In November, 2008, when I realized The Other Novel wasn't going to be The One, I quit querying it, and I looked at what I'd written to decide what I should polish up and send out next.

Quitting wasn't an option.

2009: I polish up my next novel in preparation to query it. I begin sending letters in April. I get a lot of good feedback. Partials are being upgraded to fulls. Fulls are requested from the query letter--which sometimes was only 2 sentences long.

Oh yeah, I was feeling good. I felt like Possession was The One.

Yet months passed. I queried. I sent submissions. Yes, I got rejections. A lot of rejections.

In June, I queried my agent, Michelle Andelman. She asked for the full, and two weeks later she asked for anything else I'd written. It was a good sign--but it was summer.

Things moved slowly. I revised for another agent. I talked to two other agents on the phone.

No offers of representation.

In September, after a summer that felt eternal and like nothing was happening, I get brave. Actually, what I did was "Go George" according to that Seinfeld episode where George Constanza does everything the exact opposite of what he's always done.

I emailed Michelle and basically said, "I know you like Possession. I can revise it if you want. Can we talk about it on the phone?"

And she said yes, and a call was set up!

She still didn't offer, but gave me some suggestions for revisions and we set a deadline in October when I would get them back to her.

So I did the revisions without the promise of an offer, and I turned them in on time. Two weeks later, on Veterans Day in 2009, the real call came. I had representation!


I queried Possession for 8 months. I sent 189 query letters, and 54 submissions (either partials or fulls). I only got one offer of representation, but it only takes one. 

We went on to sell Possession in a short time, and every time I email or talk with Michelle, I'm reminded how she's the perfect agent for me and my work.

So there you have it! Between my two books, I queried for a combined total of 16 months and sent hundreds of query letters. That's how I got my agent.

Are you currently in the midst of something hard? Don't give up! The Thing You Need could be just around the corner.


Unknown said...
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Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

OK! After originally posting my comment only to discover my daughter had left herself logged in to her google account, I'll try it again under my own name. :)

I love this post, Elana. And I love that you've always been so awesome about helping others navigate the process. Good things happen to good people. You're one of those!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I'm loving these How I Found My Agent posts--we writers need encouragement here and there--and this is much appreciated. It's so important to remember, like you said, that it only takes one agent to love your work and until then we just have to keep on keeping on. Thanks again!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the inspiration. It's really encouraging as I still try to nail my query for my first novel that you've already helped me with. And I am going to query for the first time this year. I'll definitely remember your experiences.

BR Myers said...

Another inspirational post, Elana.

I used to like writing, and then I ruined it all by trying to get pbulished ;)

Still trying but I'm also still writing new stories. It's helps quiet the voices.

Kim (YA Asylum) said...

This is such a great story. Thank you for sharing it. It really is quite inspirational. I had a similar experience the first time out querying. I have a feeling, when I finally get to querying for my current novel, I'll be in a similar boat, but I'll just keep thinking about how it'll only take one!

RaShelle Workman said...

Great post, Elana. You're a great inspiration. =)