Tuesday, 29 March 2011

How I Got My Agent: Guest Post by Charlotte Otter

Please welcome Charlotte Otter who also has an agent success story to share with us.

I started writing a novel in January 2008. I had a germ of an idea and a burning feeling that if I didn't start Right This Minute, I would never do it and die old and bitter and full of self-reproach. I was 39. It was my midlife crisis.

After a month of writing, I entered the opening page of my novel in Nathan Bransford's Suprisingly Essential First Page Challenge (www.nathanbransford.com). There were more than 600 entries and my page was chosen as one of the six finalists. The prize was a query critique from Nathan, but since I had only written a chapter at that point, I had no query to offer. I filed the prize away in the Things We Dream About drawer.

Then I went away to write. I spent the next two and half years writing, rewriting, fixing, erasing, going back. Listening to beta readers, ignoring them, listening to them again. Two years. Three drafts. Then I decided it was time to claim my prize and the lovely Nathan wrote a mail that made my heart skip several beats: 'Is this ready to be considered? If so, I'd be happy to take a look at the first 30 pages.'

I quickly made his suggested changes and sent him my new query and the first 30 pages. Nathan passed. It was a horrible moment. I asked a dear friend, who is a literary talent scout and who has impeccable taste, to read my novel. Her response was a punch to the solar plexus: too many rookie errors, too much tell and not enough show and please change the point of view from first to third person immediately.

I had queried too soon. The biggest rookie error of all.

After breathing in and out deeply, I started addressing her suggestions. I changed the novel from first to third person and it came alive. I started fantasising about which agents I would approach, making lists from Agentquery and The Artist's and Writer's Yearbook. However, a voice in my head said Use Your Contacts First. I used up my one contact with Nathan. I only had one left: Michaela Röll at Eggers-Landwehr, a Berlin literary agency, who is the friend of a friend. That friend said, 'Give it a go. You never know.'

In July 2010, I got an email from Michaela, which I have kept and may have to frame. It was full of lovely words about the book and an offer of representation. In August, I signed. There is still a long road ahead for Balthasar's Gift and me. A publisher has made some comments as have two literary agents in London who work as Michaela's sub-agents in the British market. I am now addressing their concerns, still writing, still revising, still fixing.

Still hoping that my dream will come true.

Charlotte Otter is a South African writer living in Germany. Balthasar's Gift, is a crime novel set in her homeland. She blogs at Charlotte's Web about reading, writing and living in Germany (http://www.charlotteotter.wordpress.com/) and tweets @charlwrites.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

How I Got My Agent: Guest Post by Caroline Tung Richmond

Please welcome Caroline who has stopped by to tell us all about how she found her agent.

In the spring of 2009, I borrowed a copy of Carrie Ryan's THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH from my local library—and I proceeded to devour it within two days. (It was fast-paced and frightening!) When I was finished, I decided to skim through the author's acknowledgments at the end of the book. One of the first people that Carrie thanked? Her agent, Jim McCarthy.

"Hmm," I thought. "Maybe I should query this guy when I finish my manuscript?"

I figured it would be a long shot but I scribbled Jim's name onto my list of potential agents. He seemed to represent mostly YA/adult novels but maybe (just maybe) he'd be interested in my middle grade manuscript.

Fast forward to April 2010…

I had spent nearly a year querying, revising, querying, rewriting, and querying my MG space opera. I was EX-HAUS-TED—and I was ready to call it quits. Yet, I still had a few agents on my querying list so I figured I'd contact them before I pulled the plug.

And so, I shot a query to Jim and a half-dozen other agents, not expecting anything to happen. A couple days later though, Jim requested my full manuscript! *Cue dancing and singing and major squee-ing.* But I tried to tamp down my excitement because I didn't think Jim was very interested in MG novels.

As I awaited Jim's response, I was stunned to receive my first offer of representation…and a second offer as well! I was speechless. Just a month prior, I had wanted to shelve my manuscript but now I had two agents interested in repping me! I was beyond humbled.

I sent Jim an email to alert him of my offers and he replied within the hour, agreeing to read my manuscript over the weekend. I was super excited that he was considering my book, but I tried not to get too worked up. He might not even like my novel, I told myself, Don't start getting stars in your eyes, Caroline!

On Monday afternoon, however, I received a call from a New York number—it was Jim! And he wanted to represent me! I froze, completely tongue-tied. B-B-But Jim only reps YA, right? Turns out, Jim wanted to branch into the middle grade genre and he wanted to sign me on as a client. *Cue fainting.* When I jolted out of my daze, I just knew I wanted to work with him.

I signed the contract last May and I couldn't be happier!

Caroline Tung Richmond is a freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C. area. She loves cupcakes, Star Trek, Anthropologie, and YA and middle grade novels. If you would like to read more of her crazy ramblings, you’re more than welcome to visit her blog (http://carolineinspace.blogspot.com) or follow her on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/ctrichmond).

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Signs of Spring

Spring has arrived and you can't get more spring like than the lambing. This little chap has just arrived. His brother was born a few minutes later.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

How I Got My Agent: Guest Post by Ian Bontems

Hi there.

Kate kindly asked me to visit her blog and explain just how on earth I got my agent, John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS was the first novel I’d ever written and I’d been querying for a month or so (and receiving a steady trickle of various types of rejections), when I decided that my query letter wasn’t up to snuff and had to be re-written. Yep, I’m a classic example of the writer that jumped the gun (but hey, at least I’d finished and revised the book I was querying, that’s got to count for something). Around about this time, I heard about a new agent, one that seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.

I got the heads-up from here: http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog It’s a great resource to keep you informed about new agents (but take note, it’s based in the USA, and so are all the agents that Chuck mentions).

But before I sent off that spanking new query letter, I did my stalking *ahem* ‘research,’ and dug up some old interviews John did back when he was an editor for Simon & Schuster, Putnam and Penguin. John Rudolph was new, but had loads of experience in publishing as an editor of children’s books and to be honest, sounded pretty cool.

Stalking done, I shipped off my latest query on a wing and a prayer and waited.

I got a standard email back saying I may have to wait 6-8 weeks for a response. No problem, I thought and filed it away with all the others on my little query spreadsheet and carried on writing, half expecting the answer to be negative.

Colour me surprised when the request for the full came soon after.

I’d read blogs that told me to be prepared to wait months for a response to the full, but John got back to me a week later saying he was interested. We chatted via email where he proposed some very minor revisions. I agreed with his excellent suggestions and then John offered to represent my work.

So that’s my tale. I’m a British writer with an American agent who has an MG novel out on submissions and is currently writing a YA epic fantasy with assassins and female soldiers who can ignite their swords with magical fire.

Thanks for reading.

You can find out more about Ian and his writing over at Ian's blog - The Eye of a Little God

Friday, 11 March 2011

How I Found my Agent

One question I would always want to ask an agented author is ‘how did you find your agent?’ The routes taken are not always conventional.

So although I’m sure you could find the answer by trawling through this blog, I thought I would tell you about how I found mine.

Early in 2010 I noticed a discussion on the Strictly Writing blog about networking. Someone was complaining about not having any networking opportunities because they lived out in the sticks, and a number of people had chipped in that there are other ways of networking – you don’t have to live in London!

Now since I live out in the sticks I found this discussion very interesting. Especially when someone mentioned that agents often offer 1-2-1 sessions at Literary Festivals and one such festival was the Frome Festival – a mere 1 ½ hours from where I live! In fact Rachel Ward, author of the very successful Numbers series, was picked up by Chicken House at one of these 1-2-1 sessions at the Frome Festival a couple of years ago.

I checked out their website and when I saw that one of the agents was Julia Churchill from Greenhouse Literary I made sure I booked myself a slot and duly sent off my first chapter and synopsis.

Then I had to sit down and make sure I had the thing finished in time! A good job I did because when I turned up for my slot she asked for the full. I sent it off the moment I got home and the rest, as they say, is history.

Friday, 4 March 2011

A Sense of Place

When I write I always like to set my stories in places I've actually visited. For instance, I've never set a story in modern day America and the reason is simple - I've never been there.

Of course I haven't been to the Moon either but since so few people have I think that, with the right amount of research, I can get away with it.

The reason for this is simple. I like to feel a place when I write about it. It's not something tangible, but if I can feel a place as I write, then hopefully the reader can too.

So as you've seen from my previous post I've been in Germany. I've been there before of course, but the fact remains that Germany 'feels' very different from say France or Italy - and that's just in Europe - go further afield and the feeling is different again.

I was lucky to be there for the Bremen Carnival. No pictures can capture the atmosphere - the pounding drums of the parade, the crush of people, the vendors selling bratwurst and giant pretzels, and of course, much drinking of beer. But here are some anyway.