Last week I got done writing Draft 4 of my 1st novel, and, to my surprise, got pinged by 3 (!!!) agents from big reputable NY agencies on being interested in representing me. I was like, what?!? Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? What about those horror stories that I heard about approaching agents, about spending months writing perfect query letters, about... You get the picture. We all heard that. After initial shock, I decided to analyse this. How did it happen? What did I do to attract their attention? Here is what I think helped:
Twitter numbers. Someone at some point told me that big agents and publishers don't even look at you unless you have 10,000 followers on Twitter (I think it was Rachel Thompson who said it). I have 14,000. Did that help? I think it did. I'll backtrack here a little. First, how the hell did I get to this number? I was at about 2,000 when I started writing my novel and tweeting actively about 6 months ago. What happened here? Several things. Number one, I watched folks like Maureen Johnson and realized that it's ok to be myself. It's ok to spill all that bullshit that comes to my mind. I tentatively tried. People started re-tweeting it. I tried more. More people followed. So I stopped being afraid and started baring my soul in public. Everything. My writing struggles, my successes. Number two, the one thing I never did was sell myself, which is what a lot of writers on Twitter do, and that's a big turn off for people (I wrote another post for writers on HOW NOT TO USE TWITTER). Number three, being supportive of others. If one writer doesn't support another, then who will? Anyway, I was astounded at this growth, it keeps growing. You can do the same. Stop being afraid and be yourself. Tweet every day. They will come.
Novel excerpt. I didn't plan this and only posted the excerpt after my boyfriend yelled at me, literally, to do it, because he loved it. I was like, ok, I'm scared, but here it is. He told me to do it, because, poor soul, he's read every single draft of mine, and was in love with how much Draft 4 was stronger than Draft 3. I posted, comments started flowing in. They still are. I think there are more than 50 now (half of them are my responses). CRAZY!!! Did this help? You bet. What an agent or a publisher is looking for is a big enough reader base - it'll make their job easier. Inadvertently, by being public about my writing process, I have created a community of writers and readers who not only support me, but who also help me get better, every day. And that is invaluable. I mean, just take a look at this. Once I was done with Draft 4, about 50 people volunteered to Beta Read it. 50! That's like 50 pieces of amazing critique that will only make my book that much better. Would that have been possible if I didn't post an excerpt? I don't think so. I suggest you do the same, just make sure it's under 600 words. If anyone decides to copy-cat and post it without your permission, it will fall under "fair use" rule of copyright law, because it's such a small portion of 100,000 words (assuming you will be close to that word count when your novel is finished).
Reason you write. You know, agents are people too. So I don't get it why some writers treat them like some evil gate keepers. And, like any other human being in this world, they care for things, things that are dear to them. I mean, we all do, don't we? My point is, there is a reason you write. Let everyone know what it is, people will want to help you, to make this world a little bit better. I think my being public about my reasons helped attract them. I write about teenage suicide. I wanted to kill myself when I was 16 and I want to prevent another teenager deciding to part with their life. That's my goal. That's why I live, that's why I write. Sure, it would be great if I could support myself with writing, if I could sell my book like crazy, etc, etc. But in the end, my ultimate goal is to know I helped save a life. To go to a book signing and have a teenage reader whisper to me: "Thank you, I decided not to do it." That would make my life. We all have our reasons. I think agents need to know them, to FEEL your story. Because then they will want to help you push it out into the world.
You're a nobody. So stop being pissed off at people not getting back to you right away, specifically, agents. They are busy busy people, and, as a first time novelist, you're nothing. I mean myself here. I'm nothing. I'm a rookie. 1st time writer. 1st time novelist. Never published anything. So why even talk to me? Because I don't try to be something that I'm not. It's the attitude that matters. I know I will have to kiss their feet and wash their dogs and clean their houses, for free, until they grace me with their attention, and even then I will continue serving their every need, because they are doing me a favor. A huge favor. You know what is? Taking a chunk of their precious time and spending it on reading my story. Tearing time away from their kids, their spouses, their hobbies. And that's BIG, HUGE, ENORMOUS. In the end, this alone is amazing. So thank people, thank people profusely for this, even if they never get back to you. Be humble. And, suddenly, they'll be interested in learning more.
OK, I feel like there is so much more to this, and maybe I've forgotten something. But! Here is a disclaimer. I am a rookie and a 1st time everything, so I don't know how true this is, I'm only guessing. Right now, after publishing this blog, I will go e-mail those 3 agents (scared shitless) and start looking for more agents to contact. What will happen out of this? Perhaps nothing, I don't know. But I promise you this: I will blog about the results, so you can learn on my mistakes.