Update on Literary Agent Challenge: 50 agents down, and one has requested the manuscript

Publishing Contract

Hey everyone! As many of you know I embarked on a 100 literary agent challenge back in September. The challenge–to send query letters and sample chapters to 100 agents over the course of 100 days. The goal–to secure an agent for my latest young adult novel, Medical Mech. So how has it gone? Well…

Good and bad.

The bad comes from the simple fact that I’ve received about 15 rejections. The agents who said No cited that the project doesn’t fit with what they are looking for. Or they liked the story’s premise, but didn’t feel enough of a connection with my writing to make them jump on board. Some rejections have been simple, most copy and pasted from author to author. Only one rejection was personal:

Dear Mark, 

Many thanks for giving me a chance to get to know your work. For a rocker chick like myself, there is so much to love about the premise of this story. But in the end, I did not come away with total conviction regarding my ability to successfully represent this work in its present form. Therefore, I must pass for now. 

If you decide to refine and refine the story, I would be honored to take a look at the best version you have to share. I would suggest you tighten up those important moments so they read effortlessly like the riffs we both know and love. Right now, they’re a little clunky, and too many of your passages will be lost in translation. However, something tells me you’ll be able to slide toward that sweet song you’re hearing in your head, 

Best wishes as you continue to travel the road to successful publication. I look forward to seeing more from you. Rock on! 

Always, 

Terrie 

Although Terrie rejected my novel, I was thrilled she responded in such a helpful way. I emailed her back to thank her for giving my work quality attention. I also asked if she could share what areas she found clunky. No reply yet. Fingers crossed she’ll respond. And if not, no biggie–I’m know she’s super busy.

There’s another bad, too.

I haven’t been successful in sending out query letters every day. I know–that’s part of the challenge. But the Holidays hit, and I found it hard to keep up with the demand of researching agents and sending out my work. So I’ve decided to modify the challenge, because failure isn’t an option. Now I’m sending queries every day, and if I miss a day, big deal, I’ll get the next agent tomorrow. For some people, “getting to it tomorrow” could destroy their progress. But not for me. I’ll reach my goal of 100 agents, one way or another.

At this point, you’re probably wondering: So what’s the good news? Let me stop grinning long enough to tell you…Yesterday an agent requested the manuscript! I know, right? Super exciting. Now, I know a request does not mean representation. But after receiving nothing but rejections, having one agent do the exact opposite made my day. Even if they say No in the end, I consider this a small victory. I made progress in the right direction! Fingers crossed the agent likes what he reads. And if not…

There’s always another agent tomorrow.

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Twelve agents down. One has responded…

Publishing Contract

If you’ve followed my blog over the last couple weeks, you would have seen I’m currently undertaking a literary challenge. The challenge isn’t a competition, nor one I’ve joined with a group to achieve. It’s one I’ve given myself. Here’s the goal–to contact 100 literary agents in 100 days. I started twelve days ago. I’ve sent twelve queries. And guess what? One has responded.

Believe it or not, the agent who contacted me back is none other than Nancy Gallt. She represents blockbuster author Rick Riordan, of Percy Jackson & the Olympians fame. I honestly didn’t expect to hear back from her, and she was the first agent I queried on day one of my challenge. What did she say?

Well, she said no. Bummer. But I had no grand delusions that she would represent my work. I figured someone who represents an author like Rick is extremely selective. Although I knew in my heart she would say no, I tried anyway. When I got her reply–which was nice, by the way–it kind of sucked the wind out of me. I’m not even sure why, knowing my chances. But nonetheless it didn’t feel the greatest. Being told you’re not good enough never is.

Regardless, I’m not giving up. I still have another 99 potential rejections to go. Or, as the case may be, no responses at all. But you know what? It only takes one to say yes. Am I optimistic? You know it. Am I passionate about storytelling? Absolutely. And that’s why I won’t quit, no matter what. I believe my  novels will make it to a bigger audience–one day–and persistence is key.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

One agent down. 99 more to go.

Well, day one is complete for my 100 literary agent challenge. I sent my novel Medical MECH to agent Nancy Gallt. Her submission process was a little different than others will be. I didn’t send an actual query letter. Instead, I completed the textboxes on her submission page, which included the first 2,000 words of my story, an author bio, that sort of thing. One interesting aspect of her submission process was that she wanted to know what my character would say on behalf of my story. Kind of neat.

Anyway, tomorrow I plan to contact my second literary agent. The goal is to contact 100 agents by the end of 100 days. I hope along the way I’ll have an agent or three request to read the manuscript. But if not, hey, that’s the way the game is played. I won’t give up. I’ll simply revisit my work and try and make it better.

I’ll keep you posted.

Psalm 20-4

One agent. Per day. For 100 days.

That’s the plan. And it begins tomorrow. For the next 100 days, I plan to send query letters and sample chapters to 100 literary agents. My hope is that I’ll be able to secure an agent for my middle grades adventure novel, Medical MECH.

So what will this plan look like?

Well, I exercise six days a week. I write almost daily. So why can’t I devote time to getting an agent each day, too? The answer is simple. It takes work. Researching agents who represent my genre, learning how they want work submitted, and contacting them requires a substantial amount of time. A couple weeks ago while I was squeezing in a thirty minute workout, I thought: Wow, if I can devote time to my health every day, then I should be able to carve time from my busy schedule to send out my work. So here we go.

Tomorrow marks day one. I plan to send Medical MECH to literary agent Nancy Gallt. She represents one of my literary heroes, Rick Riordan–the author of the New York Times bestselling book series for kids, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Nancy is one of the most successful agents in the business of books. She knows quality work when she sees it. And if I’m going to seek representation, I might as well start at the top. Is Medical MECH up to her standards? I believe so, but I also understand the reality of what I’m about to face.

Rejection.

In the next 100 days, I must steel my emotions for rejection. Most of it won’t be personal. It’s just business. Agents need to make a buck. I believe Medical MECH can make them money, but my challenge is convincing agents I’m worth the risk. Regardless, being told you’re not good enough hurts. Does knowing I’ll be told this make the process any easier? I don’t think so. It just means I have realistic expectations going in.

I’m filled with hope. A little bit of fear. But wish me luck, because I’m about to embark on a 100 day journey that could potentially change my life…and if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. At least I’ll know I took life by the reigns and went for my dreams.

And that’s the biggest lesson here. Go for your dreams, no matter how lofty they may be. I’m going for mine. Are you?

Failure is a motivator. Success is a paralyzer.

You’ve heard it before, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Or, if you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new. Several years ago, I remember seeing a poster in a classroom I was observing that talked about how people who fail are in good company. The poster went on to show famous failures from history. It was pretty cool. Check it out:

Famous Failures

Anyway, yesterday I attended a school inservice with motivational speaker Salome Thomas-El, a school principal from Philadelphia. Principal El has appeared on Dr. Oz, and is an author to boot. He is renown for giving his inner-city students the game of chess and, with it, the power to escape the hard knocks of urban life. Cool guy. He talked a lot about caring for at-risk kids and reaching them on their level.

Great stuff. During his talk, he said something that stuck with me all day long: “Failure is a motivator. Success is a paralyzer.” Now, I already knew how failure can motivate you to succeed. But I hadn’t heard how success can paralyze you. He explained how his chess students, after learning the game, began to win. Tournaments would approach, but the kids wouldn’t practice because they believed they were already good players. It wasn’t until the kids started losing that they became motivated to become better. Failure was the key.

Of course, as a writer and a person who is driven to succeed, I wondered how I can apply Principal El’s concepts not only to my students but to myself. And not only that, but where would I want to apply those principles? The obvious answer for me was with my writing. I crave success beyond the small measurable amount I’ve had over the past several years. I would be thrilled to have my work represented by a literary agent–my next goal. The road to reaching that goal, however, will be paved with failure. Does knowing this make the trial seem easier? I don’t think so. Failure is a tough pill to swallow. Nobody wants to be rejected. It hurts.

Recently, a fellow author I admire named Kathy McManis Holzapfel, who writes under the pen name, Cate Noble (check her out here), shared a video of a conversation between two blockbuster authors: Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. Within their conversation the authors talked about their projects and writing processes, but one story shared by Stephen King was an eye-opener.

He talked about failure.

In his bedroom when he was just starting out, Stephen King hung a nail in his wall. On that nail, he would stick all his rejection letters to it. He wanted to see his failure so it would motivate him to succeed. Eventually, the rejection letters became so heavy that the nail came out of the wall and fell to the ground. So what did he do? He went and bought a bigger nail. Holy cow! Talk about motivation. If you’d like to see the video, check it out below. It’s lengthy, so if you simply want to see the part of the conversation I’m referring to, it’s around the 21:19 mark. For my young readers out there, there is a little bit of language between the two authors. They are Stephen King and George R.R. Martin, after all.

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? I’d say, for me at least, that I need to buckle down and prepare for rejection. I plan to send out my work to countless literary agents soon. Could be good. Could be hurtful.

But I’ve bought a big nail.