Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Agents who tweet

I wrote a novel.

It was glorious, it was exciting, it was an adventure. When it was all over, I set out to find an agent so I could be rich and famous and have my book brought to life on the big screen.

Know what I was peddling? 170,000 words of purplish fiction with no genre and a plot so complicated it took more than a page to describe. Because I'm an idiot, I immediately threw together a hyped-up, cliche-filled query and sent it to every agent on the planet. I seriously went from 'the end' to 'hope to hear from you soon' in about four hours. Although I did get a request for a partial, the other responses were rejections. Surprise, surprise.

Working backwards, I started researching the publishing process after sending my queries. I bought a stack of books, scoured the Internet for helpful websites and read every blog I could find on the subject. I learned a lot, answered a few more requests for partials, but was still missing something.

The responses I was getting were personal no-thank-you notes. Sometimes, those hurt more than form rejections. It was like spraining an ankle right in front of the finish line. My writing was great, my dialogue was great, my premise was wonderful (lots of praise on that one), but none of the agents were in love with it enough to represent it.

An amazing resource for writers, from Chuck Sambuchino, directed me to Katelynn Lacopo of BookEnds LLC, whose bio directed me to Twitter. There I found a gazillion tweeting agents sharing hilarious bits of wisdom about the industry. It was a goldmine.

Tweets about what not to say in a query, how to turn off an agent, what agenting life is like and all sorts of aspects I never thought to investigate were chirping across my screen. These women, these smart, sarcastic, sharp as tacks women made everything so simple. I'm still astounded at how much more I learned from a few weeks on Twitter than from thousands of published pages.

My book has been rewritten, now wrapping up at below 100,000 words. I've chopped countless adverbs and adjectives that were taking up space and weighing the story down. Descriptions that went on forever, characters with no purpose, extraneous plot lines and unnecessary scenes were dumped in my recycle bin. What it really came down to was a strong, simple plot and a small cast of characters I love dearly.

While I may never master the art of the query (I get twitchy just thinking about it), I think I understand it better now. What's your story about? Forget descriptions, forget adjectives. Tell the agent the basics of your story. Pique their interest, share your excitement with them in clear, concise terms and polish it up 'til it shines. At least, that's what I'm trying to do.

The agents I follow are amazing people. They're mothers, wives, roommates, Brooklynites, vegetarians, cat people and closet comedians. I feel like the smelly kid on the playground, admiring the popular girls and wishing I could wrap hair with them. Wow. That dates me, doesn't it? Life was easier when we were kids and could say "Can I play with you?" without being slapped with a restraining order.

Enough rambling. Follow agents on Twitter. Follow their advice. You'll be a better writer for it.

My favorites (some are actually editors or other publishing people): WolfsonLiterary, ColleenLindsay, Sjaejones, Elanaroth, DaphneUn, Bradfordlit, Literaticat, Janet_Reid, Moonrat, Hroot, Sztownsend81, and (of course) KatelynnLacopo.

Oh, and SueCollini. You'll see what I mean.

An afterthought: If anyone mentioned in this post would like me to remove their name, please let me know. I'm a nice person, I swear.