Writer’s Life: Finding the Right Agent, Keeping Up with the Craft

This is a personal post to give an update on how my writer’s life is going. I started out with my 180k word manuscript for Acceptance about three months back. Since then, I’ve broken it up into three separate novels (a word count more appropriate for YA) and begun querying the first novel at 54k words. Even now, I worry the word count is a bit low, so I’m considering adding a few chapters that will develop some of the drama at the end of the novel. At the point I broke it into its own separate work cannot be changed. The ending is perfect so my only option is to add in some more chapters before this point.

With or without more chapters, I do feel that the work as it stands is complete, and I don’t particularly want to add more to it. But I recently took part in a twitter event where you can ask agents questions. When I asked how important word count was, they stressed it’s very important and to try to keep to industry standards. For YA, (from my research) the word-count standard is 60-70k, with a low range of 50-60k sometimes acceptable. Regardless, that leaves my novel a bit short.

It’s hard to know if my word count is turning agents away, as I’ve only gotten a handful of responses from the submissions I’ve sent out. It’s very challenging to find the right agent and agency. When I started researching (using writer’s digest, querytracker, and finding more agents through following favorite authors on twitter and Facebook), I quickly realized the amount of time that went into just finding appropriate agents to query.

On average, once I find an agency I like (and that can take hours), I then start researching their agents that claim they are looking for fantasy. I’ll spend an hour or two looking up books they’ve represented and if they are akin to my own work. It’s quite often that I find agents are actually looking for urban fantasy or magical realism, so likely my novel with it’s high world-building is not going to be something they’re looking for. Or perhaps their represented novels are all paranormal romances. While Acceptance has a romance figure, it’s by no means the main focus, at least not in the first book.

But if I find the other novels have similarities to my own, even in a small scope, then I look into the agent themselves. What is on their Wishlist? What are they really looking for? What format do they prefer to be sent a query package? There are times when I get this far and find that the agent is just not going to be a right match for me, so I move on. But if I do feel they are a good match, then I put together the submission materials as requested (and only as requested!). And then wait for a response (if they even have time to give one) for 3 to 8 weeks. If no response after 8 weeks, unless otherwise stated on their website, I assume it’s a rejection.

So just to summarize that for you, the process to finding an agent that is the right fit for me is 3-6 hours!

So in the meantime, I’ve decided to improve my writing craft. I’ve completed another novel at 71k words: Sanctuary. This is the second go-round, so I avoided many pitfalls from my first novel. The first draft only took me about 3 months to write, which is not that long! I’m in the process of editing, but until I finish deciding what I want to do with Acceptance it is taking a back seat. Regardless, I’m excited for when it’s ready to query. I think it’ll be much easier to market. Acceptance is an angel fantasy, which I didn’t realize was lumped in with zombies and vampires. Sanctuary has nothing to do with angels, so I imagine it’ll be a much easier novel to query. Plus, it has a solid word count already going for it.

In addition, I’ve decided to write a novella to self-publish or submit to short story contests. It’s quite fun, I’ve gotten about 3 chapters in so far. That means about 10k words. I’m planning to leave it around 20k or 30k words, so I’m nearly half-way done with the first draft! It’ll be a fun side project to give me something to be proud of while I wait for my novels to get through the wood-work. After finding an agent, it easily takes 1 to 2 years until it’s accepted by a publisher an put on the shelves. This is a life of patience. Luckily, patience is my strongest attribute. (To prove that, I was in a long-distance relationship with my husband for 10 years. I think I can say I have patience!)

I love talking with other authors and hearing about your struggles and experiences. That is partly why I’ve started hosting author interviews on this blog. Feel free to reach out with me and chat!


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