Monday, June 13, 2011

Agent Story #1

Welcome to our regular Monday Feature of Agent Stories! When I was querying I always loved reading stories about how published authors got their agent, and better yet, reading actual query letters that snagged agents! There’s so much (sometimes conflicting) advice about how to get a good agent, I always appreciated just seeing query letters that had actually hit pay dirt. So for our regular Monday Agent Stories feature, our fabulous 2012 debutees will share some about their path, and occasionally, the actual magic letter itself ;) 

I started writing seriously when my son was an infant, about six years ago (eep, has it really been that long???). I hadn’t really written anything fiction since a few dabblings when I was a kid, like Jr. High. So I had a long way to go, from figuring out dialogue, to how to write a scene, to how to plot a novel. And I tended to do things the hard way, just jumping in pants first instead of doing responsible things like reading books about it or seeking advice. And some of that’s just necessary. Natalie Goldberg, my regular muse, suggests that beginning writers should spend two solid years doing ONLY writing practice—she says the only way to learn how to write… is to write. A lot. Hundreds, thousands of pages that will never see the published light of day but are necessary to learning how to write.

Ugh, isn’t that just horrible?! And what’s worse is she’s right! But it’s probably better I didn’t know in the beginning that it would take me years to produce a marketable book! I always say being a writer is an equal parts mixture of ego and crippling self-doubt. We all deep down have to believe that we are super special and we can be the one to Make It and Get A Book Deal!

But each rejection, how it burns. It either makes you 1) quit, or 2) dig your heels in and say “I’ll show you next time with my next book!” Which is what I did, again and again and again! I got so many rejections it would blow your mind. I wrote short stories and got rejected from literary magazines. I wrote novels and got rejections numbering literally in the hundreds between the three novels. I applied to MFA programs and got rejected from all of those!!! Oh rejection, it stings.

But then, sometimes if you dig in, learn as much as you can as you go, and be open to critique, the magic can happen. Glitch is the third book I’ve written all the way through and queried, and each manuscript along the way was a necessary (if grueling) step on the path to becoming a better writer.

Here’s my query letter, I went through a ton of drafts, it was constantly changing, but it got me a lot of immediate attention and requests for fulls and partials. And eventually, Charlie Olsen wrote saying he wanted to talk to me on the phone. The call! The magical sparkly unicorn sprinkles CALL that I’d read about forever. I still remember exactly where I was sitting in the coffee shop when I got that email. So then we talked on the phone, he had me do several rounds of revision, and a couple months later, offered representation.

Dear Mr. Olsen,

I read an ARC of Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade and saw on her website that you represent her. I think you might like The Beautiful Anomaly [the name changed later to Glitch], my 78,000-word romantic dystopia targeted to the young adult market. This novel imagines a future in which world peace is finally achieved, but at a terrible price—by enslaving most of the global population through emotion-deadening bionic hardware.
All Community subjects in Underground Sector 6, including seventeen-year-old Zoe Gray, believe what the archive texts say about their world—that two centuries ago, mankind paid for its sinful appetites when the fire of a thousand nuclear weapons destroyed the surface of the earth. It’s only when Zoe’s internal hardware glitches, freeing her from the mind-control of the Link for brief periods of time, that she realizes everything she believes might be a lie. At first Zoe thinks the glitching is related to the other anomalous thing she can do—her telekinesis—but she soon finds others at the Academy who also have extraordinary powers. Max has just begun glitching too. He can shape-shift to look like anyone he wants, and he’s overwhelmed with the discovery of pleasure and power. Adrian, on the other hand, has lived life on the outside. He’s come to the Academy to recruit Zoe because he’s had visions of her as the future leader of the Resistance. The dynamics of her relationships with each of the boys push Zoe to discover who she is apart from Link-control and who she wants to be. When all three are captured, it is up to Zoe to untangle the web of lies, embrace her destiny as a leader, and use her ever-growing powers to save the ones she has just learned how to love.

I’m a member of SCBWI, and my writing has been published and/or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, Blue Earth Review and Permafrost Journal. I am specializing in Children’s Literature for my Master’s in Literature at Texas State University. A chapter discussing Twilight has also been accepted into a forthcoming critical anthology. I look forward to discussing The Beautiful Anomaly with you in more depth. The first ten pages are included in the text below.

Heather Anastasiu


  1. That does sound like a cool story. Thanks for the look at your letter!

  2. Fantastic letter! I can see why he snapped you right up!

  3. This is a great letter - nicely done Heather! Now I'm even more intrigued by your book...

  4. Thanks guys! I just remember it helping me so much when I read Carrie Ryan's query letter while I was querying, I wanted to do the same!

  5. Wow - great letter - and great book idea!!

  6. Thanks for sharing this! I can't wait to read Glitch!

  7. You had me at telekinesis. *swoon* :D