Monday, September 5, 2011

Tired of the yellow meringue bridesmaid dress?

Getting an agent is often compared to getting married. Understandably. There’s the whole having to work together, believe in each other, mollycoddle the baby, teach it to walk, send it out into the world and hope it survives… but that’s way out there in the future. That’s for the girl who’s been proposed to, who’s walking up the aisle. The big question is how do you get that ideal guy to look at you across the dance floor, to wonder who you are, to show enough interest to ask you to dinner in the first place?

Well this is my story: It’s October 2010. I have a disastrous ‘Meet & Critique’ with a talented agent and return to my husband licking my wounds. ‘But I thought you said your first chapter was made of awesome!’ he says. (Except in French, with a French accent.) I shrug helplessly. Clearly I was delusional. Clearly I am clueless. He frowns, then runs into his pep talk – minor set back, her loss, a million agents rejected HP (totally not true, but anyway)… I drift away wondering if I really did believe I could make it, or if I was TRYING to believe.

And then a couple of days later something happens. I discover not one, not two, but three of my writing buds have agents/ deals! Yey for them. But now I’m feeling kind of small and lonely. My craft and ability to tell a story are in roughly the same ballpark, so how come I’m standing outside the party in the drizzle? (Admittedly, at this juncture I haven’t actually sent out any queries, which doesn’t help much.)

And while I’m standing there drenched and despondent and considering turning around and going home, I realize something. A thunder bolt moment. Think Kate Hudson outside the church in the rain, realizing her one true love is about to marry another girl, (even though he’s been in love with her like FOREVER, 'cos she’s been too blind to see she’s in love with him too. (Small aside—did you know Kate Hudson is Goldie Hawn’s daughter? Love that.)

Anyway, this is my moment, my realization. And it goes like this: You don’t have to be a genius to get a book published. I had a story that I believed was worth telling and I was going to get it out there NO MATTER WHAT. I’d done my time. I’d worked hard and tirelessly at improving my craft, and if I had to query every agent on the planet, I’d find someone who loved my story the way I loved it. (My first novel I queried about 30 agents. Got close, but ‘the call’ didn’t pan out and I put that manuscript aside.) The difference between me BEFORE and me AFTER life-changing-realization, was I’d decided this time I wasn’t taking no for an answer. I stopped questioning whether I was good enough, stopped repeating what everybody says about how hard it is to get an agent. Call me a New Age junkie if it makes you feel better, but I honestly think this made all the difference in the speed with which things happened from there.

Mid December I attend a small SCBWI conference. After participating in workshop an agent approaches me, says she likes my ideas and asks me to submit a partial of whatever I’ve got. I submit to her, and what the hell, I decide to submit to the other agent at the conference too. Ten days later I receive my first offer (yes, on a partial and on my first query!) I ask for time to finish revisions on my manuscript as I would like to discuss the full before we commit to each other. Said agent very generously agrees to wait. Meanwhile, I receive an enthusiastic request from second agent to send my full. Eeek. Hang on, almost finished! End of January the manuscript is ready to go and I send it out to both agents along with eight more queries. By early February I have a total of three offers and one of them is from an agent that is a perfect fit!

So if you want to get married i.e. agented, (mmm think I just made up a word, but I like it, let’s keep it,), my recommendation is decide NOW it will happen for you. You will do whatever it takes. And every time the doubt lurks, which inevitably it will, don’t feed it, bite it on the bum and slap it away.

Remember when you were fifteen, and there was that bossy girl in your class—chunky, big nose, thought she was IT—she still got plenty of guys, right?

Decide it . Own it. Work it baby. (Course it won’t hurt if you happen to be a literary genius.)

Bestselling Author, Claire Merle

(See what I did there? You’re smiling, right? OK, for those of you who are looking baffled, or—eeek—tutting and shaking your heads, answer the following questions: (The only answer allowed is YES.) Is my story worth telling? Have I studied the craft? Am I always striving to improve my writing? Will I send out queries? Will I nab a fab agent? Will my book be published? ‘Yes is the new No’ folks. Are you with me?)

‘The Glimpse’ can now be added to your goodreads wishlist: goodreads ~ facebook ~ twitter

Disclaimer: Deciding you will be a published author does not mean reality will never bash you about again. But it will help you give it a wallop back!

P.S. I am absolutely NOT a Romantic Comedy junkie…Well, maybe just a bit… All right, all right, I admit it—I am a total Romantic Comedy junkie.


  1. Just added The Glimpse on Goodreads. I can't believe this is the first I'm hearing of it. It sounds great!

  2. Thanks Safari! This is my first BNW post as the summer was crazy with revisions and kids!!

  3. That's a pretty cool post, and a good attitude. I'm sure it's not just about putting energy "out there" that's doing something. It's also about how you wrote those later query letters, the vibe of the writing, and probably also about how you talked and interacted with the agents when they contacted you. If you have the attitude, "My book is good," people go into it predisposed to agree with you.

  4. Totally agree with you! The agent at the conference approached me--that was totally unexpected and probably had a lot to do with my general feeling that I was 'ready' which she 'picked up' on. And then I put myself out there with the query letters knowing that I already had an offer. That's quite a unique position to be in, so when I started exchanging emails etc with agents before the 'calls' I felt comfortable and curious rather than anxious. (That said, I did have a couple of sleepless nights when the calls etc were going on !!)