Agent Feedback

I finally received news from the second agent to whom I sent the first five pages of Three Empty Frames. Along with the material, I posed some questions regarding querying self published books. I had my suspicions confirmed. Here’s what she said:

“Agents rarely resell self published books these days. I think of it as your platform and what happened in the past. I’m looking to sell new, hot, fresh projects that publishers can work with from beginning to end. I would finish the series self published and then try traditional with a new project/series. Good luck!”

As you can imagine, I have mixed feelings. In one respect it feels like I’ve wasted my time and energy on all those stories. But in another, after three years and nearly half a million (!) words, I’ve definitely become a better writer. And both agents have had good things to say about the writing at least… It’s interesting to have another perspective on the beginning of the book. Here’s what she had to say about the opening scenes:

The opening quickly establishes setting and the dialogue strongly conveys a distinct dialect. The conversation appears to be setting up a frame narrative. Even though the reader gets backstory immediately, there’s enough held back (like the name of the love interest) to allow the reader to engage with the text. The narrative voice could be clearer—for a moment it’s somewhat unclear which man is on parole. The mystery of Joey verifying and looking into Mick’s story is intriguing, but it takes too long to get to this point of the story. The final scene didn’t pack enough of a punch for me. Jen, and the reader, seems to be ambushed by the announcement that two characters who have just been introduced are about to exit from the main plot. Lucinda seems to have a supernatural ability to anticipate Jen’s shift in thought. It’s interesting and complex. Good work.

She highlighted a few things that I already corrected but unlike the other agent who thought my dialogue was a little stiff, this agent thought it had ‘a distinct dialect.’ If you’ve ever had a conversation with an older, well-mannered gentleman, you will know that the way Mr. Dunne speaks to his daughter is accurate. I should know… I modeled him after my own father —a man who found himself with a baby daughter at the age of 55! So when I was in my late twenties (like Jen) he was in his early eighties! I was glad to have that bit of my writing validated. As for the rest of it, I will apply as best I can and keep it in mind for future projects.

Well, at least I get to delay the query process a little longer. I’m going to polish up Breaking Bread and put it out there before year’s end. That way I can start 2018 with a clean slate. As per the comments on my post the other day, I have some terrific suggestions on how to spice up the relationship between my two main characters and I’m going to dedicate the month of November to revisions. (Just like NaNoWriMo to keep me focused and disciplined). Then off to the editor and hopefully published before the holiday season. With the new year, comes a new (well not really new, just partially started…) project: my ‘historical’ novel, Here Lies a Soldier. Maybe I’ll finish it it time for Armistice Day 2018 – the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War.

Some Positive Feedback

Always welcome when you’re struggling or unsure.

I sent the first five pages of my revised first novel to an agent after participating in a Writers Digest webinar. I finally heard back from her late yesterday. Here are her comments:

“Overall, really fantastic writing. It’s beautifully composed –and also subtle. So despite the rather brash setup of an ex-convict, this leaves me feeling very intrigued about the rest of the plot. Nice job! I don’t have any overarching notes for you, other than to continue working on loosening your dialogue. You’ve got a good start to it, but there are some scenes that come across as just a touch stiff. (Dialogue is hard; it will come with some revision, I’m sure.) Best of luck with your query process; I have no doubt you will find an agent!”

So that’s pretty cool, right? If you’re wondering why she didn’t ask for the full manuscript herself, she doesn’t usually represent this genre. However, having good feedback from professional agent is certainly encouraging. I have already made revisions to the opening chapter of Three Empty Frames and will post the final edition later this week. Thank you all for reading along!

Slow motion…

How slowly time moves when you are waiting…

In the last few months of concentrating on novel writing/editing/revising, I have also been trying to educate myself on the best way to attract the attention of an agent. In that regard, I have re-subscribed to Writer’s Digest (after having let it lapse) and taken advantage of a couple of the webinars they offered on the subject. Along with the price of the webinar, the participants were guaranteed answers to all of their submitted questions and feedback on the first five pages of our manuscripts from the agents moderating the session. I have submitted the first fives pages of Three Empty Frames to both the agents and now I’m awaiting their response. I also asked the question I had about my self published novels being off the table for submission because of their being previously published. So now I wait… It could be a month or more before I hear back.

Another venue I’ve taken advantage of is a Facebook Writers’ forum I had joined and largely ignored over the last year. I posed my question about self publishing and got several less than encouraging responses. Most everyone agrees that self published books are unacceptable to agents for query. The self published authors that have moved to the traditional publishing world have done so mostly after being discovered BECAUSE their self published work was already successful.

Another ‘lovely’ discovery I had thrown in my face is this: just because you get an agent doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for self promotion. To summarize: authors are expected to do their own marketing whether or not they have an agent. So the days of writers just working on their next book while their marketing team does all their publicity are gone. (Of course everything changes when you are a best seller, but until then…) My desire is to write, to direct my energy and creativity into crafting stories. To be a success at it seems to mean diverting some of that energy into crafting a marketing strategy. I’m trying to work out how I feel about that.

And speaking of feelings… Honestly, I have been all over the place mentally/emotionally with all the uncertainty of publishing/self publishing. Some days I am optimistic and determined and other days I am ready to throw in the towel. If one learns the best by learning from making mistakes then I should be the valedictorian of my class.