Monday, October 14, 2013

5 pages scored me a full manuscript request from a top industry literary agent.

5 pages scored me a full manuscript request from a top industry literary agent. 5 pages.

I have been sending queries to this agent for many years, probably seven or more. But this time something was different.
Was it my query letter? Maybe, I do have a decent new query letter.

Was it my subject matter? Vikings are hot now. J
Was it the accomplishments in the last year? Could be. I do have a few good ones listed.

Was it my social media? Could this agent have seen my Facebook posts, Tweets or blog updates? We are connected in many ways. Perhaps she saw something I wrote that was funny, or how I still help other authors and engage my fans whenever possible.
Was it my profile on PublishersMarketplace? It has a lot of good information on it, and on occasion I have been known to trend up into the top ten or twenty.

Was it my Goodreads reviews? Not sure. I doubt it. I have good reviews and all, but what author doesn't have good reviews these days.
Was it my short stories, and the anthologies I land them in each year? I would love to think that helps. I work very hard on the short stories I am asked to write.

Or could it really have been those five pages?
It's hard to imagine that five pages would result in a full manuscript request.  It's like being that person who buys one lottery ticket and wins the big jackpot, when other people are buying twenty or fifty tickets and not getting a hit.

It's a major honor. I am still floored. I have followed this agent's career for many years. I have followed it closely, because she represents someone I know. Someone whose career I have watched grow from his first book to major motion picture options and books in foreign print. And he was just a special guest at Comic Con.
So what did I do when this request came in? I stopped everything and just told myself to remain calm. I sat back and planned. I did not want to rush anything. I did not want to reply to the email request right away. I have done that in the past. I don't know why, but years ago I used to think that when an agent requested something from me, it was my job to send it within five minutes of reading the email. Rush. Rush. Rush!!! No… that's not me anymore. Now, I know to take it slow and I think before I act.

So I gave it a day to sink it. Then I emailed the agent back and told her how happy I was and how much of an honor it was to have this request. I also told her I would send the file in a few days. Why? Think of it like this.
Out of the blue you are given the opportunity of a lifetime. Just pick a situation. It could be throwing out the first pitch to a World Series Baseball game. It could be taking the Bar exam. It could be going out on a first date with that person who you have liked for a long time.  A smart person would take the time to practice, study, and invest some time and effort in before doing any of these.

I knew the first thing I had to do was calm down and then prepare. So I took that step back and thought of what I could do to make my book better. Regardless of the book being "done" and having been edited and re-edited and edited and re-edited again in the last twelve months, I decided to take the advice of some current test readers and apply another bit of polish.
If you read my blog or FB updates you know I am capable of huge amounts of work in a small time. I can step up, so to speak. So over the course of four days, I read and edited and then reread my 101,000 word book. I worked at it about 10-12 hours a day (with lots of breaks for my back and to help my wife with her projects). I put in about 40 hours in those four days. It was crazy, but I loved every minute of it. Hard work feels great, when it's something you are passionate about.

But with all that work, it's hard not to worry. This IS a huge opportunity. My biggest worry is providing the reader with a good story. One that they will enjoy as much as I enjoyed crafting it.
See, agents, publishers, editors, test readers, fans… they can all have different opinions on your work. I have one test reader who loves this book I sent to the agent this week. He loved it and suggested that I don't change it a bit. But my editor and another agent who has been helping me both suggested two last minute changes. One was to soften the dialogue, so it is more readable. They thought the Viking speak was too caveman-like in spots. This was what I wanted to address this week.

I always tell people who ask in interviews or chats, that I write like a painter paints. I went to art school for almost eight years. I am an artist. And I have met a lot of other artists. Some of the best painters, apply many… many layers to their work. They build up from the bottom. That is my thought process when I write. I like to build up with each layer. So in my mind this edit was just another light layer on top of my finished book. I softened the dialogue as per the suggestions. Then, I sent the file to the agent who requested it last Monday and explained to her what I just did.
It's funny. Like I said, everyone has a different opinion, so as a writer who is working very hard to reach his fullest potential, I try and take everyone's advice. Sometimes it can be difficult, and sometimes I think… who is right? Is that even a proper question? Is there a right? Because one agent might say one thing needs to be fixed and another agent might sign you based on that one thing not being changed.

About nine months ago I was asked to write scripts for a TV company that was going to produce and pitch a new Viking TV show set in Oregon. They wanted me to write the scripts based on the dialogue in this very book. The same dialogue another person told me needed to be fixed. So you can see what I mean. Everyone has a different view. Who is right?
My opinion has always been this: I will do whatever is needed to make my work a success. So if an agent or a publisher says something needs to be changed, I was say, "How do you want it changed? Of course I can do that." I have known people who say they will not change their work for anyone. I knew lots of people like that in art school years ago. I feel bad for them. Criticism, critiques, advice, opinions… all of these things can help an artist or a writer to grow. It's learning how to understand and accept them that can be hard. Just remember… You're art might be your child, but you DO want your child to grow up and succeed in this world.

So here I sit. A few days after receiving an incredible request from a huge literary agent. I polished my work and I sent it away to be read. I feel good about this for many reasons. I took the advice of educated people who are truly trying to help me, and want me to succeed. I worked hard and I am a true believer that hard work pays off. AND… I am ready. I have never been more ready than I am now.
A lot of people have told me that 2013 would be my year. There are few things I would like more than being signed by an agent. So if this or anything else pans out... I will truly feel blessed.

Thanks all.


Kevin James Breaux