This was originally published on my website on 10/27/10 (http://www.lisalregan.com/)
I sent out my very first queries for Finding Claire Fletcher on April 12, 2006. I’m quite embarrassed to say now that the book was 175,000 words. That’s right. 175,000 words. That is not a typo. While I had researched how to write a good query letter, I had not researched book length. Later, much later when many opportunities had passed me by, I would learn that the ideal length for a novel is between 80,000 and 110,000 words. From everything I’ve read the shorter the better.
Still I sent out a handful of queries that day. On 4/25/06 I got an email from Agent Jane Doe’s assistant, asking for the complete manuscript. I sent it immediately. On 4/27/06 I got an email from Agent Jane asking if she could talk to me on the phone. That day we spoke on the phone. She said she was halfway through the book. She loved it, loved how gritty it was. She had a few suggestions which I agreed with. She said she’d be in touch.
On 5/1/06 Agent Jane emailed me to say she had finished the book and had some editorial suggestions. She wanted to put together some notes for me. I was fine with that. On 5/17/06 she emailed to say she had started the notes but hadn’t finished them yet.
A few months went by. I got a list of suggestions from another agent (see my post about Agent John Doe to follow) which I used to revise Finding Claire Fletcher. On 8/23/06 I emailed Agent Jane to see if she’d read the revised version of the novel since I hadn’t heard from her in 3 months. She said sure and I sent the new draft along.
On 9/29/06 I emailed her to see if she had had a chance to read it. (I had cut 43,000 words by the way). She emailed me back that day to say that she hadn’t but would get to it over the weekend.
I didn’t hear from Agent Jane for a couple of months so I emailed her on 12/13/06 asking if she’d had a chance to review the new draft. She said she had not and would get back to me sometime in January.
A year went by. That’s right. A whole year. I was having a baby so I wasn’t overly concerned with what was going on with Finding Claire Fletcher although I did continue to query other agents.
On 12/7/07 I emailed Agent Jane again and said, hey remember me? You never got back to me. Will you read the new draft or what? She wrote back asking me to send it to her again which I did.
On 1/9/08 I emailed her to see if she had made any progress. She responded the next day that she would be in touch with me in a few days. I emailed her again on 1/17/08 because I had not heard from her. She wrote back that day saying she was in the middle of my book and would get back to me soon. She suggested at this point that I query other agents since she did not know when she would be able to get back to me. I had already been doing this. I had already figured out that Agent Jane was a lost cause but still, when you’re a desperate aspiring writer you’ll take any avenue that is open to you. I figured as long as she wasn’t rejecting me outright, it wasn’t costing me anything to continue pestering her.
I waited till 4/28/08 before emailing her again. I asked if she had read it. She said she was “the absolute worst” because she had not read it but she had just had her assistant send it to her Kindle. Agent Jane would be in touch.
On 6/28/08 I emailed again for a status and got the same thing—she hadn’t read it but it had just been sent to her Kindle.About 9 months went by. I revised Finding Claire Fletcher again. I had also written another book and had been querying other agents but once I finished my second book, I figured I’d give old Agent Jane another try. In terms of Finding Claire Fletcher, getting representation with Agent Jane was a wash but I figured she might like the new book. So on 3/17/09 I emailed her—gave her a brief history of our correspondence and pitched the new book.
On 4/22/09 she emailed me back saying she loved my writing and would love to take a look at the new manuscript. I sent both manuscripts to her. On 6/29/09 I emailed her for a status. On 6/29/09 her assistant wrote to me to say that Agent Jane was reviewing my submissions and would be in touch.
On 7/1/09 I got an email from Agent Jane saying she was reading Finding Claire Fletcher but that she was stuck on how to sell it. She said it was too violent. She wanted to know how I would classify it and who the readership would be. She said she was starting my second book. I wrote her back that day listing several authors whose work I thought was comparable (including one of her own bestselling clients) and who I thought was likely to read it. I also gave her a lengthy list of bestselling authors whose work is far more violent than my own and gave her specific examples from about five or six books. I also suggested to her that the violent content could be toned down if necessary although I wasn’t sure that it should be toned down anymore than it already had been.
On 9/1/09 I emailed Agent Jane for a status. The next day I got an email from her assistant saying she was still considering my submission and would be in touch. I emailed Agent Jane again on 11/2/09, 12/2/09, 1/6/10 and 2/8/10.
Finally on 2/9/10 I got another email from her assistant asking if I had made revisions to either book and would I please re-send both manuscripts.
Come on now.
Anyway, I finally got the rejection on 2/12/10 almost four years after my initial query. Agent Jane said she liked both books SO MUCH (her emphasis, not mine). She said she felt torn because she was not sure how to sell them. (Although I queried her because I had read three books by one of her clients who was a bestseller and whose books were very similar to mine). She regretted not being able to offer representation, said it was not an easy decision to make and that she’d been trying to make a decision for a long time. (Really? A long time? You don’t say.)
She referred me to another agent who read Finding Claire Fletcher and rejected me in two months. He just didn’t fall in love with it, he said.
In all honesty I knew that Agent Jane was not going to offer me representation after the first six months. It’s like dating. You know what’s really going on when you’re hot and heavy with someone for a month and then they stop calling you. You don’t expect to marry that person. When years pass and you’re the only one calling it’s pretty clear that the “relationship” isn’t going anywhere. But as I said, I had nothing to lose. She didn’t reject me. Other than the five minutes it took me every few months to send her an email, I lost nothing. Of course I’m really not sure why she wouldn’t just reject me up front. Only Agent Jane can answer that. But it wasn’t as if I was sitting in front of my computer for four years with bated breath, waiting for her to get back to me. I was meeting the man of my dreams, having a baby, working full-time, writing another book, revising and querying other agents.
Agent Jane is just one of my experiences in Literary Agent Purgatory or what I referred to in my last post as A REALLY LONG TIME.