By Pat Brown
I submitted my first query for what was then called Color of Shadows and Smoke to Janet Reid's Query Shark on March 28, 2010. Around the same time, I was submitting the query to AgentQuest for critiquing.
I fiddled and rewrote the query constantly from then on. Based on what my research revealed about an agency, I would tweak the basic email to emphasize how I fit.
I officially announced the completion of the novel on April 24th. But in all honesty, for me, the novel is never complete. I signed up for workshops, took the ms to my writing group's critique night and made plans to submit it to the Don Knotts contest put on by the Writers Police Academy.
I started making agent lists through QueryTracker. I started with what I classed as "test subjects." They were good agents, don't get me wrong, but I really wanted to test out my query to see if it elicited any reaction. I sent my first query to Veltre Group through their online form on April 25th. The form rejection came a few hours later.
In May, I began sending queries out regularly. I polished the manuscript until it was the best I could do, but I knew it could be better. So, in October, I went to Portland for a week-long Jim Frey workshop. Following that, I revised the novel considerably.
I re-queried the agents who had requested material to ask if they would like to see the revised ms and three responded "yes." On November 11, I sent a query to John Schuster of Literary Group International. On the 12th, I got a request for the full, which I immediately sent. Since they wanted a 30-day exclusive, I sent no more queries out.
On Friday, December 10, an email came from Frank Weinman, the President of LGI, saying he loved the novel and wanted to represent it. I spent the weekend researching the agency and was very pleased by what I found. I sent an acceptance. As soon as I heard back from Frank, I emailed all the agents with submissions that I was withdrawing the novel. To date, I have heard back from one.
By the time December came around, I had pretty well given up on the agents who hadn't responded. I had decided that, at the end of the year, I would start formally submitting the book to indie publishers who don't require agents.
Worse, I was having a writer's slump. I couldn't keep fiddling with the ms, now called Shadows and Smoke, and the couple of manuscripts I was working on weren't going anywhere.
Finally, instead of fighting the block, I decided I'd give my brain a holiday. I gave myself permission to not write for a couple of weeks. I kept reading research novels, but I didn't think of stories. Within a day of getting the request, the idea for my next historical came together.
The next step is waiting for my new agent to begin submitting the manuscript. I'm busy writing my new book, planning to attend Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe and have booked 25 days in Los Angeles to do more research for future novels. I'm looking forward to 2011 with high hopes that my historical novel will find a good home and my other writing will keep flowing.
All in all, I sent out 268 queries, got 188 rejections, 17 requests for either partials or fulls of the manuscript -- and one offer. I began writing the novel now called Shadows and Smoke in late January after doing my initial research. My quest to land an agent, from book genesis to contract, was a little less than a year.
I credit perseverance and the stubborn refusal to quit. There were moments I wondered if I was wasting my time. Maybe my ms wasn't as good as I thought it was. Or maybe there really wasn't a market for it; maybe no one was interested in Prohibition.
But even with those thoughts and doubts, I still kept sending the queries out and writing. I wrote a novella set in the same time period and sold it. I worked on ideas for other novels and did continuous research, concentrating on Los Angeles and Prohibition.
Talent is great. A wonderful book is great too, but the one thing that can see you through is persistence. Never give up.
Born in Canada, Pat Brown's approach to life was tempered in the forge of Los Angeles and, after eight years in the City of Angels, she developed a fascination for the darker side of life and the professionals who patrol those mean streets. She considers those eight years a lifetime's worth of experience that she mines regularly in her novels. Pat is not afraid to explore the darker sides of her characters and the streets they inhabit, including the ones most people are afraid to walk down alone at night.