Photo by Bob Mabel
I follow Colleen Lindsay on Twitter. She is a literary agent for FinePrint Literary Agency. I believe it was in January of this year she sent out a tweet that she had read all of the queries she received and responded to every one of them. She said that if someone submitted something to her and had not gotten a response then she didn’t get it and to resubmit.
Can you believe it? This agent is so human! Kind and courteous and--though I’d hate to be described in such a fashion--sweet. I decided immediately she would be one of the agents to whom I’d submit my manuscript.
- She’d respond. That is a plus as far as I’m concerned. I hate being in limbo. When I used to buy lotto tickets with a group of co-workers, we’d buy them on Wednesday or Saturday before the drawing. I didn’t want to have to hold on to the ticket for days before the drawing, clinging, wondering if it would be a winner. Okay, twenty-four hours is fine. I can wait that long. It gives me time to dream, but not enough time to become obsessed.
- She’d be kind if she decided to reject it. I’ve been following her for months and her tweets show she has class. She’d never send a handwritten note saying, “This is unpublishable,” like Joe Finder got from an agent on his first novel. He can laugh about it now because he has many published books and they’ve even made a movie of one of his books. But when he told us about it at the 2009 PNWA Writer's Conference, I felt a stab from my gut to my heart. Colleen would never, ever say anything so mean. Well, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t.
So, as soon as I finished my book, I did an edit to cut out 6,000 words. Next came the “look,” “walk,” adverb, and content edits. Then began the painful experience of writing a query letter.
Dear lord. It was worse than writing the whole luffing book. A cold sore tried to appear on my lip, that is how stressful it was. After 47 versions of the query letter, it began to vibrate and shiver. It wanted to be sent off. But, was it good enough? As a test, I sent it off to two agents I hadn’t researched at all, other than reading about them on Agent Query and Query Tracker.
Okay, this isn’t bad. This is something anyone can do, I thought. I prepared the query for the first one, which included a few pages as per instructions on the website and my fingers pushed the mouse until the pointer hovered over the “Send” button. Five minutes later, I scampered out to the kitchen and poured a glass of wine. Back at the computer I took a sip, then another. The glass clunked down on the edge of the desk and with sheer determination, my finger pressed the enter key.
“Your message has been sent.”
I tucked my head into my shoulders and waited for a crash of thunder and the brilliant flash of lightning.
Ha! This was easy. I prepared the next query and this time my mouse pointer hovered over the “Send” button for less than three minutes before I jabbed it. A quick roll of the eyes assured the ceiling had no gaping holes big enough for a firebolt.
A rejection came back hours later from the first one. No word from the other. Perhaps the query letter wasn’t good enough. Another few versions later, and on February 17, 2010, the time arrived. A quick check of Colleen's website showed this:
As of February 18th, Colleen is temporarily closed to new submissions. Please click here to read Colleen’s submission guidelines and more specifics on the kinds of projects that she will be seeking in the near future.
It was 11:40pm. Even if she meant midnight, February 18th, using Pacific Standard Time, there was no way to send within 20 minutes. I hadn’t even read her guidelines yet, and I’d want to personalize the letter to her because she is a "special agent." (cue: "secret agent" music) It was twenty minutes after midnight when it was ready to send. Did I send it? Maybe I should have, but I didn’t. What if I blew my one chance with her by sending after the deadline? And it was only temporarily closed, for crying out loud. I’d wait.
But then something fabulous happened. While reading her blog, I discovered Colleen is hosting a contest to win a scholarship to the Backspace Writer's Conference and Agent-Author Seminar in May. All you have to do is submit a query letter and two pages of your manuscript through snail mail and you could win a scholarship to the conference. But the best thing is, Colleen herself (well, plus others in her office) will be selecting the winner! She may still SEE my query! It is almost like a second chance! Except she will not respond at all if I don’t win, and she isn’t doing it for representation, only to decide who wins the scholarship. But still…
I got on Twitter and asked if she’d be taking queries again after her contest ended. She doesn’t follow me, of course, but she responded! You see how extraordinary she is? She said no. Not for a while. But, the point is she responded. That is almost like a sign; like maybe something will happen; like maybe I’ll get a bite on the hook or I’ll start getting better gas mileage.
Okay, maybe not. But I can dream.
I sent my contest entry in today. I can dream up until March 15, when they announce the winners. Then I’ll have to find some other dream so Colleen doesn’t think I’m stalking her.