Before I let Phil take over, a quick reminder: just two more days until the big agent reveal for the 2nd annual Christmas in July pitch contest! (Friday July 5th, in case you don’t want to do the math). We have 16 amazing agents on board this year, and we promise they’re just as impressive as last year, which is saying a lot because they were hella impressive last year. Alright, I’m done. Phil–take it away!
Ho ho ho! Merry Xmas in July!
I can’t believe it’s been a year already. Xmas in July was the Christmukkah miracle I needed to get my butt into gear. It wouldn’t be hyperbole for me to say that this contest changed my writing life. And not just for obvious reasons.
Last June, I finally decided enough was enough. For years, I sat on the sidelines (we’re talking back when Nathan Bransford was just an agent and nothing else), reading blogs, reading interviews, watching writers query, get agents and book deals, while I continued to work on my books at a snail’s pace. I kept telling myself that my writing wasn’t good enough or wasn’t ready for public judgment. Don’t less than 1% of queries get converted into offers of representation anyway?
I had told myself and made a promise on my blog that 2012 would be different. And as usual, I wasn’t following through. My most recent manuscript, THE BREAK-UP ARTIST, had been through a few drafts and was more polished than all my previous manuscripts. Was it good enough, though? Around this time, Michelle and Ruth were promoting their Xmas in July contest. It seemed easy to enter, and I was intrigued…but I had convinced myself that I should revise it again and query later. Then I read this blog post by Deana Barnhart that lit a fire under me. She’d entered a contest and found a quality agent. If she could do it, then I could, too.
The time was now.
Of course, this meant I had two weeks to write a query. I figured I would submit what I had, and if I got rejected, well…welcome to publishing. If that happened, at least I would have a query that I could polish for the future. I spent the next two weeks writing and rewriting my query, throwing it on querytracker for feedback. Oh, and I was moving during all this in 100-degree weather. Fun times!
The main thing I kept telling myself when writing a query is, to paraphrase Glengarry Glen Ross, Always be Selling. A query is a pitch, meant to hook agents, get them interested. It’s not a place to summarize your story. Dangle your story in front of our faces and make us beg to read it. For research, I read lots of cover copy and determined why I did/didn’t want to read each book. Cover copy is essentially an author’s query to readers.
I sent off my query and first page (which you can read here) and said whatever happens happens. I put myself in the game for the first time, so I considered that a success. I still remember the giddiness the night I received an email notification that Michelle Krys was now following me on Twitter. It was like that part of a date when you just know the other person is interested and is going to kiss you. And sure enough, the next day, I got the official good news.
[Word of advice: Make sure your manuscript is completely finished before entering the contest. I was still revising when my query letter went up. I figured the agents would only ask for first three chapters or a partial. I was wrong. They asked for fulls and wanted them immediately. I pulled two consecutive all-nighters and finished my draft on six hours of sleep that week. I would not recommend this.]
I was very fortunate to find my agent through the contest. She offered rep a few weeks after I sent over my manuscript, and I signed with her by end of August. In December, Harlequin Teen bought THE BREAK-UP ARTIST in a 2-book deal…twelve days before Christmas and exactly five months from when my query letter was posted on Michelle’s blog. It’s still amazing to think that all this came from entering an online contest hosted by two writers whose blogs I stumbled upon randomly.
As corny as this sounds, one of the best parts of Xmas in July was making friends with other writers. When my query went up, writers started following me on Twitter, tweeting at me, saying my book sounded cool. I made friends with other people from the contest. I had officially stepped off the sidelines. I met future beta readers. I made writer friends that I talk to pretty much daily. We enter these query contests and only focus on getting selected, but connecting with other writers is just as great a benefit.
So for those of you who are thinking about tossing your query + 500 words into the ring – DO IT!! (If you have a completed manuscript. Sending in a half-finished draft isn’t doing anyone any favors.) Enter the contest. Make some friends. Remember that No is not a death knell. It’s just two measly letters.
Trust me: you never know what can happen.
Merry Xmas in July, ya’ filthy animal.