Did You Know?

Erin L. Schneider is native to the Pacific Northwest, attended college in Honolulu - and although Hawaiian - should never be allowed on a surfboard. With more than twenty years in corporate merchandising, she’s now a full-time writer living in Seattle with her husband, Neal; their baby boy, Kellan; a rowdy German shepherd named Ronin; and two crazy cats, Ono and Poke. She’s a member of both the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and SCBWI, and is also co-founder of the YA Buccaneers.

SUMMER OF SLOANE is her debut novel, out May 3, 2016 from Disney-Hyperion.

Erin is represented by literary agent Lisa Grubka of Fletcher & Company.

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Entries in Query Letters (9)

Friday
Oct252013

Finding An Agent: My Road Less Traveled

Oh what a year this has been.

2013 started off with so many unfortunate events. At first it was one thing, then another, and then another -- so many craptastic things just in the month of January, I actually had to laugh. And then after all of that, I parted ways with Mr. Agent Man in February after working with him exclusively for almost two years.

Oh, but it gets better. Because in March, I was laid off from my job after six years of service (along with 150 others). Seriously. What a grand year, right? I was afraid to even ask what more could happen.

It took months for me to realize that getting laid off was a huge blessing in disguise. I was so unhappy with some of the turns I'd taken in my career and even more saddened by a job that slowly stopped being the amazing creative adventure it once was. But when I sat back and looked at it for all it was worth, I realized I finally had the time to write. Hours every day, be it two in the afternoon or two in the morning...my time was finally mine

So I wrote. I picked back up on WHERE THE WATER FALLS after putting it on the back burner in 2010, when I started working with Mr. Agent Man on THE LUCKY FEW. It only had four chapters under it's belt, but it kept pecking at the back of my mind to get in there and finish it. And so I did.

It took a couple of months to complete, revise, and send out to all of my wonderful CP's -- only to start the revision process all over again, once I'd received their feedback. When I finally felt it was in a good place, I took a break away from it all around the beginning of August...and then I started to query -- the first one went out on August 29th and I heard back within a few hours, with a request for the full.

I was beyond ecstatic. Beyond

Because my journey - while not nearly finished - has been an incredibly long road. After all, I sent out my very first query on September 27, 2009 -- yep, that's over four years ago. And since then, I've wrote three more novels and started in on sequels for a few of them. But it was WTWF that snagged Super Agent Lisa, thanks to something on Twitter called #MSWL.

But let's back up to September: After the first request, I received three more for full's right off the bat, which was AWESOME. But then I received three rejections in one day, from big agents I'd queried and had my fingers crossed on. Then a fourth one came in. And then a fifth. And then I started to think maybe this pattern was indicative of what was to come.

I even emailed a few of my CP's letting them know I was considering throwing in the towel -- you can bet all of them told me I was nuts and most of them threatened me with the dull end of a spoon if I ever thought that way again. But it was all so exhausting, like querying usually is...and the sudden slew of negative responses was getting the better of me. Especially after four years of it.

I decided instead to take another query class from Writers Digest with agents Kate McKean and Jim McCarthy. I rewrote my query based on their feedback -- and sent it out. And then I jumped on Twitter and realized it was #MSWL day. For those not in the know, #MSWL stands for manuscript wish list: a day when literary agents Tweet their wish lists for manuscripts they hope will find a way into their slush pile. It happens only a few times a year and was started by Agent Jessica Sinsheimer and on 9/24 it was lighting up the Twitter feeds. 

A few agents were looking for YA Contemporary, so I queried them. And received four new requests within a day -- one of them was from Lisa. Then another request came in based off my new query letter prior to #MSWL. Then another. And soon I had submissions out with FIFTEEN agents and TWO smaller publishers.

Holy shit. Best querying EV-VER.

And then I leave for Mazatlan, Mexico on 10/3, to celebrate my 8th anniversary with my husband. No phone reception, no internet connectivity, no nothing but sunshine, pool time, the beach, and plenty of mai tais. Of course being the person I am, I have the hardest time unplugging...so when we were walking by the small deli on our hotel grounds - the only place with free wi-fi - I connected my phone for a few minutes, just to see.

And low and behold not only was there a letter of intent from one agent, but I also received an email from another agent a few hours later, with AN OFFER OF REPRESENATION!

Me. An offer. !#$%!#!!#%@#$!

But of course I'm in Mexico...and the connection is reminescant of the old AOL dial-up days, if that. And my internet goes down. And then I get it back up again, but for some reason I can't reply to any emails. And the deli is getting ready to close for the night. OMG, by this point, I'm just slightly freaking out. I have 1.5 agents interested and I can't respond to ANYONE. How is this happening? 

It's too late to go in to town and find an internet cafe, so we go back to our room and I literally cannot contain myself. I spend the rest of the night sending I-don't-even-want-to-know-how-expensive text messages to my CP's (because for some reason I can text, but can't call or email...WTF??!?!) and writing out in my notebook what I'll email back to both of these agents, should I ever gain access to the internet again. Okay, a little overly dramatic, but seriously: NO INTERNET + AGENT OFFERS = NOT GOOD.

Around 7am the next morning as soon as the little deli opened, I was waiting at the door like that woman in the old Mervyn's commercial saying "open, open, open!" with my iPad in hand and $250 in pesos, just in case I needed to buy my way to a computer. And I finally connect. It was like the clouds had parted. OMFG, I love internet connectivity. LOVE.

I replied to the offering agent letting her know I was thrilled to get her offer, that I was down in Mexico for the week, and that I'd love to chat when I returned. Then I promptly emailed the other agent and let her know I'd received an offer. 

I spent an hour that day, emailing all of the agents that currently had my MS to let them know I'd received an offer - but they would have plenty of time to read / make their decision, since I was out of the country. I also emailed all of the agents I'd queried in the last two weeks. In the end, I heard back from all agents with my MS, letting me know they'd read and get back to me -- along with two new requests from those I'd queried the week before.

Over the next week another agent offered - Lisa, actually!!! - then an editor...and several politely declined. But let me tell you that while there were many great agents in that mix of R's, I now had TWO offers of rep from TWO outstanding agents and one from an editor -- and I just couldn't find it in me to feel bad about those R's!

In the end, after speaking with Lisa on the phone, I knew she was the one. She loved my story and my characters. She had notes - a couple of pages worth - that could make WTWF even stronger. And I loved every edit we talked about. It didn't feel like she was ripping apart my story. Instead it felt like she had this great vision of where she could see it going...and I was so there with her. And when I spoke to two of her current clients and they RAVED about her, it became clear. While one of the hardest decisions I've ever made, it was also one of the easiest.

I couldn't be more happy with where I've landed. And even through all the chaos of crappy internet connections, all the YEARS of querying, and everything else it's taken to get to this point, right here, I'm thrilled Lisa will champion my work. And I'm grateful for things like #MSWL that brought us together.

Final stats for WTWF:

First query sent: 8.29.13
Total queries sent: 25
Total rejections received: 6
Total requests received: 19 (16 fulls and 3 partials)
Total offers received: 4 
Lisa's offer accepted: 10.23.13 

I can't believe I finally get to say, I have an agent. 

I have an agent.

Wow, it doesn't get any less exciting the more I say it.

Wednesday
Feb202013

Two Roads Diverged...

So many of you know I've been in an exclusive R&R with an amazing agent - and for those of you who don't know, the story goes a little something like this:

I started querying THE LUCKY FEW back in late April of 2011 and decided to do things a little differently than I'd done in the past. My first batch was a smattering of queries - unlike the deluge I'd sent out for my prior two books - and I had an amazing response. Out of the 8 I sent, I received 5 fulls, 1 partial, 1 decline, and 1 no response. I was off to a great start. 

When 2 declines came in on fulls, I decided to query Mr. Agent Man on July 11, 2011. This agent has been in my top 3, of all-time agents, since I started querying over five years ago for other books - and I'd been holding off on sending to him, to see what kind of responses I'd recieve from my first round.

He replied six minutes later, requesting the full.

I was ecstatic and of course, immediately sent it - and the very next day, he'd called. He, along with his assistant, had read my MS over-night - and he'd also sent it along to some of his colleagues in their NYC office. He wasn't quite prepared to sign me, but he definitely wanted an exclusive R&R together. And so, after asking for a few days to settle with the other agents that already had my fulls and partials, I let him know I was ready to go. 

Over the next 7 months, I'd completed 2 separate revisions with responses from him in the form of editorial letters, emails, and conference calls. By February of 2012, we agreed there were just so many great directions I could take my story...and deciding on one path, seemed more difficult than any of us thought. Ultimately, we decided a complete shift needed to happen - which required me to scrap more than 60,000 of the then 89,000 words, and rewrite them completely.

After running the gammut of emotions on what this actually would mean, I finally settled in and tackled the beast. It took almost five months to complete - but I finished, had all of my CP's read and critique at break-neck speed, and had it back to him by July of last year. By September, he'd emailed that he was 100% on board with the direction I'd taken and was more than happy with my rewrite - however, he needed more time to final scrub and get back to me. 

Between then and now, his amazing assistant left the agenting business and he became inundated with not only his own clients, but her's as well - and the communication between us became less frequent. By January of this year, I emailed with a timeline, needing some type of response, before I felt it was fair I move on. 

In the end, I did hear back from him - we chatted on the phone and ultimately decided, his plate had become too full and he just couldn't give me the time I was going to need. So as it goes, our journey - after over 20 months working together - had come to an end.

He did ask to pass my manuscript along to few other agents in his office, feeling if he couldn't take on my MS, the next best thing would be to keep it in house. As well, he also recommended the names of a handful of agents outside the agency that he felt would be a great fit.

And now that brings us to last week. 

Honestly, while I am disappointed things didn't work out - especially after so much hard work and time - I couldn't be more happy with the change my story took on, and am so thankful to have had the opportunity of working exclusively with an agent of his caliber. I do believe everything happens for a reason and I'm very much looking forward to finding an amazing agent that loves THE LUCKY FEW as much as I do! 

So now I'm back out on the hunt. And yes, it sucks to be back at square one...but as one of my fabulous CP's said, maybe I am back at square one - but if I am, I'm there with a jet pack on, while most everyone else is on foot. Huh. What a great way to look at it, right? I'm so grateful for ALL of my CP's, as they've helped so much through this entire process - and honestly, if it weren't for them, I really think I may have shelved my writing for awhile.

But agents beware, I'm not letting you off the hook that easily. In fact, if anything, I'm pushing forward with a fury. I'm tackling this one, head on. And who knows how it will all turn out, but for now, bring. it. on. 

And like my all-time favorite poem by Robert Frost, I'll head once again, down the road less traveled - and I know it will make ALL the difference.

What about any of you - have you experienced anything similar? And if so, how did you deal with it?

Thursday
Apr192012

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Day 7 - Letter Q

You'd think the letter Q would be a tough one on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge - but I'm pretty sure quite a few of us writer's participating in the A to Z challenge, will be covering the same topic:

Query Letters and QueryTracker.net

There are many steps on the road to publication a writer must take. Of course, first you need to write something. This can take weeks, months, and even years - on the contrary to what many people think. 

Then you need to polish your manuscript until it's shining like a bright copper penny. Buff out the hard edges, sand out all the splinters, and fill in the gaping holes. Get critique partners and beta readers to rip it up and give you good, honest feedback - and take most of it, to heart; it's only going to make your story stronger.

Then do this step, all over again.

Believe me, you don't send out your manuscript the day after you've typed your last word (even though this is what I did, with my very first manuscript...no wonder it's locked away on my external hard drive, far, far, away!). 

But once your manuscript is ready to find a great literary Agent - it's not as simple as printing it out, wrapping it up in brown craft paper tied off with twine, and shipping it off to your top choice of agents. Nope. Not even remotely. Because you still have a few more steps you need to take - first of which, is write yourself a great query letter, so you can get the attention of said great literary Agent.

But what exactly is a query letter?

Plain and simple, a query letter is a one page cover letter, that pitches you and your story to those in the publishing industry. You have seconds to make a lasting impression, and only one page to do it all in. One. 

What it's not: a resume. Or page after page of how great and original your story is. Or how much better you write than that chick who wrote the vampire books

For the most part, your query letter should consist of the following: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography. Many believe this should pack down into three tidy paragraphs - but I don't necessarily agree with that. As long as you keep all of the above to ONE page, I think it's fine, to say, have 4-6 small paragraphs vs. 3 long ones. But net/net, it should be roughly around 250 - 300 words total, from Dear Agent to Sincerely, Your Name. 

Agent Query posted a great article on How To Write A Query, which goes into more detail on all three of the above aspects, that make up the query letter - plus, they give great examples.

And I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking a class on learning to write the perfect query: I don't believe C.J. Redwine teaches her workshop anymore (I took her query class a few years ago, and it was invaluable!), but I know she's published a book on the topic, which is worth checking out (just click on her name above for more details). I've also taken several classes through Writer's Digest - they always have guest agents that conduct them (I've taken a few from both Mary Kole and Sara Megibow, which were outstanding) - and you always get hands on advice!

So, what happens next?

Once you've landed on the perfect query letter - if you haven't already, it's now time to start researching the agents you want to query. There are MANY resources out there, for researching agents - Agent Query, Publisher's Marketplace, Twitter, and my all-time favorite: QueryTracker.

And what exactly is QueryTracker.net?

As posted on their site:

QueryTracker is not just another list of agents. In fact, our agent list is secondary to the real purpose and power of QueryTracker.

QueryTracker.net is a model for what I like to call "Social Data Gathering." Which means each QT user contributes data about their query and agent experiences. Alone, this data does not reveal much, but when combined with the data from our ever-growing membership, we can see trends and identify important aspects of an individual agent's actions.

But really, QueryTracker is an amazing data base, were other writers in the querying stage come to learn about agents, share who they've queried themselves, offer support, and understand many of the typical habits of most agents (response turn around time, average acceptance / rejection percentages, correct name and mailing address, etc.).

It truly is a valuable service to those ready to query an agent - and the best part? It's a free service (although for $25 / year, you can upgrade for more in-depth features, which are well worth it). Not to mention, Patrick - the King of QT support - is a-mazing! He's constantly monitoring the list of agents tracked to make sure none of them are on the Preditors and Editors list (aka, the agents that don't have your best interests at heart), is there to answer any questions - and overall, maintains the awesomeness that is QueryTracker. 

Head on over there and sign up, if you haven't already!

To sum it all up:

A query letter takes time - and lots of it. Sometimes it takes multiple versions, before landing on the right one. But to be totally honest, this is one of my most ABSOLUTE favorite steps of the writing process. I love writing queries - however sick and twisted that sounds - but I do. Synopsis on the other hand? Not so much.

I was going to post my query letter for THE LUCKY FEW, which netted the most success I've had in the querying process over all the years (5 weeks of querying: 17 agents queried = 10 fulls, 3 partials, 4 declines - and an exclusive rewrite with my top choice in agents) - but instead, I'd rather hear your thoughts on the whole process. If you have any questions or you'd like to share your query letter, I'd love to see it!

So...Query Letters and QueryTracker.net: how did YOU tackle the query process and what tools did you use? 

Additional resources:

The infamous Query Shark

Mary Kole - KidLit.com 



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Monday
Jun072010

Will Literary Agents Really Read Your Query?

 

Suzannah, author and blogger of Write It Sideways, just posted a great blog on her site.


The topic?  Will literary agents really read your query?


She brings up some great points, offers up some insightful links, and leaves all of us pondering...did they read my query?





 

Thursday
May272010

50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected

See?  Everyone starts somewhere.  I wonder what those that rejected any of the 50 included on this list, are doing now (aside from continuing to kick themselves).  J.K. Rowling?  Stephen King?  Dr. Seuss?

Wow.

http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/05/17/50-iconic-writers-who-were-repeatedly-rejected/

Always helps to put things in perspective and to keep pushing forward...no matter what.

Tuesday
Apr202010

How to Write a Query Letter

A great compilation of links from Jill Corcoran on query letter writing:

http://jillcorcoran.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-to-write-query-letter-advice-from.html

Lots of helpful information on the subject, for those like me, that want to devour every tidbit of information they can get their hands on!