Writing Wednesday with Allison Winn Scotch: The Agent Hunt-How long is TOO Long?

As many as you know, we've been on the agent hunt for the last couple of months.  And while things seem to be going pretty well (keep your fingers crossed!), we've often been asked the question: How long is TOO long to hunt for an agent? And who better to answer that question than NYT Bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch?  After all, she answers Qs like this one every day on her fantastic Ask Allison blog and she's a must-follow on Twitter. And, well, because we totally crush on her and are dying to hear her expert opinion!

So please welcome the lovely and talented Allison to Chick Lit is not Dead!  (Oh, and don't forget to check out her latest novel, The One That I Want! You'll love it!)

The Agent Hunt: How Long Is Too Long?

How long should it take to get an agent? Is there a certain point when an author should move on to writing another ms?

This is such a personal question and one that doesn’t have an exact answer to it, but I’ll give it my best shot. I’d say that on average, most authors who land agents end up querying between, say, 35-70. Which obviously is a huge, huge range. Some get lucky (and by lucky, I don’t mean actual luck involved – they’ve done their homework and also have a good manuscript), and land one much sooner. Some will query up to 100. Some won’t stop until they’ve queried every last agent they can possibly dream of. But in general (again, with no hard figures to back this up), I’d say that up to about 70 is average. For my initial query hunt, I probably went through about 40. When that agent and I parted ways, I was much better-informed about the process and also had a much stronger manuscript, so I think I only went out to about 15.

So how do you know when to throw in the towel? Again, I’m not ever going to tell someone specifically to throw in the towel, but I do think you reach a point when you have to accept that it may not happen for this manuscript. It’s not a failure, it’s a learning process, and I can almost promise you that your next manuscript will be stronger. So just when do you hit that wall? I’d say when you’ve gotten little positive feedback about the manuscript, when you really haven’t gotten many viable bites or interest, when you’ve exhausted nearly all of the agents to whom you’d be well-matched (remember, a bad agent is worse than no agent at all)...well, if all of these things have happened, and you’re still unrepresented, I’d say move on.

I think it’s really easy to keep going for the sake of it, but that’s not what’s going to be best for your career and your book. It’s a very, very emotional thing – accepting that this book might never be published, but again, try to look at it as a learning process rather than a failure. That’s what I did when my first manuscript (with that first agent) never sold. I realized that I had a wonderful opportunity to go out there and write something better. So I did. Eventually, with a new agent, that manuscript sold at a 4-way auction, and to this day, I’m grateful that I wrote the initial ms that never sold: it taught me how to be a better writer, and the agent query process taught me a lot about what I’m looking for in an agent.

Last words of advice: please be sure to do A LOT of research so you’re actually querying the right people. Look in the acknowledgment section of books that are similar to yours. Sign up for Publishers Marketplace. Check out Agent Query. The more you know, the smoother your agent hunt will go. Also, please, please, please be sure that your manuscript is ready to actually be read by the pros. This means that your first draft IS NOT the one to query with. Your fifth might be. Finally, hone your query letter to best represent your voice and spark some interest. There are some good ones floating around on the web to serve as examples.

With all of these things, I’m hopeful that you won’t hit 70-100 queries and still come up short. Good luck!

Thanks so much Allison!  xo, L&L

Writing Wednesday: Rejection Shmejection By Liz & Lisa

It can be more brutal than being dumped by your boyfriend. More disappointing than being passed over for your dream promotion. And even more humiliating than being stood up by a blind date...

We're talking about literary agent rejection.

We're no strangers to rejection.  When you choose to put yourself out there each and every week by, well, writing about your life on a blog, you learn to roll with the punches.  So we thought that sending out a one page query for our pride and joy, The D Word, would be a walk in the park.  I mean, c'mon, who could resist us, right?

Um, apparently, more than a few people.

But as many of you who've sailed the uncharted waters of the publishing world know all too well, the "um, thanks but no thanks" letter from a prospective agent can sting a bit, reminding you a little of that "it's not you, it's me" email that you received from that guy you once dated.

And when we receive responses addressed to Mr. Fenton and Mr. Steinke (yup, it's actually happened), we try to find the humor in it. We just shake our heads and wonder how they got a hold of those pictures from our 1998 "Ellen" hair phase. Or maybe it was the brown-braided belt/polo shirt/penny loafers pics?  What was going on with the 90's and manly fashion anyway?

But we digress. The thing is, whether they get our gender right or not, it's still a big N-O. See you later. Get outta here.  Stick to your day job (well for Liz anyway- Lisa, um, doesn't exactly have one).

But you can't let the N-O's get you down. Because as Lisa says to Liz whenever one of our dream agents breaks her heart into tiny little pieces (yep, she's the sensitive one) with a form rejection letter no less, We only need one person to say yes.

One person who knows that Chick Lit isn't Dead.

One person who thinks The D Word is fabulous.

One person to realize that we got it goin' on like DONKEY KONG! (What does that mean anyway?)

Just like dating, it's all about timing, chemistry and forming a connection. We're just praying that we'll find an agent faster than we found our spouses because Liz doesn't think she can go through that sh*t again.  (Although a prospective agent wouldn't just *forget* to show up to her college graduation party, right?)

But until we find "the one", we're wearing our most fashionable bulletproof armor and having fun. And the reality is, we haven't been at this very long.  And we're such perfectionists (and by "we", we mean Lisa) that even a handful of "no's" can seem like too many.

So, for now, we wait on pins and needles for our query to be plucked out of our fave agent's inbox, our partials to be adored and our credentials to be considered.  And don't quote us (we don't want to jinx it!), but we have a feeling that our YES man or woman is right around the corner. Wish us luck!

Do you have a query rejection story? Please share. Misery loves company!

xoxo, Liz & Lisa

Writing Wednesdays By Lisa

Happy Hump Day! We’re excited to be debuting our feature, Writing Wednesdays where we’ll, well, write about writing. On Wednesdays.

And to celebrate, we're giving away five HeartThreads t-shirts with messages about love, wisdom, faith and inspiration worn close to the heart! Get it? Just leave a comment on this post (like how much you love us and our writing! *wink* *wink* ) and be entered to win.

So, back to Writing Wednesdays. As much as we LOVE to bag on The Bachelor and spout off about our relationships here at CLIND, "wax poetic" about books for Barnes and Noble and She Knows and make quips about parenting for Real Moms Guide, writing books is our #1 passion.

As many of you know, we’re in the homestretch of completing The D Word, our dual narrative novel about two women who walked away from their relationships because they thought they wanted more. But when more turns out to be the complicated world of divorce, they begin to second-guess everything.

And as we prepare to plunge head first into the pool with all of the other hungry writers hoping to find the perfect agent and publisher for his/her book, we hope you’ll follow along with us as we reveal the good, the bad and undoubtedly, very ugly parts of our literary journey.

We’re proud to report that so far, it’s been mostly good with just a tiny bit bad and one part fugly mixed in!

104,000 words

6 months

3 days at a “writing retreat” in Palm Springs (shout out to our cabana boys!)

2 plot changes

1 virtual door slam=

Our nearly completed manuscript.

We’re almost there. So close. We can smell the paper of the final draft as it’s coming off the printer. We can see the manuscript being sent to prospective agents that have requested a partial or *crossing fingers* a full! But it’s just out of reach because we’re still in the editing process. A place we could live for the rest of our lives if we’re, or should I say “I’m”, not careful.

Which brings me back to the virtual door slam. Which I can say I deserved. Liz was fed up with my editing tactics and basically hung up on me over email. If I was my own writing partner, I would’ve done the same. Because there comes a time when you just have to let go and accept that you’re officially done tweaking your ms. Or you run the risk of ending up like my eyebrows did after I finally discovered tweezers- with not much left. And without getting into all the “gory” details of  the angry email Liz wrote to me, I can tell you it was something along the lines of: You. Have. To. Freakin’. Stop. Now. (Okay, so maybe she used a different variation of freakin’-one that rhymes with plucking.)

But it’s just so hard. I’m like a crack addict trying not to hit the pipe. Like the woman on a diet who swears she won’t break into the leftover Halloween candy. Like the shopaholic who convinces herself that “online” shopping isn’t as bad. I go into the ms with the intention of only looking for missing words or punctuation errors. But then I notice a sentence that maybe if I worded it just a little differently, could be even better. And before I know it, I’ve re-written two paragraphs! And Liz is using variations of freakin’ all over again.

So I’ve now made an official promise to Liz that I’m letting go. This week, we’re doing our final read through and unless there’s an entire chapter missing, I’m really not allowed to touch it. And this is why it’s good to have a writing partner. You can balance each other out. Her weaknesses (remembering not to write emails before caffeine) are often my strengths (remembering not to read her emails before 10:30 a.m. CST) and vice versa.

Wish us luck reaching our editing deadline in one piece! Although I’m assuming that if we haven’t killed each other so far (and believe me, there have been opportunities that could have sent even Gandhi down the violent path), we’re really in no serious danger of a death by Chick Lit manuscript anytime soon.

xoxo, Lisa

Extreme Makeover: Chick Lit Is Not Dead Edition

We are SO excited to be celebrating our ONE YEAR anniversary here at Chick Lit is not Dead.

*clinks champagne glasses together*

It seems like just yesterday that Liz was writing about the State Of The Union and Lisa was proclaiming her Facebook Whoreness to the world. From Xoxo to Potty Peril to Should You Friend Your Ex on Facebook?, we're so thankful that you've been with us for every blog post along the way. THANK YOU!

And what better way to celebrate than to give ourselves a complete MAKEOVER?  A little nip here, a tuck there and CLIND feels like a whole new site!

Huge props to the very talented Betsy Cohen at Positive Element and Debbie Friedrich at Debbie Friedrich Photography for helping us get ready for our close-up. (Be sure to click through all our pages to see her beautiful photos!) And, as always, we are indebted to the fabulous and talented Crystal Patriarche at BookSparksPR, the best publicist we could ever ask for!

And it's not just our look that's changed.  This year, we'll be stepping up our game, not only by bringing you more interviews with Bestselling Authors, but we also hope to keep you laughing with new features. Like...

Mommy Mondays Writing about the trials and tribulations of parenting, Liz will do her best impersonation of a Mommy blogger. (Don't worry, she'll do her best to avoid any and all "poopy" references.)

Writing Wednesdays Come with us on our journey to finding an agent and publisher for our second novel. We'll simultaneously overload you with our borderline obsession with affirmations and the power of positive thinking (It. Will. Happen. It. Will. Happen. It. Will. Happen.)

Watch this, not that We'll be sure to let you know what's worth Tivoing that week. (For example: we'll watch 650 pound Virgin so you don't have to!)

But don't worry, we'll still have plenty of time to do what we do best-make lists about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.

And to celebrate, we're giving away a BLACKBERRY PEARL flip phone.  All you have to do is leave a comment letting us know what you think of our new look and you could be a winner. No pressure, but you better LOVE. IT! And if you want to post a link to let your Facebook friends or tweeps know about our new look, we'd be eternally grateful! =)

Thank you again for all of your love and support this past year.  We're having a blast and we hope you are too!


Liz & Lisa