Astronomical Risk & Reward ~or~ My Stellar New Agent


Astropop fan art by Crystal Smalls Ord - @SmallsOrd)

So let’s say you write a book. Well, manuscript. And, since it’s your 6th, you rank them all in order, right? Maybe on a scale of omgsuckage to yes-zomg-THE-best-so-far. And this newest one, you know (no, KNOW) it’s your strongest, deepest, brightest. Your CP’s & beta readers, some of whom have read 2 or 3 of your previous manuscripts, absolutely love (no, LOVE) it & also feel it’s—by far—your shiniest.

Then, let’s say, your agent, who signed you with a completely different manuscript… doesn’t feel quite the same way about this newest one…

Your gut believes so strongly in this book (which you title If Found Return To Astropop). What it is, what it represents, its structure, the characters (no, the CHARACTERS), the ~things~ it explores. Honestly, you have no choice but to trust your gut. You need an agent who believes in this book as much as you do, who gets it through and through.

You’re scared as shit.

You worry.

You delay.

Finally, you find your tongue.

A conversation happens.

Your agent is way gracious. Your agent wants the best for you and your career. You believe you know what that is—how this latest manuscript fits into that grand plan. Thus and so, you find yourself plunging (again) into the query trenches. You’re excited and hopeful! (But also, part of you is freaked the hell out. Because what if you’re wrong? What if your gut lied like a capricious, little scoundrel? What if you just made a huge (no, HUGE) mistake?)

No turning back, there you are.

Well, there I was.

And the magic I believed in, the comets and rainbows I hoped for with Astro, rushed in and glowed deep down in that trench with me.

  • 2 days into querying: 3 full requests (WT-actual-F?!?!)
  • Overall comparison:
    • Previously queried manuscript: 35+ long weeks of querying, 5 requests
    • This manuscript: 5 short weeks of querying, 14 requests
  • This time around, at 35 days in: 1st offer of representation.
    • Then a 2nd.
    • And a 3rd.
    • AND WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING IS THIS REAL???

The agent who wooed me, whose gut feeling matches my gut feeling? Well, I sent the query, and she requested the full the next day. A few weeks passed. Then an offer (A SACRED OFFER!) came in from a different (also amazing) agent. I nudged everyone: fulls, partials, outstanding queries.

This agent—MY NEW AGENT—I didn’t hear back from right away as I did with others. But, then, the very next day, an email to slay all emails. She was hella excited about the story. She wanted in!

DANCING. FLAILING. Composure. A phone call. Chat, discussion, vision-sharing. Questions, planning, gushing. So much Astro love. An understanding of my career goals, needs, and desires.

This book I believed in, this story & these characters which thrust me into this risky move? They found a champion. They found someone who understands them. They found someone so exuberant about them that a follow-up email illuminated my inbox approximately 60 seconds after our call ended. That was the best.

And that agent is none other than the phenomenal Sara Crowe.

Sara (can I say this?) Effin (There. I said it. Kind of.) Crowe

Listen, when I took that soul-shaking step to follow my gut, I had no idea how it would turn out. Was I reaching for a star I’d never reach? Would I languish in the purgatory of Queryland for eternity? Would any agent, any agent at all, connect with this story?

And, yes, PLEASE CELEBRATE WITH ME! (ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG) But I also want you to take something more sacred and magical away from this post. Something more than stats and timing (and Lucas doing weird things with parentheses & POV switches).

Ready?

Others can guide you, and that’s an awesome, welcome, necessary thing at times.

But, ultimately, ain’t nobody got you like you got you.

At the risk of sounding like a damn greeting card and whatnot: be that unshakable mix of brave and savvy. Maybe it’ll result in a spectacular failure. Or maybe not. (More greeting cardiness coming. Brace yourself.) The only risk you’ll ever regret is the one you were too scared to take.

Or something.

Btw, did I mention? I have a new agent. Her name is Sara Crowe. And she kinda loves this risky book I wrote titled: If Found Return To Astropop. She digs it muchly, actually. And, wow. Just wow.

*commence astronomically uninhibited Squee Fest*

BONUS MATERIAL: Astro Ink Reveal

My tattoo artist is booked forever far out. Over 6 months ago, I scheduled a session for this past Saturday. Last Wednesday I received the first offer. Saturday, Crystal Ord’s fan art of Astropop was indelibly tattooed on my arm. As hard as it was, I waited until now, until this Offer of Rep post, to share that final image.

Here it is! Stage 2 of a gifted artist’s (and Astro fangirl for life’s) interpretation of non-binary Robin “Astropop” Chicory with a few beautiful symbols from the manuscript. I adore (no, ADORE) it. Muchly.

Astrotat1 Astrotat2 Astrotat3

Also, possibly my next tattoo???

sctopcrop

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Querying – Savvy Little Tip?


I sure do like some spreadsheets and charts

I’ve queried four manuscripts. As my craft developed, my stories moved closer towards marketable, and my aptitude for the actual querying process grew, the request rates slowly climbed.
1st queried manuscript = 2%
2nd queried manuscript = 3%
3rd queried manuscript = 7%
4th queried manuscript = 32% (so far)

That’s an unbelievable increase on the 4th one, like, BOOM. Even now, I’m floored by it.

The core of what writers must do is (we know, we know, we know) craft an amazing story. Solid hook. Identifiable conflict. Unique voice. Unforgettable characters. Consistent worldbuilding. Tight dialogue. Emotional resonance. [Insert a seemingly million other requirements here]. The writing has to be not just strong, but irresistible. And, let’s be honest, the story needs to possess the promise of $cha-ching$ flowing silently beneath the words.

The writing is the most important part, but it’s far from the only element we have to master. And every separate skillset only comes with practice. You know: effort, rejection, frustration, painfully starting over with a fresh manuscript, bringing the scars and callouses and wisdom into the process the next time. Trying again.

This time around, when preparing to query, I became conscious of something I’d been aware of, but never purposefully honed in on—the most common sample lengths agents ask for.
– 5 pages
– 10 pages
– 1 chapter
– 3 chapters
– 50 pages

This little lightbulb went off. Towards the end of my revisions, I focused on making sure those breaking points were loaded with as much tension as the narrative allowed at that point in the story. My goal: to (hopefully) leave the agent thirsty at the end of the sample, to spark that desire to request more pages. Which is the point.

We know to do this at chapter endings. But check this:

When querying, we need to treat the end of each of those sample lengths the same way we would a chapter ending.

For what they’re worth without context, examples of my breaking points:

5 pages

I sighed, and she pulled me closer to stain my cheek with what was left of her cherry-red lipstick.

“Katers demands I hang out with her tonight,” I said, pulling away. “She’ll tell me if I need to quasi-freak-out over this unholy union or totally Astro-freak-out.”

Olivia nudged me from behind, jangling my keys.

Gma pointed at me. “Check in with your daddy first.”

10 pages

I pretend-counted on my fingers. “If we’re including wicked stepsisters, crazy stalkers, and secret boyfriends, then that’s, oh, I’d say, four-point-five. Ish.”

Katers rushed towards me and grabbed my sleeves. “Boyfriend? Why is this the first your supposed best friend in all of creation is hearing about this love connection?”

Love. Ha.

1 chapter

The shadow in the greenhouse shrank to normal size, then the light went out. I grabbed my suitcase and rushed to the house, inside, up the stairs, and into the dark bedroom designated as mine. I peeked through the curtains. Axel Chicory, formerly known as Daddy, looked so inconsequential, a lone silhouette crossing the big lawn.

The New Moon floated directly above him, but its magic had already run its course.

I let the curtains fall closed between us, then locked my bedroom door.

3 chapters

Setting my journal in the grass, I focused on the other book. Plain, black cover. Not the unnamable blue-black of the night sky. Truly boring black. I hooked my finger under the cover’s edge, half-expecting the wind to pick up or a meteorite to land in the orchard when I opened it.

But nothing happened.

So I turned the first blank page.

And then another.

Until I found words.

This journal belongs to:
PIPPOPOTAMUS

I jettisoned the book and jumped up, smacking at my bare legs where the blasted thing touched them.

50 pages

The Heart of Joven.

Gpa had the young whiz-kid architect design the house around it. Ten sycamores planted by my Great-Gma decades earlier. Her hands began the grafting, and Gpa’s continued shaping it when she joined the stars. Axel and I had even touched and whispered to it. Four generations of the Chicory family recorded in the growth rings of a single being who had outlived two generations already.

The third was too busy to love on the tree. The fourth was too scared of screwing it up. Also, too wounded by the mere sight of it to look at it a nanosecond longer.

Among the million things we need to nail as writers-seeking-to-become-traditionally-pubbed-authors, this little piece is a secret weapon. I mean, it’s not a magic bullet. Nothing is. But it’s the savvy thing to do, a special tool to add to the toolbox we’re slowly filling. I believe it played a part—even if a small one—in that ridiculously unbelievable request rate. (Still reeling!)

We all need every hint, trick, key, and password we can get our hands on. Yes? I hope this one maybe helps you.

Invisible Ink! Yesss this manuscript garnered A LOT of requests in its 5 weeks in the trenches. And, maybe, perhaps, it has even gone beyond simple requests. 😉 Pretttty sure there will be another EXCITING post late next week…