Friday, May 16, 2014

Another Success Story for "An Agent's Inbox"

Last week, Suze left a comment that totally made my day:

Hi, Krista.

Just wanted to let you know that John has offered KYLE representation and I've accepted. Thank you so much for hosting this and all of your contests! I wish you all the best.

Now, Suze probably thought that that would be the end of it, but I managed to convince her to answer a few questions. I like to stick my nose in other people's business, and I figured you'd want to hear the rest of the story, too:)

Check out Suze's winning entry, then hop back over to find out exactly how she came to sign with John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary Agency.

KV: What did you think when you saw that Mr. Cusick was interested in your manuscript?

SG: I was actually doing one of those squinting out of one eye dealios when I checked to see what his response to my post on your blog was, Krista. When I saw that he asked for fifty pages, I felt this flood of optimism. Think I actually laughed out loud.

KV: How long did you wait to hear back on the partial? What did Mr. Cusick say when he got back in touch?

SG: John got back to me in about a week asking for the full, which buoyed my spirits immensely. A few days after that, just before Thanksgiving, I got a full request from a pretty cultured, big-shot agent over at Writers House and about three weeks later, a full request from an agent at Andrea Brown came in. I think you could safely say I went into the end-of-the-year seasonal wait feeling solid and calm.

KV: How long did you wait to hear back on the full? What did you do to keep yourself busy?

SG: After the holidaze cleared up and January rolled into February, I'd gotten a form from Writers House after what I now believe to be an ill-advised nudge. At that point, there was still nothing from the other agency or John. I'd sent out five more queries and was getting forms. Winter was beginning to wear on me. 

This wasn't the first novel I'd queried. A year before I'd been shopping around a Contemporary Women's Fiction piece when the agent of a colleague told her, 'Oh, editors aren't touching Women's Fic, these days.' (Ouch.) With Kyle, a humorous contemporary Middle Grade effort, I allowed myself to hope for better things. To keep myself busy, I actually revised another WF piece I'd written before I shopped around the other one. It's one of my favorite novels and I love just existing in that world so I was able to stay happy hanging out with those characters for a while.

KV: When Mr. Cusick contacted you, did he e-mail you first or just skip straight to the Call?

SG: I read in an interview that John never minded being nudged. I think he'd said something like, 'If you haven't heard from me in a month, by all means, get in touch.' For me, it'd been three months, so I zipped off an e-mail. That same day, he thanked me for my patience and let me know he was still considering the story. About a week later, he wrote saying he absolutely loved Kyle and wanted to chat about plot over the phone. We scheduled the call for my birthday. I was totally cloud nining it.

KV: Tell us a little bit about that first conversation. Were you more excited or nervous (or both)? If you had some time to prepare, did you put together some notes, or did you just let the conversation develop? And what kinds of things did you two talk about?

SG: I had a list of questions a couple of writer friends had helped me prepare for the moment an agent offers rep. I was feeling really good because it seemed like things were coming together in a cosmic sort of way. Then, the day of the call--a Friday--came, and he started talking to me about a revision. I was having a hard time concentrating because all I kept thinking was, 'What about the offer of rep?!' Well, it didn't come that day. But John was very specific about changes he felt would strengthen the story. I thought I might be spacing so I asked him for a follow-up e-mail with some bullet points summing up the conversation. I told my husband what I remembered John asking for and it turns out I hadn't forgotten. When I got his e-mail the following Monday, it was all there in black and white. 

What really tipped the scales for me, though, was what appeared to me to be a very intuitive grasp of not only what my characters needed but what I as an author was trying both to accomplish and avoid. It could be that John's just an empath, that wouldn't surprise me. But I think, really, it boils down to the fact that he's not only a passionate, very positive agent but also a writer.

KV: What made you decide to go for the revision, and how much time did you spend on it?

SG: It was a combination of things because, for a while there, I really was feeling end-of-my-ropeish; like I wanted to take a significant breather from the process. My family had just made a major cross-country move about which I'd felt ambivalent all along and I was actually thinking about what it might feel like to shelve writing, revising and seeking representation for about a year. After John's request, I did go ahead and start to work on the revision and it was coming together. But then I ran into a snag with one scene--I felt like I was just writing gibberish to force the narrative in the direction of John's feedback--and I even contacted him about it. It had to do with a supporting character and I just wasn't feelin' it. 

I'd done massive, indiscriminate revisions based on far less substantive feedback from other agents in the past and they hadn't resulted in offers, just heartbreak. I was really wanting to take a laser-surgery approach to this one. I didn't want to go off on unproductive tangents, was resolved not to, actually. At that point, I just stopped. It'd been two weeks since he'd asked for the revisions and I had slogged through the easier-to-address stuff spaced over many days--which is not my style--but then just got to a point where I halted altogether.

That weekend, I was in a Barnes and Noble with my husband and daughter and caught sight of the gorgeous hardcover of a new release from one of John's clients, Sharon Biggs Waller's A MAD, WICKED FOLLY. I literally stared that satiny-smooth image down and then went home and called my mom. I told her, 'Ma, I'm just not feelin' it.' And she said, 'I did a lot of things I didn't feel like doing, today. But they had to be done. It's time to get to work, my princess. You've come too far.' (Those were her exact words, burned on my brain.) 

Later that week, I went to lunch with a friend, a new friend in a new city, and told her I had encountered some speed bumps. Across the table in this very tasty South Indian buffet, she goes, 'Just do it.' Just like that. And I stared at her like I'd stared at Sharon's book and just went, 'Okay.' 

So I drove home that day and worked for like five days straight (with a weekend in between, I don't like to do that to my husband and daughter--shut them out for work, I mean--when I can help it) and then emerged after my manic nine- to twelve-hour revising shifts with a done deal. I shipped it off to John and he loved it. He said the manuscript had taken a nice leap forward and that he was really pleased. He was out of the States but he e-mailed me an offer of rep because he didn't want to make me wait until his return. We spoke on the phone once he got back and I had my chance to ask my little list of questions and all was right with the world. These last ten or so days have been like watching the current in my bones downshift into joy. I'm seriously relishing it. There's nothing like it in the world, success--no matter how incremental. I'm grateful for this happiness, this victory. It's permeated everything.

KV: Popping in to say that Suze blogged about this R&R when she first received it, and I thought her introspective post touched on a lot of the same themes my own journey underscored. It's definitely worth a look-see. Okay, back to the interview!

Obviously, you decided to accept Mr. Cusick's offer of representation:) What about him impressed you?

SG: I think I alluded to that a bit in my above response. I'd received offers to revise and resubmit in the past. In fact, every agent who actually went beyond the automatic form response stage--there were plenty of those, lemme tell ya--did ask for a revision. Some were vague, some deal breakers, some earnest while also betraying a fundamental lack of understanding on the basics of how to elevate a narrative. John's thoughts fell into none of those categories. He was thorough, backed up his ideas with things that made sense to me and seemed to have an airtight capacity for singling out weaknesses, shedding light on them and making respectful suggestions. Top of all that, his star is climbing in Children's. Hard combination to beat.

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?

SG: Yep. Don't ever pay a blog administrator--no matter how cute or celebrated their online persona--for a chance to have your work read. Make friends with other writers: the right alliances will save your spirit--not to mention your career--during the dark nights of the soul. Spend some time getting to know what you want. It's a shifting-sands industry, so you've gotta take responsibility for being familiar with your own priorities. And never, never, ever let the word 'rejection' apply to you. It's not a rejection, it's a pass, and they happen every day. But so do offers.



Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Suze! It sounds like you found the perfect representation for your work.

Suze said...

Thanks so much, Jennifer!

And thank you, again, Krista, for all you selflessly do for the writing community. You are a truly good soul.

Heather Robinson said...

This was an amazing read. Thank you Krista and Suze!

L.G. Smith said...

Sounds like he got lucky to get you when he did, Suze. :)

Suze said...

Heather and Lu, I love you guys. I know that sounds all sappy but it's the truth.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Krista,

A most intriguing interview. And now a little more is revealed of the person who we have not met but believe is a star in the making. Faith and love are her watchwords and those will surely pave the way to success.

Myrna Foster said...

Congratulations, Suze! Thanks for this interview, Krista!

eltsmith said...

Congrats once more, Suze. It's great to see hard work rewarded with good news.

Nicki Elson said...

I remember coming over here to read Suze's blurb & John's comment after she was SO excited about it. When the revisions and offer came I didn't realize it was THAT agent. I don't know why, but that makes this marvelous news even more exciting to me.

Krista, methinks you are the best matchmaker ever.

Suze said...

Thank you guys so much for taking the time to read the interview and even more so for taking the time to comment with your thoughts and reactions. Naturally, that means very much to me.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

The Sisterhood said...

Great interview, Krista, and congratulations to my dear friend Suze. I know this is only the beginning of a long line of successes!


Heather said...

Love hearing this success story! Congrats to Suze!

Suze said...

Lore, you *know* how integral your friendship was on this leg of the journey!

Thank you Heather, Nick, Elliot, Myrna, Jane and Lance. Sending each of you a virtual lucky penny. Hang on to it. I promise something good will come your way. Better than the strength of a thousand eyelash wishes.

Karen Clayton said...

Congrats! And thanks for giving us the details and the words of encouragement. Best of luck and continued success.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

I've fallen a bit behind with my comments these last few days, but I just wanted to pop in and say how impressed I am with the group of people Suze's surrounded herself with. Your obvious love and support have brightened my day, so I can only imagine how Suze must feel.

Thank you for dropping by. I've loved finding all these little bits of sunshine in this comment box.

Arlee Bird said...

Great story. So pleased that you made it to this point. I especially like your interpretation of "rejection".

Read my challenge to Wordpress users at:
Tossing It Out

Suze said...

Krista, thanks again for hosting the Agent's Inboxes. I look forward to reading more of these success stories and I look forward to reading more of your own success.

Karen, you're welcome! Thanks for reading. And Lee, thanks so much for reading and commenting. :)

S.P. Bowers said...

Love getting the details on your journey. I'm so glad it worked out for you, that you found an agent who really appreciated and understood your work, and that your happy about it all. Best to you, Suze!

Suze said...

Thanks, sweet Sara.