It took me almost two years to write, re-write, edit, re-write again, edit again, and polish my manuscript, 'The Everett Quartet'. Then I sent it out to Beta Readers who were extremely generous with their time and constructive feedback. I fixed up the plot inconsistencies and weaknesses that the beta readers pointed out as best as I could, until I finally felt ready to query agents.
But wait, surely there must still be some other way to check if I am really ready? If I have a pithy pitch, a logline that lures, an opening that hooks, and the first page that can heave my manuscript from the slush pile?
Trawling through the internet and checking twitter trends revealed two opportunities to me just a few weeks before they opened.
One was the Trick or Treat Agent Contest, hosted by three awesome, lovely ladies, Kimberly Chase, Brenda Drake and Deanna Romito. This contest required entrants to submit their pitch and first two hundred words. The three ladies then each chose 13 submissions to feature on their blogs. Agents went through each blog and entry, and dropped treats in the comments. A sweet treat earned a request for a partial manuscript (first 50 pages), a chocolate treat earned a request for full manuscript.
The second was Authoress's Third Annual Bakers Dozen Auction, which I had observed with interest in 2011 while I re-wrote and edited my manuscript, wondering if I would ever get to the point that I could join the contest.
I stayed up late at night until the wee hours of the morning in Melbourne, Australia to ensure I clicked the Send button on my email as soon as the contest opened in the US East Coast right across the globe from me. This timely 'Send' is crucial to submission to contests like these, because their submission bots will stop accepting entries after a maximum number is reached. The first challenge, therefore, was to get into the system at all.
I succeeded in Trick or Treat, and failed during the first round of the Baker's Dozen. Fortunately, Authoress is sooooo generous she actually had two rounds for both Adult and YA/MG categories. So I stayed up all night before catching an early morning flight to Middle Earth (New Zealand, for you non-LOTR fans) to ensure I could complete the online submission form as soon as it opened, and click 'Submit' well before the contest closed due to maximum entries.
First challenge complete, the second challenge was to pique the interests of the blog hosts. Brenda Drake liked my Agent Trick or Treat submission, while Authoress and Jodi Meadows picked mine for the Baker's Dozen. Hooray! I could NOT believe it. It was the first time for me to join any sort of Agent Contest, and I really thought I'd just test the water, find out I wasn't ready, and go back to rewriting and editing again. But when I hurdled this first challenge, I knew there were still more to come.
One could think of the blog contest hosts as the slush pile readers in a publishing company, who then forward manuscripts they think are promising to the editors, or in this case, the agents. So the third challenge was to get the agents interested enough to ask for a partial or full manuscript.
Well, friends, I'm glad to say I got through this challenge for the Agent Trick or Treat. See my submission here, where one agent, costumed as 'Jem', Brittany Howard, thought she'd like to read more.
As for Baker's Dozen, critiquing starts NOW (November 30) and ends on December 3. On December 4, the auction begins where the agents 'bid' for the number of pages they want to read. Biting my nails, crossing my fingers, watching the internet on tenterhooks, think of all the cliches about waiting anxiously-- that's how I feel. Please feel free to critique The Everett Quartet here.
Bidding has finished, with Tamar Rydzinski having a winning bid of 75 pages. Thanks, Tamar and Victoria Marini, for bidding for my story. And thanks ever so much for all those who took the time to give their comments on my sample. They were all very constructive and useful. Joining Baker's Dozen has been both a learning and thrilling experience for me. Thanks, Authoress!
Of course, several challenges still await. If the agent asked for a partial, the challenge is to get him/her to ask for a full manuscript.
If s/he asks for a full, the challenge is to get him/her to sign you up.
If s/he signs you up, the ultimate challenge is to land a publisher.
And once you've done that, your publisher (with help from you) just has to sell your book. Easy, right? Oh, how I wish!
So fingers crossed... and whatever the outcome, I'll update this blog to share my experiences with other aspiring writers.
Update: Sadly, I don't have an agent for this one yet, but I hope to have a mentor soon to help me find all the cracks and strengthen the work. In the meantime, I've finished one more novel and might start another one for NaNoWriMo!