Lessons from GUTGAA + My Secret Identity!


Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the first-round of Deana Barnhart's "Gearing Up to Get an Agent" blogfest this week! I was honored to serve as one of the GUTGAA first-round judges, and I was blown away by the level of talent in this contest.

I feel like I learned so much from this process. In particular, I learned this:

LITERARY AGENTS HAVE INCREDIBLY HARD JOBS.

Seriously. I was given the task of whittling queries down from 40 to 10, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown from the stress. There were SO many good entries that I can't even fathom how agents sometimes sift through hundreds of queries a day. Not to mention all their other ridiculous duties, like revisions, pitch lists, contracts, negotiations... The list goes on and on.

I also learned this:

THIS BUSINESS IS BEYOND SUBJECTIVE.

As one of the judges reading your queries, I can definitively say that you should NOT take it personally if your GUTGAA entry didn't get a vote. I loved SO many entries I wasn't able to vote for, and I think MANY of them will fare wonderfully during querying.

In addition to solid query-writing and a great concept, my top ten votes honestly came down to personal preferences, life experiences and other factors that are so subjective they aren't even measurable.

I think the other judges would agree. Thespians tend to gravitate toward drama stories, musicians tend to gravitate toward music stories... One query struck a chord with my six year-old self so perfectly that I had to vote for it, while others that were great just didn't "connect" with me quite so viscerally.

If anything, this process just confirms to me that we shouldn't take agent rejections so personally. I know everyone says that--and writing is so personal it's easy to blow it off--but I'm now a firm believer in it.

As aspiring authors, I think we tend to judge agents as "good vs. bad" computers. If they request pages, it's because our writing is good. If they reject us, it's because our writing is bad. But if we take a step back and view agents as unique, flawed and complex PEOPLE, we start to understand that they bring all their personal interests, experiences and baggage to the table as well.

Also, I really think it's true that agents have to LOVE our books in order to sign us. It's not enough for them to simply think they are well-written. (My agent has already read my novel ESSENCE four times, and we just signed our contract in June. I can't imagine having to be that dedicated to a book I liked, but didn't love.)

Being on the "other side of the curtain" was certainly an experience, and I can't thank Deana enough for allowing me to be part of this. I also can't thank the other first-round judges for their hard volunteer work and dedication. And lastly, I want to thank all the participants for being brave enough to put yourselves out there like you did. You guys are so creative and passionate and encouraging; I can't even tell you how inspired I am by you.

P.S.- For those of you who are wondering, I will go ahead and spill the beans. I was one of the judges assigned to Deana's Picture Book / Chapter Book / Middle Grade / New Adult blog, and my secret code name was... Sugar Magnolia! 

I hope you guys thought my comments were helpful, and I'm so excited that 9 of my 10 votes made it to the agent round. I can't WAIT to buy these books some day!