I Have an AGENT!!!! : Plus Lessons Learned in the Query Trenches

Let’s start with the happy ending — meet my talented and (obviously) wicked smart agent, Rachel Ekstrom of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency (http://www.irenegoodman.com/about.php - scroll down to see her info). image

I’m a slush pile find. I did it the old-fashioned way. I sent a lot of query letters, got a lot of rejections, and it didn’t happen quickly.

Now, back to the beginning.

I entered the query game in January ’12. That’s right, fifteen months ago! I know what you’re thinking— Amy’s book must suck. And it did— fifteen months ago. I should not have started querying. When writers suggest finding critique partners, they aren’t kidding. A good beta partner will tell you the truth, even if it means saying “Try again.”

After getting many rejections, I finally asked a writer friend to read my book (I’m talking about you, Ann Garvin). After a few chapters, she sent it back with a kind, but firm “You got some learning to do.”  

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Let me pause the story here, dear reader, to emphasize a very important lesson. Had I found some beta readers who were also authors, I could have saved myself and the agents I queried a lot of time. If you’re a newbie writer, get yourself some quality beta readers who will tell it to you straight. Not sure where to find some? Hop on Twitter and make some friends, or check out these excellent websites http://www.cpseek.com/ or http://howaboutwecp.tumblr.com/.

Fast forward to February. I had some fantastic beta readers, a polished manuscript, and a shiny new query letter. I sent one to the lovely Rachel, and heard back exactly one month later with a full manuscript request. Her email was restrained, yet enthusiastic (and yes, agents, we analyze every email for such clues). 

While waiting to hear back from her and a few other agents, I entered #PitMad, a Twitter pitch party. It was a last minute decision. And then it all happened! I received four agent requests and three small publisher requests.

One of the publishers expressed interest, so I notified all the agents with my manuscript. Rachel quickly replied saying she was reading my book and hoped I would hold my decision until she could finish it. 

The next day she asked if she could call me. I was getting a call! From a real live agent. I said now was good, and in five minutes we were chatting. 

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Rachel is everything I hoped for in an agent. She opened with a direct question - how did I feel about revisions? My answer - I can always improve. And I meant it. She said many kind and encouraging things about The Cake Effect, proving she read it carefully and truly loved it. Her suggestions on what could be improved were exactly right and I’m already brainstorming how I want to implement them. She got my book and loved it. 

More importantly, I can tell we’ll get along great together. 

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For those interested in such things, below is the query that captured her attention, followed by my stats.

Dear Ms. Ekstrom,

Lou is a talented chef in Milwaukee, struggling to keep her small French restaurant afloat while floundering in her fiancé’s world of cocktail-infused schmooze fests. During the worst day of her life, she destroys a perfectly good coconut cake, leaves her fiancé, and almost burns down her kitchen, earning her a nasty review from the local food critic.

Al Waters hates Milwaukee and hopes his scathing (and, to him, entertaining) restaurant reviews gain him a column in a real city, but not before he reconnects with the adorable coconut cake-toting woman he met in the newsstand line. When Al visits a local pub to celebrate his best critique yet, he finds the delightful and very drunk Lou, unaware she’s the chef he just skewered.

Lou accepts Al’s challenge to show him what makes Milwaukee so great — with the agreement they never discuss work. It’s the perfect arrangement for a critic with an alter ego. During their non-dates exploring the city’s treasures, Lou’s restaurant declines while Al’s column gains popularity. If her restaurant fails, she loses the one place she flourished. If Al can’t keep his identity secret, he could lose so much more.

Charming, delicious, and fun, The Cake Effect is You’ve Got Mail meets No Reservations. It is a 72,000 word women’s fiction.

I earned my MA in English Literature while teaching two Freshman writing classes, then worked for several years as a Technical Writer at Quad/Graphics. I currently write the “What’s Happening” column for the local paper and press releases for my children’s schools.

I look forward to hearing from you and appreciate your time and consideration.

Thank you,

Amy Reichert


88 queries

9 partial requests

9 full requests

1 revise and resubmit

2 agent offers