Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Becky Robison Southern Writing Retreat

First, please excuse any grammatical weirdness in this post; I think I'm coming down with something, and my brain isn't quite up to par at the moment. Basic emails are a struggle.

But I still wanted to tell you about my upcoming road trip!

Aside from a brief jaunt to Denver in June, I haven't taken any time off this summer, mostly because all my coworkers have. Meg just got back from their honeymoon, my manager has been visiting prospective colleges with her son, my other teammate was in Alaska, and now she's somewhere else? At any rate, I've been holding down the fort while they do what they need to do.

Now it's my turn.

Not now, exactly. I'll be heading out in mid-October, faithful dog at my side. Yes, Okie's coming! I'm excited to see how that goes. The main purpose of the escape is to work on my writing more diligently than I'm normally able to do with a 9-5 gig, but also to visit some places I've never been. Here's the itinerary:

  • Nashville - I'm staying about 30 minutes outside the city in a real Tiny House! There will be lots of hiking in the area for Okie to get some exercise, and it should be fairly secluded--no one to distract me. Of course, I'm planning on popping into the city as well to play tourist. Eat some barbecue, etc. 
  • Louisville - I'll be a little closer to town here, in my own apartment. My past experience of Kentucky has been limited to cabins in state/national parks, so I'm looking forward to witnessing actual human life there. 
  • Columbus - I'm ending my trip here for a friend's wedding--and staying in another Tiny House! After the wedding it's back to Chicago, with one more day off to recover. 
Because I've never been to any of these cities, I'd love to hear your recommendations! Anything I absolutely can't miss? 

Monday, August 13, 2018


So the big news in my life is I GOT AN AGENT! You probably already knew that, since I've been bubbling over with the news since it happened. I can't help it—I've been querying for months, and finally, finally, finally Zoe Sandler at ICM saw the potential in my manuscript that I always knew was there. It's extremely validating.

Also, extremely bananas. I have an agent. An agent. What? Is this real life?

[listens in earpiece] Sources tell me that it is, in fact, real life.

Anyway, I thought my fellow writer friends out there might be interested in the statistics of my querying process. It won't be the same for everyone, of course, but I found it comforting to read other people's experiences while I was querying. Hope this is comforting for you, too.

First, if you're not using QueryTracker, you're doing it wrong. It helps you to research agents (links to their Twitter feeds, Publishers Marketplace profiles, etc.), organize the agents you're planning to query, and track your progress—all for free. And because so many people use it, you can see on average how long it takes for various agents to respond. It's an amazing tool.

The other thing you should know is that I queried on average 2 agents per week. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how busy I was. I had one standard letter that I used—and I worked on that letter a lot before I started querying—but I tweaked it for every agent that I queried to include information regarding why I was seeking them out specifically.

Date I started querying: 12/1/2017
Date I received offer: 7/31/2018 
Total agents added to my list: 78
Total agents queried: 75
Full manuscript requests: 9
Partial manuscript requests: 1
Rejections (not including those who initially requested manuscripts): 26
No response: 39

And out of all that, I received a single offer of representation! Fortunately for me, Zoe is the best. I know this because she and I agree that 10 Things I Hate About You is one of the finest films ever made. Also because her other clients say she's the best.

Here are some other resources I found useful while querying:
  • Writer's Digest has a "Successful Queries" column where agents and authors share the query letters that got the job done. If you're not sure how to write a query letter, this is a good place to start. 
  • When Zoe set up a call with me, I wasn't entirely sure which questions I should be asking. Happily, there are helpful lists out there—like this one from agent Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, which I modified and used. 
Now that Zoe's on my team, she'll be compiling a list of potential editors, and hopefully we'll sell this manuscript! Which is totally surreal! Ahh! 

I'll keep you posted on major updates, as always. Thank you all for being so supportive—not everyone receives constant love and cheerleading when they decide to do "impractical" things like write a book. I'm forever grateful for your kindness.