Sunday, November 20, 2005

You don’t believe in angels?

Yesterday’s post brought this plaintive comment from Kenju of Just Ask Judy, one of my blogroll favorite reads.

“John, where do you find people like Katie?”

I don’t know if the question was rhetorical or not, but there is a story worth telling behind that question. So here’s the answer:

When I wrote my novel, I made a commitment to myself that I would follow through and “take my best shot” and getting it published. I’m glad now I had no idea what the process would entail. Otherwise I doubt I ever would have made that promise.

I had to remind myself of the “best shot” commitment a LOT of times over the next two years (and counting). I’ll spare you the gory details and just say that I found an agent (Lantz Powell) who worked with me far beyond what anybody else would have done. He signed me, pitched my MS to about a dozen publishers, got back some encouraging comments but no takers. There still remains one who has had it for months with no word.

This past July Lantz emailed me that he had done all he could, and that if I wanted to try another agent I should feel free.

Bummer! I was at a crossroads and had to decide if my “best shot” was over, or if it had any strength left. I emailed Lantz back and just told him I’d think about it.

The very next day I received an email from someone I’d never heard of named Katie Bryan. (And yes, she told me it was OK to link to her web site!) She had Googled my agent’s name and found my blog among the hits. She wondered what my experience with Lantz was like because she needed an agent in a hurry (a publisher was interested in her work, and she had just parted ways with a different agent.)

I’m always willing to talk, so I asked her in an email reply if I could phone her to discuss her question. We talked for nearly an hour. She seemed sincerely interested in what I had written, so I emailed her a synopsis and the first three chapters.

Katie shared all of that with her critique partner (a lady named Pat) who is both a published author AND an editor(!!). The two of them sent me back extensive comments on that portion and questions about the rest of the book. Both were extremely enthusiastic and thought it could sell!

Boy, you talk about an ego boost!! Katie offered to go through the entire book and make comments and suggestions. How could I say no?

But being just a bit cynical, I asked her bluntly if she was actually volunteering to do this, or if there would be a fee involved. She laughed and said, “No fee at all. I know the value of a good critique partner. If you like my ideas, use them; if not, toss them.”

So through August, September and October she has taken 30-page segments and gone through each extensively. A few, in her opinion, were fine the way they were. In some she would just say, “Give the reader some more insight here into what the character is thinking. Put us inside his/her head some more.” I others she would recommend a better job of “setting the scene.” Sometimes it was “describe the room.” Or, “Insert some current events here to give us a sense of the period.” And each one of her comments highlighted exactly what was needed there.

But throughout EVERY section she would also insert little “Perfect!” or “Outstanding!” or “Oh, God, you’ve got me in tears here!” comments. She was SO complimentary and enthusiastic that I would be almost drooling in anticipation of her next reviewed section.

I’ve just sent her my extensive revision of the last 50 pages including the new ending to the story. I tried to incorporate her ideas and suggestions. I am on pins and needles waiting for her response.

So, Judy, the answer to your question is: I wish I knew! Some have recommended to me various writers’ groups (like RWA – “Romance Writers of America”) as a source of critique partners. And I’m sure you could find some that way.

But to find someone like Katie? Ah, that would be a challenge. And since she found me, just when I needed her the most, well...

Refer to the title of this post.


kenju said...

I think you know my answer to that question. Of course I believe in angels. I also believe that when the "student is ready, the teacher will appear". Thanks, John.

Karyn Lyndon said...

I believe in angels, too...but...uh...wasn't it Nankin who asked the question?

Duke_of_Earle said...


Another "senior moment, I guess. What can I say, except to apologize to Nan?

And to you, of course, for the confusion I caused you. (And thank you very much for keeping track of all my mistakes. At least somebody is paying attention.) I'll put up a new post right now to credit the proper person.


Michelle said...

My previous comment disappeared like a puff of thin smoke so I am back to tell you that I am thrilled that you are so excited about your book. Your excitement and enthusiasm can be felt all the way here. I will keep my fingers crossed that the re-write goes well and that your agent will be gobsmacked when its finished.

been there, done that said...

As a fellow writer and former client of Lantz Powell, I wish you well with your writing. I wish, too, that I felt more confidence toward Powell and his agency but I don't. I would not renew our "agreement" after one year for many reasons.

If your book is truly good, do yourself a big favor and get a reputable agent with a hell of a track record.