QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Perseverance Pays Off: Author Lara Chapman

Since I've addressed the topic of revising for an agent prior to representation, I wanted to share a story of how it can pay off.

I met Lara Chapman around a year and a half ago at my first RWA meeting and am always impressed with her positive attitude. Lara revised for her dream agent and as a result, receive an offer and subsequent sale of her debut young adult novel, FLAWLESS.

Below is the story in Lara's words:

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“You’re so close! If only…”

You’ve spent months, maybe even years, perfecting your manuscript, your baby. You’ve read each word no less than a thousand times and you’ve had friends, family, and critique partners analyze every plot point. It’s practically tied with a pretty pink bow for the all-powerful agents to adore. You submit. They are… less than enthusiastic. But wait a second. Amid the rejections, you find interest! An agent loves your voice, thinks your story has “potential”, if only you’d change a few things.

The agent wants revisions before signing you. Do you dare?

Let me back up a little, three years to be exact. I met Holly Root with The Waxman Agency at a conference in Dallas, my very first writer’s conference. I didn’t let a little thing like pride and inhibition get in my way. When I saw her sitting in a chair with not a writer around, I sat down, introduced myself, and we started talking about the business. No pitch, just conversation. It was the best thing I could have done for my writing career. Not only did I leave that brief meeting with new insight into the market, I knew Holly was “the one.” I submitted three manuscripts over the next two years, fingers crossed, pink bow in place. She kindly, wisely turned down both manuscripts, each time with the suggestions and finesse you’d expect from a top notch agent. I took that advice and did my best to improve my writing. After reading my third submission, FLAWLESS, Holly called me. Instead of offering representation, she said, “You’re so close with this one. I think you need to…”

I took notes throughout our conversation, then took some time to let it digest. I realized her suggestions were spot-on (of course!), and went to work. Two weeks later, I signed with Holly Root. I never once second-guessed revising for Holly before she’d offered representation. Would I have done that for any agent? Absolutely not. But I’d established a relationship with Holly. I trusted her implicitly.

Ultimately, it comes down to your relationship with the agent asking for revisions before signing. Holly never guaranteed representation if I made the changes she suggested, nor would I have expected her to. It’s a gamble, but if you trust the agent, and trust your instincts, you’re going to come out on the other side with a better manuscript.

Best of luck in your search for the right agent for your baby!

Lara Chapman is the busy single mother of two amazing children and calls Central Texas home. She juggles motherhood, her full-time job as a fifth grade teacher, and part-time passion as a writer with the grace of a… So, it’s not graceful, but she somehow manages to keep all the balls in the air (most days). Lara’s young adult novel, FLAWLESS, will be released by Bloomsbury Children’s in 2011. You can visit her online at www.larachapman.com.

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Sincere thanks to Lara for sharing her story and best wishes for her release of FLAWLESS.


Creepy Query Girl said...

Congrats! Sounds like you are very fortunate to have an agent who is honest and on top of things! Good luck to you and thanks for sharing this part of your journey!

Genevieve Graham said...

I am in exactly that same position - the agent interested in my book has sent the full ms back 4 times, but every time it has come after he has called and offered suggestions. Now he wants minor tweaks ... but he also wants to change the title, which is the only thing I'm having trouble with. Oh well. He's the expert! I will have to get to work on that.

Lydia Kang said...

It seems like meeting an agent at one of these meeting is really valuable. Congrats to Lara on her success!

Anne Gallagher said...

Congratulations! I would do anything short of murder for an agent to represent me. Well, okay, any amount of revisions it took. Especially if it was my dream agent.

Angela McCallister said...

Awww! Gives me hope. I'm glad everything worked out for you and you had patience enough to get the agent you wanted. It's also very encouraging to hear how supportive the agents are even when they choose not to represent your work at the time.

Harlan Jonathan Lewin said...

Thank you. This was very wise and encouraging.

Unknown said...

Congrats Lara! What a great story - I'm definitely willing to revise as much as necessary for my dream agent. :)

Elana Johnson said...

What an amazingly inspirational story! Thanks for sharing. :)

cleemckenzie said...

There are some wonderfully supportive agents out there, aren't there?

Candyland said...

I love stories like this. Being so close, yet so far away, but never giving up. Just what I needed to read today. Thank you:)

Lara Chapman said...

Thanks for the super supportive comments!!! Wow!

Everyone's story is different, but I knew in my gut Holly was the right agent for me after we met. And if you've ever had any communication with her, you know she's considerate, honest, and truly wants to help aspiring authors. In fact, that has been true for the other agents I've communicated with, either through the query process or at conferences. Let's face it - they have a job that sucks away most of their personal life in favor of reading YOUR unpublished work! They're in this business to help you get published... if they didn't love helping new authors, I'm certain there are about a million other jobs with less stress and better pay right around the New York corner.

Remember... it's not you against the agent! It sounds trite, but the right agent will come along at the right time (stop rolling your eyes at me!). The bookshelves are full of authors to prove it.

Best of luck to everyone!


Talei said...

Wow, this is so inspiring to read. Congratulations Lara!! ;)

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

Thanks for the guest post, Lara. I removed my prior comment because I called it an interview. You went beyond the call of duty by actually writing a post for us. Best of luck with your release of FLAWLESS.


Tere Kirkland said...

Stories like yours are so inspirational. Thanks for sharing, Lara!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing your incredibly inspiring story. It's not only inspiring because you were persistent but also because you've done it raising a family and working. Good luck with your book.