I thought it would be fun to re-post how some of my favorite authors obtained representation. First up: Erin Morgenstern, author of one of my absolute favorites, The Night Circus.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
From her blog:
Gather ’round, kidlets. Story time.
In 2003, I tried doing NaNoWriMo for the first time, because I’d always wanted to write but had never been good about sitting down and actually doing it. I had ideas in notebooks but nothing concrete.
I tried. I failed. Burnt out around 15k.
In 2004, I tried again. I made it to 50k that year. That novel is not a novel, it is a sprawling mess of post-apocalyptic… something.
In 2005, for NaNo #3, I had no plot but lots of atmosphere, and when I reached the 30k mark and had no idea where to go with it, I sent my characters to the circus.
In 2006, I spent NaNo working on that circus. I ended up with something interesting, but not novel-shaped.
In 2007, I did another 50k worth of work on the circus. In NaNo terms this is cheating. I’m sorry.
Throughout 2008 I took the 100k+ of circus… stuff and attempted to shape it into a novel.
I don’t know how many drafts it went through. Four, maybe? It started to have something resembling a proper shape in the beginning of 2009.
From 2008 to, well, now, I started learning about the publishing industry.
On June 2nd, 2009, I sent out my first batch of query letters.
I sent six queries out in that first batch. Within 20 minutes I had a partial request and a full request. I got another full request two hours later, two rejections the next day, and a third full request a few weeks later.
Ten days later those first two full request turned into rejections. The partial joined them in rejectionland soon after.
I sent out more queries. I got more requests. I got more rejections.
In August, I got a full request that turned into a phone call. A very nice phone call that I’m pretty sure I did nothing but stammer during, and was a request to rework the book almost entirely, but it was still an offer of representation.
I got in touch with the other agents who were still considering. Some of them passed. I had more phone calls. I think I stammered less in those.
I ended up not taking any offers at that point. I decided to revise independently, because everyone seemed to be saying different versions of the same thing.
I spent September and October of 2009 revising. I pushed around what I had. I tried to have more *stuff* happen. I polished it. I wrapped it up in pretty bows.
I sent it back to the three agents who wanted to see it.
More phone calls. More e-mails. All three of them said different versions of “well… not there yet.”
So I sighed. I ate a lot of chocolate. I wrote a completely different story for NaNo ’09. I took December off.
In January of 2010, I checked into the Revisionland Hotel.
I tore everything apart. I changed the format. I changed the plot. Well, I changed what little plot there was into an actual plot. I took over 25k out and put other stuff in. I sent it to old beta readers and new beta readers. I changed it some more.
I sent it back to agents two weeks ago.
Last week I had one offer of representation.
On Monday I had three.
I thought about it. A lot. I was extremely lucky to have three wonderful agents spending their time on me and my work, offering wonderful advice throughout this process.
In the end I signed with the same agent I had that very first stammering phone call with back in August.
I am now represented by Richard Pine of InkWell Management.
Almost exactly a year after I started querying.