Wednesday, January 9, 2013

When the Unexpected Knocks You Down

As writers in an unpredictable industry, we’re told to expect the unexpected. I know, it’s easy for me to say. But sometimes the unexpected has a way of sneaking up behind you and whacking you upside the head. And then it’s not so easy.

A few weeks ago, my agent told me she couldn’t represent me anymore. As it turns out, she had decided to take her career in a new direction. As someone who has changed careers, I know it happens sometimes. I still love her dearly, and I wish her all the best in the world. *But what’s going to happen to me* I screamed inside my head. Not unlike a six-year-old.

Hanging up the phone, I felt like I was freefalling. It had taken 67 queries and 10 months of inbox-refreshing anxiety before I signed with her. I dreaded the thought of starting over from scratch.
The Unexpected had practically knocked me down the stairs.


My former agent gave me some suggestions. She said I should query my middle grade novel. WHA?? Not my precious? Not the “It took me five years to write” first novel? The one she had signed me for?

To prove that I was okay, that I wasn’t devastated. that I was going to make it, I shot off a couple of queries that night. You guessed it. For the middle grade.

The quirky, wrote-it-for-fun middle grade fantasy. 

To my immense surprise, two days later, I had two full requests. TWO. And then my former agent gave me a handful of referrals for agents she knew were looking for middle grade (I told you I loved her!)

A month into the querying process, the holidays were looming. In four weeks, I’d sent 20 queries. I had 7 full requests, and a few passes. But nothing solid. People liked the query, but I had no idea if they'd think the writing was as good. 

Then, five weeks after the split; the day before my birthday; the week before Christmas, I had a request for a call in my inbox. As in, THE CALL. To talk about representation.


You might think that the second time around, one might take it in stride. Be less nervous. At least remember to ask all the questions. You'd be wrong. It's just as exhilarating. And you sound just as stupid. At least I did. Thankfully, Tara didn't seem to notice.

Many of you have seen my announcement. I’m now officially represented by Tara Gonzalez and Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents. It took less than eight weeks in total. Twenty query letters sent. Seven full requests. That’s 32% request rate. My original request rate for my first agent was a paltry 16% for the Young Adult.

No lie, I would NOT have queried the middle grade had my former agent not suggested it. I’d written it for fun and sent it to her for kicks. I believed my YA was the breakout MS. My debut.
I needed to have someone hit me upside the head to see that the middle grade was worth querying.

I’m getting to the point here, I promise.

  • The unexpected may seem like the end of the world when it rears its ugly head, but it’s really just opportunity knocking. Open the door when it does.
  • Sometimes you have to listen to advice around you and go against your instinct.
  • Never give up—you never know when opportunity is right around the corner.
  • Don’t let the unexpected knock you down the stairs. Get up, dust off, and get back in the game.
  • Talk in clichés, the kids love it. :)

I’m happily working with my new agents on revisions for the quirky little middle grade. I still have no idea what’s around the corner. No idea if any editor is going to like it. But I’m ready for anything! I’m still hoping the YA will have its day, but for now, it’s resting quietly.

I hope that you’re all going to want to keep me around these parts, now that I’m working on middle grade…

Happy New Year, everyone!


  1. Congrats, Kris! Love hearing the story behind the story!

  2. I loved what you said. It's so very important to continue to dust ourselves off in this profession. Like the phoenix, you never know what each rebirth might lead to! Congratulations again my friend. :)

  3. Yay, congrats on getting the call (again)! This is a great story of inspiration. The path to publication (even after publication) can chew you up and spit you out if you're not strong. Great advice to keep persevering, even when things get hard.

    I had a...sort of similar thing happen in my journey. Long story. But ultimately, it made me realize I wasn't writing what I was passionate about. It gave me the perspective I needed to pursue publication in a new way, with more passion than I've had for it in a long time!

    Thanks for sharing this story!

  4. Yay, Kris! I'm so happy for you, and so excited to see what happens next in your writing journey. I'm so confident that you're going to have an amazing 2013!

  5. Thanks everyone. Sometimes you can be really down, and not realize that the greatest thing is about to happen. So you really have to live life as though that great thing is coming. :)

  6. What a great and inspiring story. So glad how things worked out for you and I hope all your books find wonderful homes!

  7. What an awesome story, Kris! So happy for you that this happened and so quickly. Hope the sale is just as magical.

  8. Great post. Very funny and true. I'm glad you landed on your feet so fast -- and with the holidays in the middle, that's like overnight.

  9. LOL I'm reading along and then get to the part where you mention the agents - Pam is MY agent! I love her. Welcome to the agency! =)

  10. Congrats Kris, so glad you didn't have to be in agent limbo for long. Good luck with your MG!

  11. Congratulations!

    And thank you for saying it took you 67 queries to land your first agent. I let myself get discouraged after ten plus rejections. Time to dust off the resilience.

  12. I'm writing MG too! Can't wait to read your work! Congrats and good luck! -cat york

  13. Congratulations!!! Way to keep a positive attitude and persist. Thank you for sharing such a hard situation. You are a great example for all of us. : )