The Journey to Agenthood (Agentdom? Agentedness?)

May 28, 2009 at 9:03 AM | Posted in Agents, Authors, Editing, Life, Publishing, Queries, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Advice, YA | 14 Comments

Okay, so I was asked by a few of my fellow Twifties to type up a post about my experience over the past few weeks. When I asked what to write about, they told me just to write a story, so that’s what I’m going to do. Here’s my story for any who might be interested.

Here’s the short version: I got an agent!

But, come on, let’s face it—no one wants the short version in these matters, now do they? So let’s get on with the story, shall we?

Let me start by saying that this did not just happen over night. I didn’t just write a novel and suddenly get an agent, as many might believe when learning that I’m just a few months shy of eighteen. On the contrary, I’ve been writing for many, many years. Since I’ve been able to spell, I’ve been writing stories. I wrote my first full novel at ten, which I later realized was a Harry Potter rip off. I wrote another at thirteen (also a Harry Potter rip off), and there were several unfinished manuscripts littering that path along the way. But let’s fast forward, shall we? Kids are cute and all, but you’re not reading this to learn about my childhood. So, at sixteen, I wrote my first non-rip off novel, A Face In the Crowd. It was contemporary YA, and I was so proud of it when I finished. For that novel, I started doing research about publishing. I learned about the dreaded query letter, I discovered that to be published by a big house you need this elusive thing called an agent, and I found a little website called AbsoluteWrite that helped me along the way.

I sent out a few poorly written queries for A Face in the Crowd, but not that many. Each and every response was a rejection—not a single request. So I quit and decided to revise my query letter to try again later. In the mean time, I started a new project called The Duff. I posted a few of my sample chapters on AbsoluteWrite, and the response was fantastic. So much helpful criticism! And I was quickly falling in love with my main characters, and I had others telling me they loved them too. This support pushed me to write more. Looking back and rereading, I realize that A Face in the Crowd, while not bad, is not up to par. Perhaps I’ll revise and rewrite in a few years, but I’m not planning on it yet. Besides, Lauren Myracle claims to have written five novels before getting her debut, Kissing Kate published, so I’m very happy I didn’t get discouraged back then.

Anyway, I finished The Duff, which, in case someone missed the memo, stands for designated ugly, fat friend (horrible, right? Seriously, I know guys who use this term!), and I quickly sent it off to three fantastic beta readers I found on AbsoluteWrite, as well as forcing two of my best friends to read it. Most of the feedback I got was positive, but they did have a lot of construction, and I spent about a month editing everything before I started to query. This time, my query letter was better. I had lots of help from AbsoluteWrite members in polishing it. Believe me, without them it never would have gotten out of the slushpile. Just thinking of my early drafts makes me want to cry and hide under a chair. But once I felt confident in it, and in my manuscript, I started to send to agents.

To say my querying experience was, um, interesting, might be an understatement. I began to send out queries in early, early April. I sent out seventeen in total. But I hardly got any responses. I waited and waited, but not even a rejection popped into my constantly checked inbox. I was starting to think my queries weren’t sending properly, and I was so worried! Then I got the first response—a request for the partial! But don’t get excited just yet. That’s not the end of my story, kids. While waiting to hear back about the partial, I received 3 rejections. Then another request from an agent I hadn’t even sent sample pages to. I was feeling good! Feeling great, in fact! Two requests!

Then, the very next day, the same agent asked to see my full manuscript, so I was very, very upbeat…until the weekend. The day after sending off my full, I was rejected by the first agent, who didn’t connect with my main character based on the partial I’d sent. I was heartbroken, but I tried not to show it. So when I had an email on Monday from the agent with the full, I was sure she was rejecting me, too. I just knew it.

Well, you see, I’m a writer. Not a psychic.

Let me sum up what would likely turn out to be a rambling fit of giddiness by saying that I got a phone call the next afternoon with an offer of representation. From a great agent, at a great agency, who DID connect with my main character.

Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate to accept the offer. For a slight bit of perspective on The Duff, I’ll say that I started the first draft on January 6, 2009 and was offered representation on May 12, 2009. Coincidently, May 12 is the birthday of one of my best friends who read, and loved, The Duff, so that was a present to both of us. But I can’t help thinking of all those unanswered queries. At last count, 12 still hadn’t been replied to. Now, I almost look at it as fate. Only a few agents seemed to receive my query, and one of them happened to be the right one. I never thought I’d be grateful for a server malfunction (which is what I’m chalking this up to), but stranger things have happened, I guess. So you want to know how the story ends? Honestly, it hasn’t yet. I signed the contract and just finished up some revisions on The Duff, though nothing major. Actually, my agent didn’t want me to cut anything, which was a relief, but also a surprise. The revisions were just added scenes and extended subplots, really, and I sent the new version to her this weekend. I’m waiting on her reactions to the new version now. Once it’s approved, we’re off to a quick polish edit, then she wants to start submitting to editors.

But I have plenty to occupy me while I wait. My high school graduation is this Friday (May 29), and I’m working on a new project, The Outcast Society. I leave for college this fall, and I’m excited to say that I’ve been accepted into the Honors Program at Ithaca College in New York, where I’ll be majoring in Writing. I plan to work my way up and get my PhD so that I can teach Creative Writing or Literature on a college level, like a lot of modern novelists do. So, anyway, that’s my story as it stands so far. I’m not published yet. It will be two years before that happens, but I’m a step closer than I ever expected to be. Like I said, this didn’t just happen over night. There were a lot of hills to climb, and still more ahead, but I’m getting there. Just remember, all of you aspiring writers, that for every million “No’s” you get, there is a “Yes!” waiting out there for you.

Best of luck!

~Blind Writer (Kody Mekell Keplinger)

***

Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Bianca knows she’s the Duff (the designated ugly, fat friend).  So when Wesley, a notorious womanizer, approaches her at a party, she knows he wants to score with one—or both—of her hot friends.  God, the man-whore’s arrogance really pisses her off!  But Bianca needs to escape from some personal drama, like her mom’s abandonment and her dad’s denial, and a steamy fling with Wesley seems like the perfect distraction.  Bianca makes it clear she’s only using Wesley, as if he cares.  He’ll sleep with anything that moves after all.  Unfortunately, the enemies-with-benefits plan totally backfires.

When her mom files for divorce and her father stumbles into a downward spiral of drinking and depression, Wesley proves to be a surprisingly good listener, and Bianca finds out that his family is pretty screwed up, too.  As sickening as it sounds, she has to admit that she and Wesley are a lot alike.  Soon she becomes jealous of the pretty girls he flirts with and his cocky grin begins to grow on her.  Suddenly Bianca realizes—with absolute horror—that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated.

THE DUFF, my contemporary YA novel, is complete at 53,000 words.  The manuscript is available upon request.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely
Kody Mekell Keplinger

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14 Comments »

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  1. Cogratulations, Kody, and thanks for sharing your story! The Duff sounds really interesting, and I’m sure publishers will be as excited about it as everyone at TWFT is. :D

  2. WHOOOO!

    And that’s all I have to say about that. :D

  3. Beautiful. GREAT JOB! I can’t wait to read your book. Out of all the The Novel summaries I just read on the The Novel page The Duff was the most interesting to me. So cool!

  4. Dude, you have a blog?! And I LOVE it!!! I would have put this in your pitch to the editors. Well, NOW I have to tell them all, hehehehehe <>

    • Hey, Joanna! I feel bad for not contributing to this one more. It was blocked at school, so now that I’m able to access it, I plan to abuse my author priveleges. lol. I’m so glad you like it! I know that makes mine (and the other writers’) day!

  5. Congratulations! I just saw your story on Janet Reid’s blog and had to know more about the teen that had made her green around the edges with envy. I remember reading about The Duff on here about a month or so back (at least I think that’s when it was, but my memory isn’t always the best …), and I thought, “That’s a great concept; she may have something here.”

    And you did.

    You are an inspiration to teens and adults everywhere. I wish you the BEST of luck in your writing career. And a big WOOT to graduating from high school!!

    • Oh, thank you so, so, so much! I had no idea she was going to do that until a friend of mine on AbsoluteWrite sent me the link. I was so surprsised and so, so flattered! I really appreciate all of this wonderful support.

  6. Congrats, Kody!

    You don’t necessarily have to get a PhD if you want to teach at the college level. For creative writing, an MFA is considered the terminal degree – and of course you’ll want publications, which you are already working on. :)

    • Thank you! And yeah, that’s true. My goal is to get through my Bachelors and then get my MFA at a great school, at least. If I don’t stick with Ithaca, I might try University of Iowa. Haha. I can dream, can’t I?

  7. Hi Koddy,

    Congratulations – i was looking at Janet Reids blog and she mentioned you were signed by her colleague. She said some lovely things about you. Best of luck in the future, :)

    • Thank you so much!

  8. Oh. My. Freaking. Flapjacks.

    KODY!!! JANET REID GAVE YOU A SHOUT OUT ON HER BLOG!!! YOU’RE FREAKING FAMOUS!!!

    Okay. I’m done now. :P Just wanted to say congratulations, and you’re awesome, and I think you owe me money since we bet on how long it would take before The Duff was recognized…didn’t I say two weeks? Cough it up, honey.

    • Haha. You said two weeks before a publisher BOUGHT it, not before it got recognized. I’m still in the game!
      Thanks, by the way. I still can’t believe it!

      • Oh. Right. Dang it. *quickly revises bet*

        Either way, I knew The Duff wouldn’t go unnoticed for long. :)


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