Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lessons from GUTGAA + My Secret Identity!


Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the first-round of Deana Barnhart's "Gearing Up to Get an Agent" blogfest this week! I was honored to serve as one of the GUTGAA first-round judges, and I was blown away by the level of talent in this contest.

I feel like I learned so much from this process. In particular, I learned this:

LITERARY AGENTS HAVE INCREDIBLY HARD JOBS.

Seriously. I was given the task of whittling queries down from 40 to 10, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown from the stress. There were SO many good entries that I can't even fathom how agents sometimes sift through hundreds of queries a day. Not to mention all their other ridiculous duties, like revisions, pitch lists, contracts, negotiations... The list goes on and on.

I also learned this:

THIS BUSINESS IS BEYOND SUBJECTIVE.

As one of the judges reading your queries, I can definitively say that you should NOT take it personally if your GUTGAA entry didn't get a vote. I loved SO many entries I wasn't able to vote for, and I think MANY of them will fare wonderfully during querying.

In addition to solid query-writing and a great concept, my top ten votes honestly came down to personal preferences, life experiences and other factors that are so subjective they aren't even measurable.

I think the other judges would agree. Thespians tend to gravitate toward drama stories, musicians tend to gravitate toward music stories... One query struck a chord with my six year-old self so perfectly that I had to vote for it, while others that were great just didn't "connect" with me quite so viscerally.

If anything, this process just confirms to me that we shouldn't take agent rejections so personally. I know everyone says that--and writing is so personal it's easy to blow it off--but I'm now a firm believer in it.

As aspiring authors, I think we tend to judge agents as "good vs. bad" computers. If they request pages, it's because our writing is good. If they reject us, it's because our writing is bad. But if we take a step back and view agents as unique, flawed and complex PEOPLE, we start to understand that they bring all their personal interests, experiences and baggage to the table as well.

Also, I really think it's true that agents have to LOVE our books in order to sign us. It's not enough for them to simply think they are well-written. (My agent has already read my novel ESSENCE four times, and we just signed our contract in June. I can't imagine having to be that dedicated to a book I liked, but didn't love.)

Being on the "other side of the curtain" was certainly an experience, and I can't thank Deana enough for allowing me to be part of this. I also can't thank the other first-round judges for their hard volunteer work and dedication. And lastly, I want to thank all the participants for being brave enough to put yourselves out there like you did. You guys are so creative and passionate and encouraging; I can't even tell you how inspired I am by you.

P.S.- For those of you who are wondering, I will go ahead and spill the beans. I was one of the judges assigned to Deana's Picture Book / Chapter Book / Middle Grade / New Adult blog, and my secret code name was... Sugar Magnolia! 

I hope you guys thought my comments were helpful, and I'm so excited that 9 of my 10 votes made it to the agent round. I can't WAIT to buy these books some day!

15 comments:

bethanysmith.net said...

Thanks for all your hard work, Lisa Ann. GUTGAA has been an amazing experience so far, and there's still more to come!

Any hints on which judge you were? Or even which blog you were on? ;)

bethanysmith.net said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LisaAnn said...

Just added this to my post. I was Sugar Magnolia on Deana's blog. (Eek, feels so weird to remove the curtain!) :)

J. A. Bennett said...

What an awesome perspective! And thanks for all of your hard work!

Rina Heisel said...

Thank you for all your hard word and positive comments. Getting those kind words really makes all the difference! :)

Rina Heisel said...

Ha- I meant "hard work"- I think my typing fingers are wearing out!

Jeanmarie Anaya said...

Thank you so much for participating and for a lovely post. My entry was on a different blog, but your thoughts helped me understand the process, regardless whether you judged my entry specifically.

The Grateful Dead fan in my loves your judge name. ;)

Katie Slivensky said...

Thanks for this uplifting post, Lisa! It's hard to understand the agent side of things when all you get is rejection, but you're right -- they have a really tough job. I'm always shocked in these contests when certain entries don't move on that I think are just amazing, but the selection process is super subjective (with good reason). Thanks again for giving me an opportunity in GUTGAA!

Also, can I just take a moment to say that dolphin pictures on your blog are making me jealous? I want to meet a dolphin so bad. I've hung out with bears, otters, tigers, foxes, monkeys, and tons of other fun critters, but never dolphins. It's a life goal!

Eliza Tilton said...

I missed GUTGAA. Gotta love having pregnancy brain! Thanks for sharing and I agree, this buisness is completely subjective.

cocoanqueso said...

I liked seeing the comments about your judging process on my entry, though I'm not sure how you found time to go through everyone's entries multiple times! Thanks for communicating so well during the first round. And for sharing this post gives even more insight into what you were thinking.

Bethany Crandell said...

Wow. I was thinking of doing a blog post about my experience as a GUTGAA judge, too, but you pretty much summed up EVERY FREAKING THING I was going to say (and better than I'd have done it) so I think I'll just direct people from my blog over here--cause you nailed the experience in this post!

It was an honor--and also a very, very difficult job to participate. Being on the other side of the word "SUBJECTIVE" is no easy task.

Shallee said...

I love your point about subjectivity. That's something that's everywhere in this business of writing, and hard to remember!

I heard so much about GUTGAA, and I'm glad it was a success!

alexia said...

I was thinking you were Sugar Magnolia! Just because you tweeted about your judge spreadsheet, and then you were so thorough in how you went through and commented on everyone's multiple times. I really appreciated it. And thanks so much for voting for me!!

Romelle Broas said...

Aha! Here's how I found you...
I've been neglecting my running blog so I decided to post today. Then I went over to my blog list and visited my friend- Run, Gwen, Run. Intrigued by her badge, "The Healthy Writers Club," I clicked on it and was sent to Shallee McArthur's blog. Happened to visit the Blog Hop! "Licked, Cornered, Bitten and Chased" caught my eye. Clicked on it. What did I see? A fellow GUTGAA member! So I read your post to the very end...

THANK YOU SUGAR MAGNOLIA FOR VOTING FOR ME!

I was one of the top ten on Deanna's blog to make it to the second round! I'm one of 2 PB's that made it.

Dinda Amanda said...


Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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