Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't You Dare Give Up!

Well it's finally my turn to post! I'm thrilled to finally be able to share this with all of you. I posted the news on my blog a few weeks ago, but was saving posting here until it was my day.  If you don't already know, I got an agent! Although while the shock has started to wear off, the euphoria of being able to use the term 'my agent' hasn't. I doubt it ever will.

So if you're interested in my 'How I Got My Agent' story, it's  on my blog here.  And if you're interested in reading an iterview I did about 'The Call' you can read that here.

I'm now represented by the amazing and wonderful Mark McVeigh at the McVeigh Agency.
It feels so good to type that.

So rather than recounting my agent story, I thought I would talk a little about perserverance in your writing journey. It's been said many times that the publishing industry moves at a glacial pace. I whole heartedly agree. Which is why I wince when I hear a writer say "I just wrote this book and am querying it." Whoa there buddy. Hold up. Did you revise? Did you let your crit partners rip it to shreds? Did you send it to betas? Did you let it sit for a week,  or even better,  a month and then go back and revise/edit again? If you said no to any of these questions, I would recommend taking a deep breath, and then do it. While some writers can write a perfect (or near-perfect) first draft, that doesn't happen for most of us.

Once your project is as perfect as you can make it, where you've revised until your eyes bleed and you can't stand looking at it anymore, not because it is a mess, but because you are changing words, making it different, but not better, then it's time to start querying. The query process can take a long time too. You need to do your homework, carefully select the agents you query. Don't expect to land an agent as soon as you start querying. While it could happen, chances are you're going to be querying for a while.

And after you've queried for a while (maybe you've queried them all and still no takers), DO NOT GIVE UP. If you are truly dedicated to becoming a published author, you can't give up. It is rare for an author's first book to land an agent, and sell at that. Keep writing. While you're querying, keep writing. Rather than obsessively hitting refresh every five minutes, give yourself a goal. For every X words you write, you can send out five targeted queries. This will help you use your time productively instead of sitting at your computer, staring at your in-box, willing it to populate with the ever elusive 'Yes'. Remember, it only takes one 'Yes'. Just one.  (And yes, I'm saying this from experience, and by the way - once you have an agent, you still obsessively stare at your inbox waiting for it to populate...)

Maybe it doesn't happen with the novel you're querying. Maybe not the next one either. But with each novel you write, your skill improves. You have learned more about writing with each novel you write. Each one is better than the last.

So don't give up. Please, please, don't give up!

And if that picture wasn't inspiring enough, I think the lyrics to Miley Cyrus' song The Climb remind me that there's always another mountain - even after I've climbed the first. :)


  Shelley Watters writes romance for young adults and adults. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two kids and two dogs. She loves listening to music, reading good books and letting her imagination go wild as she creates new worlds and torments her characters in delicious ways. She is an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is represented by Mark McVeigh of the McVeigh Agency.


  1. Thank you for such a wonderful post, Shelley. As you know, I've been feeling down and ready to give up, but your story about how you didn't give up is so inspiring, I'll keep moving through those rocks until I find a lake of my meant agent of my own. :D

  2. YAY!!!! Awesome post! One of my very first twitterbuddies is repped by Mark and loves him. Good luck and congrats!

  3. Yeah, I had to shelve my first completed manuscript. I couldn't get an agent and I hadn't done all those steps/questions you listed. I hope one day I can revisit it because I do love the characters and the setting I created, I was just having problems with the plot and background. Sometimes, it's a tough lesson, but it's worth it.

    Could one of you do a post on the 99 page test? The responses I've gotten have been a bit frustrating for me!

  4. Great post Shell ;o) And a CONGRATS again to you!! I think taking your time to query is a great thing, let's you really concentrate on getting that book the best it can!

  5. Much needed inspiration. Thank you.

  6. Thanks for this post. I am reading it now a few months later...I am a political writer who was getting - extremely tired - here in the nation's capitol.