by: Joelle Charbonneau
Recently, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how and why things happen. I tend to be a believer that all things happen for a reason. Sometimes I can’t even begin to imagine what the reason could possibly be, but all things that happen in our lives impact who we are and how we see the world.
For writers, how we see the world changes how we write. The book I am writing now would read completely different if I’d written it five years ago. The plot might have been similar, but the characters, their emotional development and the feel of the story would have been different. Because I’m different.
And not only does timing impact the telling of the story it also changes how the story will be received when the story is submitted to an editor or agent. They might have just signed a similar kind of story and while yours is great – they can’t justify taking yours on. Or the opposite could be true. They have been looking for something specific to fill a hole in their list and your book fits the bill. Timing matters.
Timing has been a big factor in my writing career. I started writing about 8 years ago. When I started querying agents, I researched their client lists, found agents with clients who wrote in the same genre I did. That was smart, right? I got no after no after no. A few of those were closer to HELL NOs, but you get the point. I took a break from the querying and rejection merry-go-round when my son was born and my father was diagnosed once again with cancer. The break lasted months after my father’s death. When I finally started querying again, I did my research and learned a former mystery editor had just become a literary agent. Since she was brand new at the agenting gig, she didn’t have a client list for me to look at. The idea of having a skilled editor as my agent was appealing so I sent a query and the specified number of sample pages. Two days later she asked for the full manuscript. Nineteen days after that she offered me representation.
At the time, I was over the moon delighted. I’m still happy with that decision because Stacia Decker is the best agent ever, but I realize the timing in that query worked in my favor. Had she been established, as she is now, and had a client list for me to look at I never would have queried her. Her list is heavy with noir, literary fiction, horror, thrillers and some science fiction thrown in for good measure. Totally not me. Had I waited another two or three months to start querying agents, I would have done my research and passed right by querying Stacia. And that would have been the worst mistake of my life.
So, I guess what I am saying is that there are rules in this business that I believe in. You finish a manuscript and edit it to the best of your ability before you start to submit it. You do your research on editors and agents and try to match your work to the appropriate ones. Those things are important. But equally important is timing and dumb luck. My luck was pretty amazing the day I researched Stacia and decided to send an e-mail that changed my life. I don’t think that having an agent is the right choice for everyone, but I do say that if you are looking for one, keep at it and I’ll be hoping that the timing becomes right for you.