For this first round I’d chosen only agents who accept email queries; much cheaper and quicker than snail-mail queries – remember, I lived in England. And those pesky SASE’S! I did take the precaution of getting a friend to send me ten US stamps for my SASE’s – just in case.
Most of the agents replied with in a week. Most of the replies were requests for more: partials or fulls per attachment.
The quickest was a Writers House agent I had a particularly keen eye on; his request came by return of mail. He read the partial over the weekend and asked for the full.
Immediately he jumped to first position in my order of preference, along with a William Morris agent who had also asked for a full.
In a couple of weeks I had a total of four full manuscripts and two partials out there. That’s one great harvest!
Two weeks later the Writers House agent mailed to say his assistant had given White Night a “great”. He promised to read it as quickly as possible.
In the following days I fell in love with the idea of being a Writers House agent; probably for al the wrong reasons.
I love historical houses. Especially lovely terracotta-coloured houses with trees outside them. I could just see myself walking into that romatic terracotta-coloured house on their website. It looked like just the place for me. After all, my entire life can be summed up with “search for a home” and this looked just like it. And that conference table! And those bookshelves! Would MY book be on thse shelves one day? Sure it would!

(And it helps, of course, that Writers House is one of the biggest and most powerful agencies in the US/the world!)

But a few days letter I fell from my cloud. Rejection!
After 200 pages he couldn’t connect with the main character, so stopped reading. Damn!
He had attached the very detailed readers report; she loved the story as a whole (“edge-of-the-seat”, she said!) but pinpointed some genuine flaws. Immediately I started on a new revision.

Then one fine day, a mail from the WIlliam Morris agent zinged into my inbox.
Oh! The agony of those first few moments before opening the mail, heart racing! Oh, let it be a Yeah!!!!
But it was a Nay.
Disappointmentm, but no gloom. I had many more manuscripts out there.
But no more replies came in. All summer I waited – in vain. But I also revised the manuscript thoroughly. I had received some valuable feedback through those two rejections, and made some changes so vital I wished they’d been in there before.

In September I started on a second round of queries. This time, two at a time.
Again, my top choices were a William Morris agent, and a Writers House agent.
I picked my Writers House agent carefully.
She was a junior agent; I hadn’t seen her on their agent list before.
I couldn’t find any clients for her; that meant she’d be seriously seeking.
Her profile said she liked commercial and literary fiction. And was especially interested in novels with an international setting. Something clicked.
She asked for an exclusive partial.
I explained I couldn’t, as several manuscripts were already out there.
Send it anyway, she replied, and I’ll give you a quick read.
She did. And requested the full.
The following Friday I woke up to find her mail in my inbox. Opened it.

Dear Sharon,

I have finished reading WHITE NIGHT. I absolutely love it. Zena is a fantastic protagonist, her story is layered and thoughtful, your description of rural Guyana is utterly transportive, and you really bring the horror of Jonestown to life.

She asked me for a time when she could call me “tomorrow”.
“Anytime! I’ll be in all day Saturday!”
And then I realised: tomorrow was actually today! I had forgotten the time difference!
I shot off the correction:
“Sorry, I mean today!”


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