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My First 400 Queries Were Rejected: How I Persevered and Got an Agent & Book Deal

Before I learned to ride my own motorcycle, I rode a hundred thousand miles on the back of my husband’s. I’d prop a book on his back and read during the boring stretches. One day, outside Kernville, California, a dog ran in front of the bike. After a gut-clenching scare, he trotted back the way he came. But it gave me a germ of an idea for a story that wouldn’t leave me alone. I debated for over a year. Who was I to write a book? Authors were way smarter than I. One day, while staring at a blank Word doc, I looked down. Hey, I had a ‘delete’ key! I could write the book, and no one would ever have to see it. So that’s what I did. But a year and a half later, when I finished, I had a new goal. I wanted to hold a book in my hand with my name on the cover. So I sent queries to agents -- 170 of them. I had a few requests for full manuscripts, but ultimately, everyone turned me down.

Before I learned to ride my own motorcycle, I rode a hundred thousand miles on the back of my husband’s. I’d prop a book on his back and read during the boring stretches. One day, outside Kernville, California, a dog ran in front of the bike. After a gut-clenching scare, he trotted back the way he came. But it gave me a germ of an idea for a story that wouldn’t leave me alone.

I debated for over a year. Who was I to write a book? Authors were way smarter than I. One day, while staring at a blank Word doc, I looked down. Hey, I had a ‘delete’ key! I could write the book, and no one would ever have to see it. So that’s what I did. But a year and a half later, when I finished, I had a new goal. I wanted to hold a book in my hand with my name on the cover.

So I sent queries to agents -- 170 of them. I had a few requests for full manuscripts, but ultimately, everyone turned me down.

(Do writers need an outside edit before querying agents?)

laura-drake-author-writer
her-road-home-novel-cover

Column by Laura Drake, a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways,
or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women's Fiction and Romance.
Her newest novel is the 'biker-chick' story, HER ROAD HOME, and was
released by Harlequin's Superromance in August 2013. Laura resides in
Southern California, though she aspires to retirement in Texas. She gave
up the corporate CFO gig to write, full time. She's a wife, grandmother,
and motorcycle chick. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

So I started writing another book, and finished it nine months later. I sent out 132 queries. There was more interest this time, but still no takers.

So I wrote another book. Even I felt this one was good. My crit group told me it would be sure to sell. So I sent 120 queries (some agents had gone out of business.) I entered contests, and even won four of them, but STILL the rejections poured in.

I belong to a local writers group, and had volunteered to be their treasurer that year. We had an editor coming to town to speak, and since my office was close to the airport, I offered to pick her up. Friday afternoon traffic in Southern California is brutal, but that day, a tanker spill meant that poor woman had to sit a massive traffic jam with an aspiring author for two and a half hours! She eventually asked me what I wrote, so I pitched my story. When she asked me to send her a partial, I reached in the back seat and handed it to her (I had a goal-not pride!) She was a bit taken aback, but promised to read it on the plane on the way home.

She was good as her word. She called me Monday and said, “The first thing we need to do is get you an agent.” Yeah, like I hadn’t thought of that. She introduced me to my perfect agent, Nalini Akolekar, of Spencerhill Associates.

Within nine months, she’d sold a three book series to Grand Central, and nine months later, she sold that very first book – my biker chick’ book, HER ROAD HOME -- to Harlequin’s Superromance line. My debut was out in May, and I’ll have a total of three books released this year!

(Would your story make a great movie? Here are 7 tips on writing a film script.)

The time from that dog incident to today? 15 years.

I don’t have a muse. Don’t believe in them. If I did have one, she’d be a saggy old broad, smoking a cigarette and giving me the finger.

I get up to write at 3 am. Every day. I used to do it to get two hours of writing in before work. Since I retired last year, I do it because that’s my routine.

But guess what? It’s not about the time of day. It’s not about the ambiance of your writing space. It isn’t even about butt in the chair.

It’s about wanting something. It’s just as hard and simple as that.

The below I’ve adopted as my mantra:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to
keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how
badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the
people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

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