Saturday, September 15, 2012

The benefits of ABNA

When querying agents, did my status as ABNA Finalist give me a leg up?

First, here is the query I used:

I am currently seeking representation for my 69,000 word contemporary young adult novel, titled OUT OF NOWHERE.

At eleven years old, Riley Tate witnessed the sudden death of her father. Now, at sixteen, she still can’t bring herself to step on “the spot”—the section of kitchen floor on which her father landed after collapsing from a brain aneurysm. For someone like Riley, a hypochondriac with anxiety issues, moving on is never easy.

Since losing her dad, Riley has become obsessed with the human body, how it works, and what can go wrong with it. Reading about diseases distracts her from the things she’s not ready to deal with, like the fact that her mother started a whole new family with a man who has more muscles than brains and tries to act like her new dad. And that her doctor thinks she’s a mental case. And that her ex-boyfriend dumped her because she wouldn’t have sex with him. But she refuses to let anything—especially not a guy—interfere with her dream of becoming a surgeon.

When she meets Cole Boyer in an ER waiting room, Riley realizes immediately that he’s far from the safe, predictable boy she usually goes for.  A fearless daredevil with mysterious scars and a thirst for all things dangerous, Cole is like an accident waiting to happen. Still, despite their differences, they forge an unlikely friendship that eventually blossoms into something more. Dating someone who’s so casual about death has its challenges, but as Riley soon learns, not everyone can be—or needs to be—saved.

OUT OF NOWHERE was one of the three finalists in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, YA category. Publishers Weekly called it “a very good example of a contemporary coming-of-age novel, with well-rounded characters and honest emotion”. With a blend of heavy issues and humor, OUT OF NOWHERE explores the total randomness of life, death, and love.

I started querying on July 16, 2012. Out of all the agents I queried, I got 3 requests for partials and 7 requests for the full manuscript. Responses came quick, most within the first week. I signed with my agent on August 3. Less than three weeks...that was how quick it was.

I believe ABNA did open doors for me. I got personal feedback from several of the agents who passed on me. Only a couple of form rejections. Tons of compliments. All the agents were extremely encouraging. Such a different experience than a few years ago, when I was querying my first book.

This is a hard business to break into and every little bit helps. So make your manuscript shine. Use contests like ABNA. Seek feedback. Query your butt off and never give up. If it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone.