A Good Idea, A Game Plan, And Flexibility For The Win

My path to publication had a few detours, pit stops & unexpected turns. But here I am: months away from my book babe hitting shelves. And, I can enthusiastically say my agent, Stacey Glick, is the mastermind behind my dream coming to fruition. I’ll prove it with a quick look at my journey (my second journey, to be honest, because I was previously agented for a different project), starting with my query letter (yes, I’ll share it. No, I’m not great at writing query letters. But, hey, it did what it needed to do).

Dear Ms. Glick,

Seventeen-year-old Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at a speakeasy. She may be young, but Bonnelyn knows what she wants: love and stability. All she has to do is finish school, get a nice house, and marry Roy Thornton, her longtime boyfriend. However, post-war prosperity doesn’t exist in Cement City, Texas.

Bonnelyn’s best friend has a solution to her money woes: a speakeasy. The amount of cash she made in one night at Doc’s is more than Bonnelyn made in weeks working at the diner. It’s enough motivation for Bonnelyn to stomach the glitzy dresses, jazz music, and temptations of an illicit juice joint.

Caught up in the fast life of bootlegging liquor, Bonnelyn tries to conceal her secret identity from Roy. But after Roy discovers her lies, she can say goodbye to love. Or so she thinks. Until Bonnelyn meets a devil-may-care boy, named Clyde Barrow, who has her rethinking life beyond her white picket fence.

FALLING OUT is a 65,000 word YA historical novel, a standalone with sequel potential about how Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo.

There you have it, the query that kicked things off, and pretty quickly (thank God). I participated in a #PitchMas event, in which a few agents requested. I sent out material the end of December. I waited to query additional agents until the new year (Jan 5th, to be exact). One of the PitchMas agents offered representation on Jan 9th (my birthday!). I hadn’t yet heard back from the majority of the agents I queried a few days prior, Stacey included. I updated her that I had an offer or rep, she requested my manuscript, saying, “This is a great idea for a YA novel and I’d love to take a look.” She offered on Jan 15th. I got another offer of rep the next day. But Stacey wowed me during our call. We shared a vision for my book and she already had a few editors in mind who she thought might like it. Music to my ears. We chatted “game plan”, and I knew she was the agent for me.

And here’s why: she saw something in my query, but knew how to take things to the next level. My title changed: FALLING OUT to BECOMING BONNIE. She had great edit suggestions. Stacey’s enthusiasm was off the charts, not just for this project but for helping me build a career. And she saw the potential for my novel not only being YA, but maybe also Adult. Stacey wanted to explore both avenues, and had the right connections with editors in order to do so.

keep_calm_and_listen_to_the_literary_agent_basic_white_mug-rf2fc2e55944c43528057c9dd9cae7113_x7jgr_8byvr_512In the end, we had two offer of publications: one from a YA imprint and another from an Adult imprint (and somehow, in the same week, Stacey sold film/TV rights as well). We decided the best home for my book would be an Adult imprint, and Stacey, along with my insanely talented editor, helped me transform my book from a 65k YA novel to 90k-word novel that adults could also sink their teeth into.

My pub journey has brought me to a very different spot (and shelf in a bookstore) than I originally intended, but I couldn’t be happier. I owe that to the experience, enthusiasm, and unparalleled strategizing of my agent — who recently sold a new MG series for me and is also guiding me on a few other Adult projects. We like to keep each other busy.

My takeaway, friends, is align yourself with an agent who not only has a strong vision for you book, but also has a track record of making those visions a reality. And then to be flexible, trusting in your agent and seizing the opportunities that come along. Oh and if you’re querying, I highly recommend checking out Stacey’s wish list 😉

 

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Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years ​chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. BECOMING BONNIE (Tor Forge/Macmillan, 5/9/2017) is her debut novel that tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. SIDE BY SIDE, telling Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree story, will be released in the summer of 2018. Please learn more about Jenni's books at jennilwalsh.com.