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Ryan Graudin: 5 Things I've Learned

Please welcome guest blogger Ryan Graudin. Ryan found her agent on Literary Rambles some time ago and recently sold her book. I'm incredibly excited for her and already dying to get my hands on Luminance Hour. I'll have Ryan back closer to the release of her debut, but for now she's here to talk about the agent submission process. Enjoy!

5 Things I've Learned Through the Agent Hunt/Submission Process
By Ryan Graudin

1. Depend on other people. So often I see the statement that writing is a solitary occupation, which is why introverts like me are so drawn to typing out stories on a computer screen. In some sense this is quite true. When I’m writing a novel, I’m buried in my own world, opting for testing the limits of my characters over actual human interaction. But one’s writing cannot survive or thrive without the involvement of others. Critique partners, beta readers and online forums were essential parts of getting my novel to where it needed to be in order to catch the attention of my agent and publisher. Fresh eyes are indispensable for the growth and development of a manuscript. Critique partners and beta readers are generally unbiased (unless they’re your mother, then they’ll love it). They will find weaknesses and flaws in your story that you as the author gloss over. If you follow their advice, you will end up taking your novel from something good to something superb. I also advise finding fresh eyes to critique your query letters.

2. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Especially when you’re sending out your query letters. The first time I queried agents, I sent out all of my letters at once. This ended badly for me. Although you may be excited about your pitch and impatient to hear back, try your hardest to space out your queries. Send five at a time and wait for responses before you exhaust your list of agents. If you get all negative responses, rewrite your query with outside help. I will tell you, firsthand, that this is hard. It takes self-control. But in the end, it will pay off.

3. Keep writing. It’s easy, when you’re querying, to get sucked into keeping track of statistics, researching agents and obsessively refreshing of your inbox. While these things are good in moderation, they can also take away from your ultimate goal: writing. The best way to distract yourself from the agony of waiting is to keep writing. This is also a good backup plan in the event that your first manuscript doesn’t get picked up by an agent. If your first manuscript does find an agent to love and care for it, then you’ll also be able to show them what else you’re working on (and therefore earn brownie points).

4. Take risks. One of my writing professors in college had a favorite piece of advice he would ram into us over and over again: write what you know. I did not follow this advice. First of all, I wrote stories that, in all likelihood, could not happen. They are tinged (and many times fully submerged) in the fantastical. During school I was forced to write “literary” stories that took place in the real world. I always had trouble with these stories because I didn’t find them exciting or driving.

In no way did I feel qualified to write the story of LUMINANCE HOUR. The plot focuses on Faery Godmothers and British royalty, so much of it takes place in the Buckingham Palace and other sites in London. Although I’d been to London and even toured Buckingham Palace, I still felt wildly out of my comfort zone. I had to put aside my fears and write the story anyway. I had no idea it would turn out. I was taking a big risk.

As a result I got my agent and my publisher. Don’t write what you know. Write what you love.

5. Don’t forget your first love (writing). My husband will be the first to tell you that I shed a lot of tears on my journey to find an agent and get my publisher. It was hard. Really hard. I watched other writers pick up agents in mere days and weeks, while my queries seemed to produce only rejections. When the requests did come in, my hopes would only be crushed by the agent’s kind, but firm pass. Throughout the discouragement, I remembered something yet another writing professor told me in college: “Don’t write for the end goal of publication. Write for the writing itself.”

If my only concern had been getting published, I probably would have given up a long time ago. I didn’t give up because I honestly couldn’t. I was unable stop writing.

The day I graduated, my professor let me part with these words, “Don’t give up. Don’t get a big head. Keep writing.” This motto, along with a healthy dose of luck, is one of the reasons I’m where I’m at today. And it’s something I cannot afford to forget.

When she’s not writing and drifting around the globe, Ryan Graudin enjoys hunting through thrift stores and taking pictures of her native Charleston, SC. Her novel LUMINANCE HOUR, the story of a Faery Godmother who falls in love with the prince she’s forced to guard, is due out with HarperTeen in 2013. You can learn about all of these things and more at http://ryangraudin.blogspot.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @ryangraudin


  1. Ryan, your advice is so helpful and timely because I hope to start querying for the first time next year. Gulp. I'll definitely follow your advice to send the query in batches of 5 and to keep writing.

    Your book sounds fantastic. Casey and I may have to fight about who reads it first. Ha! Good luck.

  2. I'm ready to start querying too, Natalie. Let's hold hands and jump in together! Thanks for sharing, Ryan.

  3. Great advice, Ryan. And having support from CP's/other writing buddies is helpful. I think that I'd be a wreck if they weren't around. lol

  4. Great advice, Ryan. Congrats on landing an agent and selling your novel! YAY. =D

  5. Great advice, Ryan. And your book sounds awesome! Just my type of read. :)

  6. Another helpful post, Casey! I don't always comment but I often read and I'm just thinking now, she should know how much I get out of her blog.
    And thank you to Ryan today for the insight.

  7. ...and Natalie! Didn't mean to leave you out ;). I love this blog.

  8. Thank you for such sound, practical and helpful advice! Great post! Good luck with the publication of your book, Ryan and all the best! Take care

  9. This is a great post. Thanks for sharing. I love hearing others' experiences in getting published. It's easy to get discouraged, but to know everyone goes through the heartache makes it easier to swollow.

  10. Thanks Ryan..for your wonderful advice. As I am in the query stage its absolutely suitable for me. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  11. Everything about this Ryan sounds awesome. From her boy name (I have a boy name too:) to her cute picture to her fabulous story of perseverance and heart. I wish you all the best Ryan!

  12. Great tips, especially since I'm hoping to begin querying at the beginning of the new year.

  13. What wonderful and inspiring advice. Brilliant read.

  14. Thanks for your kind comments, everyone! Literary Rambles was a huge help for me in the process of finding an agent... It was an honor to be able to share some of what I've learned with you all!!

  15. You offer great words of encouragement. Coming from the lips of experience, they bear a lot of weight. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and advice here, Ryan.

  16. Awesome advice! Loved this quote:

    “Don’t write for the end goal of publication. Write for the writing itself.”

  17. I, too, loved the write for writing itself idea. Too often we lose sight of this when we are trying to write towards publication! Thanks for the great tips, Ryan!

  18. This book sounds great. Thanks for sharing you story, Ryan!

  19. Great advice and can't wait for the book!!

  20. So many great tips. I completely know about need patience--as I too, sent out many queries, when I needed a better query-(it was a synopsis) Ugh. Now streamlined..I am taking it slow again with about five a day.

    Write, read and write. I love and live in the world of ideas--it's where I want to stay. But I have an extrovert side for balance. Thanks Ryan. I',m keeping these words-and your professors-close to heart.

    Write what you Love and everybody grows.

  21. I love this blog. It's so focused and down-to-earth. Thank you!