Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Search for an Agent-Part 2

Was I ready to give up? Hell no. I had a whole list of agents waiting for something special, and damn it, with Ghost Notes, I had something special.

In September of 2006 I sent query letters and other related items to 25 agents, names I’d culled from writersmarket.com, agentquery.com, and other places. I felt pretty confident that I’d get some requests to see the manuscript. With Stuck, I’d sent a total of 25 queries, and I’d gotten four requests to see at least part of it.

As September pressed on, it became apparent that I was in a different publishing world than the one I’d entered four years previous. Of those 25 agents, I received exactly one request to see part of the manuscript, and that came only after some pretty serious cajoling by me. The agent kept the partial for a week or so, but ultimately passed.

In October I got even more serious. I sent out query letter after query letter, 42 in all. I received many nice notes in response, but exactly zero requests to see the manuscript. 42 queries, zero requests.

At that point, it was time to figure out what I was doing wrong. I’d sent to a total of 70 agents, and I had almost no positive responses. I began doubting my query letter—as I’ve explained in previous blogs, if your query letter is no good, no one will ever see your manuscript—and I started to rewrite it. I also took some of Agent B’s comments to heart and went back into Ghost Notes. Once there, I found much I could do to make it better, so I went back to the grindstone, rewriting and editing Ghost Notes, trying to make sure that the next agent to see it would be blown away by what he read. This rewriting and revision took about two months, and in the end I had a new, catchy query letter and a manuscript I was even more proud of.

On January 3, 2007, I sent out queries to another 41 agents. These were my last hopes. If it was going to happen with Ghost Notes, it was going to happen in this batch.

And, finally, something went right.

I got one request for the whole manuscript within a matter of minutes, I got another in a week, and I got a couple more over the next month or so. In other words, I had four requests to see the thing, four very real possibilities of landing an agent. I guess that new query worked. You can read it here.

And they weren’t casual requests, either. The agents were excited. Some were familiar with the Refreshments. Others wanted to know if any other agents were looking at the manuscript. I felt, after six months of querying, I was finally getting somewhere. I just had to sit back, wait, and let the process run its course.

Next week, what did Tom Petty say about the waiting?

Art

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Search for an Agent-Part 1

So there I was, in August of 2006, with a finished manuscript on my hands. It was my second novel, and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think it was the cat’s pajamas. I’d been working daily on the novel form for almost ten years--whether I was in the band or working a day job or hardly working at all--and I felt that, with Ghost Notes, I’d climbed the mountain.

Of course, I loved and still love Stuck Outside of Phoenix, but first novels are inherently as much about learning to write a novel as they are about the novel itself. Moreover, I had my eye on Ghost Notes as I was writing Stuck. I knew I had something bigger and better coming down the pipe, and writing Stuck was simply the first step to getting it here.

Ghost Notes came much quicker than Stuck. The narrative arc was essentially done after the first draft, and the characters were more fully formed from the onset. The revisions were tough, but revisions are always tough. It took six and a half years of mostly daily writing to finish Stuck. I finished Ghost Notes in three and a half.

Then came the tricky part, getting Ghost Notes published.

I started with three agents. (In modern trade fiction, agents are the gatekeepers to the publishing world. To get your novel published traditionally, fiction writers either have to get an agent or they have to know somebody. I don’t know anybody.) We’ll call these three agents Agents A, B, and C.

Agent C was an agent who’d read Stuck back in the day and commented favorably on it, but in the end she didn’t take the book on.

Agent B was a colleague of a respected writer friend of mine.

Agent A was my dream agent, one who’d read and commented very favorably on Stuck, and who’d offered to read my next manuscript as soon as it was done. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I wrote Ghost Notes with Agent A in mind.

On August 14, 2006, I sent out query letters to all three agents, as directed by their submissions guidelines.

I was thrilled to get a request for the whole manuscript--which was then called Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven--from Agent B, the friend of a friend. This agent read the ms almost immediately and responded at length about it, which is a very cool thing. (Almost all responses from agents are form letters.) She liked much of the book, but in the end she suggested I rewrite it and focus more on a supporting character she liked very much. While I also liked the supporting character--as the sequel to Ghost Notes will attest--I wasn’t ready to dismantle three years of work because of the comments of one agent. I thanked her and moved on.

Two weeks later, I received a personal response from Agent A, dream agent. This agent reiterated his appreciation of Stuck, but he said there was no way, in the current fiction market, he could take on any rock fiction, as it would be “next to impossible” to sell. This agent said he wanted to make sure I didn’t think his rejection was a reflection of my writing, which he remembered liking, but rather a reflection of my book’s subject matter.

While I appreciated the compliment, I was disappointed by the idea that my book would be next to impossible to sell. Of course I knew, High Fidelity aside, novels with rock ‘n’ roll backdrops weren’t thought of as best seller material, but I’d done my job well enough, and I’d hoped to get Agent A to read the ms and decide for himself. I wrote a follow-up email, clarifying some of the non-rock ‘n’ roll elements of the book, but to no avail.

So I was three weeks into my search, I’d queried three prime agents, and I had no takers. Still, I wasn’t panicking. I had a year to dedicate to this pursuit, and there were hundreds of agents out there who represented novels. I’d find someone.

“And what about Agent C?” you ask.

I still haven’t heard from her. If you see her, tell her to check her inbox.

Next week, the search continues.

Art

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Portland, Portland, Portland!

City of Roses, here I come!

It’s been far, far too long since my last show in Portland, so I’m making an effort to get back up there to have some pizza and play some music.

Mark it on your calendar. Saturday, September 1, Labor Day weekend, at the very cool Mississippi Pizza Pub in the Alberta district.

Dinner with Bud.

I’ll be playing a set of music solo acoustic starting at 7 PM. You’ll hear some of the tunes from my forthcoming solo record, as well as a Refreshments classic or two, as well as a cover song or two, as well as the requisite witty banter in between (thrown in for free).

There will be an as-yet-undecided opener at 6 PM. If you feel you have what it takes to open for me in Portland, shoot me an email telling me about your act. The club is very eclectic--musicians, artists, authors, you name it--so run your idea by me. You need to be able to perform for about 45 minutes, and you need to be well-rehearsed. Come on, man. What do you have to lose?

The rest of the details for the show are still being hashed out, but you can count on a set of music solo acoustic by me at the Mississippi Pizza Pub on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 7 PM.

And you can count on me eating some pizza.

Everyone on board? Cool!

Also, as we approach the night of the show, I will divulge the process I’ve been going through trying to find a publisher for my second novel, Ghost Notes. It’s been a fascinating fourteen-month trip--whether you have an interest in the publishing industry or not--and I hope you’ll check back weekly to take in the segments.

Then, sometime in August, I’ll clarify my plans for 2008, plans that involve Ghost Notes, the solo album, and oh so much more. This is it, baby. Get ready.

Next week, tune in for the latest on Ghost Notes.

Art

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More on the Laying Down the Law Show!

Here's a touching blog by a friend of mine on his experiences in Chicago this past weekend. Enjoy!

Layin' Down the Blog

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Day After

Um, wow.

This gig would not have happened without the Herculean efforts of Randy Anderson of Buck Daddy, who not only secured the gig, but promoted it, got players for both the Buck Daddy and the Refreshments material, wrote and recorded almost an entire album of Buck Daddy originals, scheduled rehearsals, had posters made, put up with a few primadonna moments from me (yes, it’s Art “Buddy” Edwards) and performed his first ever gig as a frontman. Could you tell? I couldn’t. That explains why he didn’t allow himself any caffeine until after the Buck Daddy set. Running on adrenaline. Whatever you’re doing, Randy, keep doing it, and send me some in the mail.

And if Randy has his way, we’ll do this whole thing again next year. He won’t get any argument from me.

But I’m not ready to start talking 2008 yet.

I’m hoping to take my acoustic act on the road in 2007, securing dates for the second half of the year. I’ve got two cities already on the radar. If anyone out there would like to have me in your town, and you think together we can get others to turn out, run your idea by me. It might not be as impossible as you think.

I’d also like to thank the fellas who laid down the law during the Refreshments set, Randy, Danny, Bobby, and Todd. They showed up big time, helping to send some Refreshments fans back to their happy place. (Jim Gerke may be permanently stuck there.) A potent shot of rock. Everyone who came for that, got it.

I’d also like to thank the guy in River Oaks who loaned me his pristine Fender P-Bass, and whom I never met. Sir, the ax is fab. My thanks is perhaps late, but no less sincere.

I’d also like to thank Sue Potter, who manned the merch fort with patience and aplomb.

So, what did I think of the night?

If you were there, you know what I thought, or at least how I felt. I had fun, I screwed up, I laughed it off, and I had fun again. I got amped, got tired, then I completely ran out of breath singing, “Come on River Otis make me.” Playing Refreshments music can take your breath away. I knew that going in.

So, thank you, Chicago. We’ll see you again in 2008.

Tune in next week for the announcement of my next gig. Maybe it's in your city.

Art

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Naffah

Hey, six days until the Chicago Martyrs’ gig on Saturday, June 9th, for which tickets are now on sale at (800) 594-TIXX! Who’s ready?

Thanks so much for all of the ideas for the blog. In an effort to keep things positive, I’m going to write about P.H. coming into the band. A person so vital to our success deserves a blog all to himself.

In June of 1996, the band, deep into talks with Mercury Records, was without a drummer and a practice room. (By the way, places to rehearse are vastly underrated as reasons for/impediments to a band’s progress.) For a month or two, we'd been bouncing from rehearsal room to rehearsal room, drummer to drummer. Gibson’s on Mill let us crash their stage for the occasional practice. We played a few gigs with a pick-up drummer. The Blossom let us into their practice room, and for fun we jammed with Phillip Rhodes, a favorite drummer of ours. We knew our future as a band rested on getting the right person, and we weren’t likely to settle until we found him. As the bass player, I was more than a little concerned.

P.H. was the obvious match. We’d been trying to get him in for a try-out ever since we’d heard his previous band, Rain Convention, a staple of the Tempe music scene, had disbanded. Eventually, he gave in to our cajoling and showed up at Gibson’s one afternoon ready to play.

There was only one problem: P.H.’s drum kit had no ride cymbal.

I pointed it out to him while he set up. “Hey,” I said. “Where’s your ride?”

“Don’t use one,” he said.

I was flummoxed. To me, a ride cymbal was as essential to rock music as a snare drum. How on earth did this guy think he could pull this off without a ride cymbal?

I ignored my incredulity, and we got going. At P.H.’s suggestion, we started with “European Swallow.” Roger kicked in the intro, and the band came in.

Wow.

Believe it or not, before that practice we'd been concerned how P.H. would take to the material. Rain Convention was a fantastic band, but it was a jam pop band, in the tradition of the Samples, and in my limited experience of hearing P.H. play I’d never heard him go all-out on a rock groove.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a problem.

P.H. attacked “Swallow” with his kick and snare, grooving along with us, taking the song by the throat and leaving the rest of us to catch up. During the chorus, where we were used to the ride cymbal clamoring away, P.H. cleverly went to the bell of his crash cymbal, replicating the sound of a ride. I barely noticed the difference. After 30 seconds of “Swallow,” we knew we had our guy. He could’ve been playing trashcan lids and we would’ve asked him aboard.

P.H. became the one to turn to for an easy, direct, and—after he said it—obvious answer. Whenever the rest of us were freaking out, P.H. could silence the anxiety with a word or two, get us back to where we belonged, make us ready to rock. There would be many opportunities for freaking out in the coming months and years. We needed him.

And, yes, he eventually got a ride cymbal.

For those of you coming to the show, don’t forget to get there early—8:30—for my acoustic set. We’re all geared up to lay down the law. I hope you’ll be there.

Art