Nathan Bransford is known far and wide among writers that frequent the blogosphere and his efforts to help and educate writers is no secret, but J. J. DeBenedictis, author of the OxyJen blog offers up a unique perspective on Mr. Bransford's kindness.
I had a novel. It was polished and awesome, and I thought it good enough to publish. I started to query it.
I did this properly: I crafted a strong query letter. I always sent five sample pages. I personalized my letters to the agents, and I sent out small batches at a time.
After twenty-five rejections with only one small nibble, I was really wondering what was wrong. I didn't believe it was the book, and I didn't think it was my query letter.
Nathan Bransford, literary agent, had said on his blog that if he rejected you, and you emailed back to give him permission to critique your query on his blog, he might do so.
One of my rejections was from Mr. Bransford, so I gave it a shot. He emailed back to say he wanted to take me up on the offer. His blog post went up that same week.
Reading the critique was excruciating--not because Mr. Bransford was anything but kind, and not just because it was public--but because I got exactly what I asked for. He told me what was wrong.
Heaven help me, it was the book. Blaming my query letter would have been soooo much easier on my ego, but it was the sample pages that were turning agents off.
Mr. Bransford pointed out my opening was simply confusing. I had started in media res (because I'd heard that was a great way to get the reader right into the action), and Mr. Bransford's advice boiled down to: "Back up, and slooooow down."
My ego crawled under the bed and wailed for a few days, while the horrified and embarrassed remainder of my psyche politely thanked Mr. Bransford and his readers for their comments.
After I recovered, I re-outlined and re-wrote my first scene.
And sent out five more query letters.
And, from one of them, got a request for a full and eventually an agent.
Mr. Bransford is not that agent. He will not make any money from helping me. His critique was a pure donation of his time and expertise, but it got me over the last hurdle. If he hadn't helped me see into my own blind spot, it might have killed my chances of finding representation for that novel.
And he did it just to be nice!
Thank you, Nathan Bransford. I greatly appreciate you and your generosity.
Having had the extreme good fortune to have won Nathan's latest contest I just recently received a very detailed critique of my first three chapters. He took a lot of time to really explain his take and I can only hope his advice will open the kind of doors for that it did for J.J.