queries

Why You Shouldn't Query Your NaNoWriMo Novel

There are basically two reasons you should keep that novel to yourself for the next few months. Listen to Kelsey. She has learned pretty much everything the hard way and she wants to help you. She is now done with the annoying third person narrative. Wait, now I'm done. Okay. Onward.

1. It isn't ready.

It doesn't matter if you write really clean first drafts (if there is such a thing). It doesn't matter if you feel really good about it. Your novel is not ready for agent eyes. I don't want to metaphorically slap you across the face or step on your dreams. Honestly, I speak from experience. With my first couple of books, I was so excited that I didn't do near enough revising. And when the rejections came pouring in, I realized I could have saved myself the effort and heartache - not to mention the agent's time - if I had just done the work.

2. This is a busy time.

There are going to be tons and tons of people who don't wait. They're just not as smart as you. So around the beginning of December agents will see an influx of queries in their inbox. The wait will be longer. More eating of chocolate and biting of nails. Enough said. Right?

Get editing, you wonderful writers! I believe in you.

Guest Post by Mindy McGinnis: Quality Time in the Query Quagmire

Today I have the fabulous Mindy McGinnis stopping by the blog. Mindy is a YA writer, repped by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services. She also serves as a moderator at Agent Query Connect. This lady knows what she's talking about! Thanks for being here, Mindy!

So the query process kinda sucks, right?

I’d have to say, yes. And I mean say it in the same tone you use to sound your barbaric YAWP. There are plenty of overnight success stories out there, but the majority of us don’t fall into that category. Some of us even fall farther to the left of that category. And then there’s me. I’m somewhere past the guy with the big stick on the evolutionary scale of query process.

At least I was ten years ago. I’m agented now so I can laugh at Mindy-That-Was and her decade of failure, but it’s the kind of laugh that makes your trachea bleed.

Mindy-That-Was made very basic mistakes. Mistakes that Mindy-That-Is wants you to avoid. Namely – don’t assume that you are so God Awfully Talented that you don’t need to do your research.

Yes, research sucks. Yes, it’s time consuming. Yes, it’s not what you had in mind when you decided to be a writer. But it’s what you need to do if you want to become one.

If you want to land an agent you need to know if they rep your genre, (hint – first know what your genre is), if they’re open to queries, and what to send to them.

Some agents want your query. Some want your query and sample pages. Some want your query, sample pages and a (DAMMIT) synopsis. (Hint – don’t do what Mindy-That-Was did and try to slide the query and sample pages past them without including a synopsis. You’ll get an email back asking for that synopsis, then you’ll write one like mad and send it off. And uh, it’ll suck.)

Do your research my friends. There are plenty of resources out there to help you find the answers, and you don’t have to buy a copy of Writer’s Market like Mindy-That-Was did. They’re free, and they’re online. In fact, you can go there right now.

Sites like AgentQuery Connect and QueryTracker were both instrumental to my success. AQC (where I also serve as a site moderator under the screenname bigblackcat97) is a resource and forum. We’re a welcoming community, so stop by. QueryTracker will track your hits and misses for free, but I highly advise dropping the cash for the one-year membership. It’s worth a hell of a lot more than they charge for it.

Also be sure to hit up the websites of agents, or their agencies. Individual submission preferences are usually listed there, along with specific info about what the agent is currently looking for. Agent blogs are a must. Does someone sounds like a good fit just because they rep your genre? Or because you read their blog and now you think you’re probably related? (Hint – don’t actually say that in a query. It makes you sound creepy).

There’s a multitude of resources out there to get that query in shape and into the hands of the right people.

What isn’t there? An excuse.

Want more from Mindy? She can be found on her blog or on Twitter.

Three Things You Need for the Submission/Query Process

1. A distraction.

Oh, this one should be all three. I could end the post here. Because a distraction is really the path to sanity. My first instinct after that all-important e-mail has been sent is to go back to the computer and check my inbox every four seconds. Which, okay, I pretty much do no matter what else I set about doing. But I try to focus on other tasks or projects. Piano, cleaning, exercising (I always seem to gain a few pounds duing the writing process), another project (though I really try to avoid the computer for a while). We should make a bumper out of this, guys. Distraction: the path to sanity.

2. Comfort food.

This may contradict the whole exercising distraction, but seriously. When that butterfly sensation explodes inside of you and you become consumed with what ifs, it's nice to reach for a bag of chips or a tiny piece of chocolate. Okay, a chunk. Fine, a bar. Okay, a freaking box of chocolate. There's a reason I have a gym membership. It's an investment.

3. An ear.

No, not just a random ear like in a horror movie or something. But don't you just love that imagery? Anyway, I mean a friend. Someone who will listen to you rant and fret without losing their patience. (Thank you, Bambi and Tiger!) It might be just me, but I'm an out-loud worrier. I need someone who'll turn that ear towards me and let me go on and on like an unstoppable freight train. Wait. Wait just a second. Someone in my office has been conveniently gone every time I stop by. You don't think... No. She's just busy. She loves listening to my problems.

These three things should keep us from becoming hunched-over monsters with foaming mouths. Well, it's too late for me when it comes to the hunchback... Good luck with your own waiting!

Form Rejections

I know that some people hate form rejections, loathe their quick formality. They all run along the same vein: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to consider your work. Unfortunately... Whenever you see those words, it's like someone knocked the air out of you. The hope dies just a little.

Now here's the kicker: I like form rejections. Wait, wait. Before you go thinking I'm a freak or a glutton for punishment, let me explain. I like form rejections because they don't leave you hanging. Some agents - more and more, actually - don't respond at all if they aren't interested in your work. I think that we, as writers, should be grateful that an agent took the time to notify us of their choice to pass. They took the ten seconds out of their busy day so we're not sitting around wondering, waiting. Sure, they're not personalized. Form rejections are honest, and, yes, they hurt. But I think it hurts more watching the days go by without any response at all.

When an agent passes we have so many questions: Why? What was wrong with it? What can I do to make it better? It's hard not to bother them after that experience. But we have to try and look at it from their point of view: personalizing a form rejection is encouragement. For anything, really. An argument, a plea to revise and resubmit. So I understand, and I'm grateful. Plus - and maybe this is just me - the hurt aspect of getting a form rejection starts to fade after you get so many. So there's something to look forward to!

What are your views on form rejections?

Some Simple Query Don'ts

Okay, so. How does one write a great query letter? Oh, what a loaded question. Because, honestly, I don't think there is a right or wrong way. Despite the basic rules, there have been instances where agents made exceptions or overlooked the breaking of these rules because the story sounded so interesting. So that's the key. Make it interesting. (Here's an example where an agent made one such exception.)

I'm going to keep this post simple. There are already so many resources out there for you guys when it comes to writing a query, and I'm probably parroting it all. But here are some things to avoid to keep your query from, frankly, being a yawn fest.

Don't info-dump.

Example: Wisconsin is a state where nothing out of the ordinary happens and people are expected to cheer for the Packers. No one believes in magic and no one believes in anything beyond this world. Anyone who does is automatically an outsider. (And so on and so forth.)

Don't over-explain your plot.

Hannah lost her father when she was six. She and her family have always believed it to be a car accident. After all, there was a car wreck and a body on the road. But then Hannah gets a strange visit from a girl she's never met before and she begins to doubt what shouldn't have to be questioned. The girl tells Hannah that... (Basically, keep it simple. This could be direct and clear if it was just, Hannah has always believed her father died in a car accident. After meeting a girl who knows too much about her life, she begins to doubt this. Rough example, I realize, but it gets the point across, right?)

Don't claim your book is the next Twilight.

Can't stress this one enough. I'm annoyed when I read things like this on Query Shark or anywhere else. Agents aren't looking for the next Twilight - it's already been done. They're looking for something new! If you have a great query and you're professional, they'll ask for more.

I think those are the big ones. I could have summed it up in one sentence, really: Show, don't tell. But I thought I would make one of the lists I'm always talking about. I'm not the sole authority on this, of course, but if someone has a question, I'll do my best to answer!

My Query

It occured to me that although you know I'm on submission, none of you know what my book is actually about. So for the first time, I present the query I sent to Beth that eventually led to representation. I'm not actually sure my query is all that wonderful. The fact Beth requested to see more could be due to the fact that she'd already seen my writing. I might have to ask her one of these days. Anyway. Read on.

Dear Beth,

I am seeking representation for SOME QUIET PLACE, a young adult urban fantasy. The novel is complete at 77,000 words. You requested another manuscript of mine at one time, a young adult suspense entitled BECAUSE, and you were open to seeing more of my work.

The very definition of humanity is the quality to be humane. Ironic, since Elizabeth Caldwell appears every bit human, yet sorely lacks in the latter. As a small child she somehow lost the ability to feel any emotion. While her best friend slowly dies of cancer and her father comes home in drunken rages, Elizabeth searches for the truth.

Among her other abnormalities, Elizabeth has the ability to see the unseen. Faeries are emotions personified. They’ve all stopped seeking her out, save one: beautiful, stubborn, adoring Fear. Fear wants the truth just as much as she does. There’s a stranger in town that might know something.

It soon becomes evident, however, that there’s something more pressing out there besides the mysterious stranger and the haziness of Elizabeth’s history. Creatures are fleeing Edson in terror, and people have begun to discern that something is amiss with Elizabeth. Will she have enough time to put the pieces together? What’s coming for her? And is finding out the truth really the key to survival? Secrets are buried for a reason…

A piece of mine was selected as Best Personal Essay for the Anoka-Ramsey Annual Writing Contest, and I’ve been a part of a writing critique group for over three years. I can be reached at 000-000-0000, and my e-mail address is kelseyjsutton@gmail.com. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

Kelsey

The Questions I Asked

As I was trying to think of a topic to blog about on this chilly Thursday, I thought back to before I signed with Beth. What did I not know then that I know now? The truth is, signing with an agent doesn't suddenly make you wise, or all-knowing. Although during the whole process in finding Beth I did inhale every article I could find about querying, what agents look for, what the step-by-step is like. I'm pretty sure I've already done posts on these, haven't I? To be sure, I looked back over my archives. I stumbled upon my post on The Call...

...and realized that I never actually gave you guys my list of questions. You know, the questions I bombarded Beth with during the conversation? Granted, you can find this list on a ton of other sites on the 'net, but this will be just another resource for someone to stumble upon when they're ready to query. These aren't all the questions I asked, because I can't find the exact list, but I think these are the top ten. Please not that these are in no particular order!

1. If this manuscript doesn't sell, what will be the next step?
2. What is your percentage?
3. Will you show me the list of submissions, and how often will you send me an update?
4. What rights do you handle?
5. Do you consider yourself an editorial agent?
6. Will I work with a publicist?
7. What would happen if you were to leave the agency or no longer able to represent me?
8. What would you consider a good agent-client relationship?
9. May I contact some of your clients for references?
10. Do you have any questions for me?

My list is kind of sad in comparison to these great resources. So if you're expecting that call someday soon, or even in the distant future, check these pros out.

Agent Rachelle Gardner on Rants & Ramblings: What to Ask an Agent
Casey McCormick on Literary Rambles: The Call
Writer's Relief: Nine Questions to Ask a Literary Agent 

Are You Ready to Query?

I'll admit that I jumped into the query pool far before I was ready. I was 15, very impatient, and very excited. I'd finished a draft and I had illusions of getting dozens of offers and being published in a matter of weeks. (This was before I learned to keep a firm grip on reality when it comes to those daydreams.) It wasn't my query that was the problem; it was the writing. If I'd done more research and worked on my book more, I could've saved myself a lot of time and heartache. Not to mention the agents' time.

Have you finished writing a book?

First step to getting ready. I've heard of some writers querying an agent with a half-finished manuscript. Not only are agents looking for great concepts and great writing, they're also looking for a completed project. No one wants to look at a half-done painting, right? 

Has someone else read your work?

I've blogged before on how important outside feedback is. Can't stress it enough. We're so biased about our own work that it's impossible to look at the draft with fresh, critical eyes. That's where other readers come in. It can't be your mom, or your cousin, or your best friend, because more often than not they're going to be too nice about offering their opinion. Trust me, the first draft of your novel is not ready. I made the mistake of sending off my first draft, and agent interest turned into rejections.

Have you done your research?

Every agent has different submission guidelines and genre interests. It's time consuming to browse through agency websites and reading about these agents, but it's better for everyone involved when those guidelines are followed. That way, the agent isn't irritated, time isn't wasted, and you're sending your work to someone who's really interested.

And then, of course, there's the actual query letter to be written. But that's another post for another day. If you answered all of these yes, then you're ready to start to process. Too bad I didn't ask myself these questions as that over-eager 15-year-old. Are any of you guilty of querying too early?

The Waiting Game

When it comes to being patient, I'm not so great. When something's on my mind, it tends to stay there no matter what I do. But being a writer is all about waiting, unfortunately, so there's really no other option but to get used to it. I've come up with a few methods that distract me fairly well.

1. Write something else.

This is number one because it's so important. Maybe this project you're submitting or querying isn't going to work out. If you eventually decide that this project should be put on the back burner for a while, you'll need something else to put out there. Not to mention the fact that practice makes perfect. Even if you've written what you think is the most amazing novel to ever be written, you'll keep getting better the more your write.

2. Clean.

Do all those things you put off while you were writing The Book. Ugh. I know that after I finished mine, I turned around to face a mountain of laundry, a lonely little dog, work, and so much else. So rather than plunging head-first into a shiny new idea, I forced myself to tie up some ends that had loosened in my absence.

3. Develop your online presence.

Start a blog. Twitter. Facebook. Anything just to meet other writers out there and learn about the world of reading, publishing, writing. I met all of my betas online. Yours could be waiting. Also, it doesn't hurt to build a bit of a platform for that wonderful day when you can announce your book will be in stores, go buy it!

4. Hone another skill.

I've always wanted to learn piano. So, one day, I opened the phone book and found a teacher. I was the oldest student by far, but it turns out I have a knack for it (if I don't say so myself.) Of course, now those lessons have gone on hold since life took over, but I will begin again, soon. I hope. No, I will. Is there something you've always wanted to learn or do? No time like during the lull of a book on submission or a query in an agent's inbox.

5. Just relax!

I wouldn't recommend relaxing too long, but hey, we've earned it, right? We sat down and spat out 50,000+ amazing words. We created this incredible thing. Why not sit back for a day or two and watch reruns of Friends?

Like I said, these are only distractions. But we all need our distractions at one time or another.

Have a great week, everyone!

Guest Post by Agent Beth Miller: On Queries

Today for the first time on my blog, I'm excited to introduce you to a fabulous agent at Writers House, Beth Miller.

Some background on Beth: I have a long-standing fascination with the sea, and went to college with the intention of studying marine biology. About halfway through, I switched to general biology, and graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Southampton College of Long Island University. Not knowing what to do after I graduated, I entered a teaching certification program, where I quickly discovered that I had absolutely no desire to teach. I gave that up and worked in a bookstore for awhile before landing a job at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as a DNA Sequencing Technician. That position lasted for 7 years, during which time I went back to school, earning my M.A. in Literature from Queens College, CUNY, in December 2006. I began working as an assistant at a literary agency in February 2007. I absolutely love it here, so much so that the 7 years at the lab are barely even a memory.

Take it away, Beth!
 So you’ve written a novel. Congratulations- it’s a fabulous accomplishment!

Now what?

The Dreaded Query Letter…

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so what should you do (or not do!) to grab the attention (in a good way) of the agent you’re querying?

Do your research!

There are several ways to research the best agents for your book. My favorite: go to the bookstore (also known as the Mother Ship), and flip through the latest novels in your genre. Most of them will have an acknowledgments page, and in many cases, you can find the names of the author’s agent on this page. Then go to the internet. Research that agent/agency. What are they looking for? How do you submit to them?

You can also skip the bookstore and go straight to the internet (which may be a good idea if you’re like me and drop a paycheck in the bookstore every time you walk through the door). Try www.agentquery.com and do a search by genre or keyword. Or try www.absolutewrite.com and visit the forums there. You can find discussions on nearly every agency out there.

Don’t forget the blogs! There are plenty of agents who are blogging these days, and you can learn a lot by seeing what they’re ranting about. Try Janet Reid, who also runs Query Shark, and check out whose blogs she links to. There’s a blog for BookEnds, LLC, The Rejectionist (who doesn’t always rant about publishing stuff, but she’s hilarious anyway), and plenty of others that will be a great help to you.

Ok, so you’ve found some agents to try. Now what do you do?

Snail Mail or Email?

In this wonderful age of the internet, many agents are accepting email queries. But some kick it old school and prefer snail mail. Or maybe you just like to send things through the mail. Either way, there is etiquette to follow!

Your query letter should have a paragraph or two about the story itself, including the genre and word count. If it would appeal to readers of a particular author, include that too. Then there should be a paragraph on you, which includes any publishing credits or relevant information. By “relevant,” I mean that if you’ve written a novel set in Medieval England, and you have a degree in medieval history, that’s relevant. If your novel is about the Amazon River dolphin, and you did your doctoral dissertation on them, this would be relevant (and way cool!). If you’ve written a novel set in Middle-earth, and you are a hobbit, that would be relevant information. It’s not relevant to tell me your grandmother loved it (we know she did) or that you are married with four beautiful children (it’s wonderful, but not relevant to your novel).

Can we talk about word counts? Most adult novels are around 100,000 words. This is about 400 pages-ish. Books for kids vary greatly—some can be that long if they’re for older teens, but many YA novels are probably between 60,000 and 80,000 words. Books for younger readers are usually shorter than that. If you’re writing epic fantasy or a sweeping historical saga, you may be able to go for 125,000-150,000 or so. Any more than that, and you are probably too high. Bear this in mind if your novel is 267,000 words. This is pretty much never okay. There is some leeway with all of these, but not a huge amount.

Snail Mail

The easiest way to discuss query letters is to talk about the “don’ts,” any of which may get your carefully-written and mailed letter tossed aside with a guffaw.

Don’t include glitter, sequins, bread crumbs, or anthrax in your query letter. If I open the envelope and stuff falls out all over me, I will put you in the “reject” pile even before I finish brushing myself off and cursing in Elvish.

Don’t include food. Just as you are unlikely to eat something sent to you by a stranger, we’re even more unlikely to do so. We appreciate the thought behind the brownies, chocolate chip cookies, fudge, and meat pies, but unfortunately, we’re going to toss them unopened. Booze, on the other hand… no, wait, we don’t want booze either. Really.

Don’t include photos of- well, anything. If you’ve written a YA novel, there’s no need to include a head shot. We’re not a modeling agency or a talent scout. You can look like Halle Berry or Christian Bale, but it’s completely irrelevant to your query. Also, it’s great that you have wonderful kids/pets/art collections- we just want to read your query. Obviously, if you’re an illustrator, then yes, please feel free to include an art sample, but otherwise, please enjoy your photos at home.

Don’t forget the SASE (Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope)!

For those of you who may not know what this means, it’s an envelope addressed to yourself, with return postage. I didn’t know this many years ago, and people thought I was dumb. If you have included pages, please remember to include the proper size envelope and postage if you want your pages returned. If you don’t include a SASE, and your email address isn’t on your letter, we may not reply.

Email Queries

**Please remember that these are business letters. Remember that you are trying to make a favorable impression and get your pages read, not irritate the agent so that he or she deletes your query unread.**

Don’t put “Hi!” as your subject line. It should say something like “Query” followed by your title. Anything else is inappropriate. This isn’t a letter to a friend, and we’re not fooled by an email that says “Hi!” from someone we don’t know.

Don’t include an attachment in your initial query, unless instructed to do so. Most agents will not open unsolicited attachments. If you’re including pages or a synopsis, paste them into the body of the email. Also, please put your query letter in the body of the email—some people attach the query letter. This is not correct.

Don’t address your email to anything other than the agent’s name you are querying. We know you’re querying other agents, and you would be foolish not to. But at least take the time to address each email to a particular agent, including the “to” field. If I see more than one agent’s name there, or “undisclosed recipients,” I immediately delete it without reading.

Don’t use a query service. You wrote the book. You toiled over it, edited it, tore it apart, edited it, cried over it, and worked on it for weeks/months/years/decades. Why would you want someone else to write your query letter for you? You can easily find resources online that will give you guidelines for query letters. Examples of these are www.agentquery.com & Query Shark, but there are many others. The problem with the query services is that they all seem to follow the same general format, and it is immediately obvious that you used a query service.

Don’t require the recipient’s email to be verified for a reply. If I reply to your email, and I receive a bounce-back that asks me to click a link to verify that I am not a spammer, I will delete your email and not “verify” myself. If you’re worried about receiving spam, set up a dedicated email for querying with a free service like yahoo, gmail, or hotmail. You should do this anyway, so that when I reply to you, I’m replying to beth.miller@yahoo.com or bmiller@gmail.com, not ilikebunnies@yahoo.com. It just looks unprofessional.

Don’t query incessantly. If I rejected your project in June, I will reject it in mid-June, July, and December as well. We keep track of queries. Also, don’t query with a different project every other week. It gets to the point where I will delete your email on sight. And don’t try to be clever and send the same query every day using different email addresses or usernames. You will go to the crazy junk mail file.

Don’t forget to include the title of your project! You wrote it, own it! Be proud of it! And it makes my reply look nicer when I can say “Dear Beth, thank you for your query for I Like Bunnies…” rather than “Dear Beth, thank you for your query.”

Don’t give ultimatums. When you say “If you don’t reply in 10 days, I will come after you with the Sword of Truth I will assume you’re not interested,” I am pretty much guaranteed to delete your email.

Don’t be crazy! We all know that authors are artists, and there’s a little bit of crazy that goes along with that. This is not what I mean. I mean the crazy that has me afraid for my life after reading your query. I have to not only love your work, I have to want to work with you! This includes blogging and other internet-related stuff. If I like your work, I may Google you or go to your enclosed website. If you’re on a tirade about the publishing industry, I will think “hey, this person is crazy to talk about this stuff on her blog, and she may be crazy to work with as well,” and I will probably turn you down.

Ok, you’re sending pages! Is there something you should know about this?

Yes. If you’re including sample pages with your query, start with page 1! It’s the first pages that have to grab the reader’s attention. If the first pages aren’t good, they won’t read pages 110-142, even if you’ve said it’s your best writing! If you send me pages 110-142, I will assume that the first 109 pages are crap.

I’ve got your partial (or full) manuscript under consideration, and you’ve gotten feedback that indicates a re-write is in order. Please email me to withdraw the submission until it’s ready! This is okay! Sending an email with a revised document every other week is NOT okay!

Miscellaneous don’ts:

Please don’t smoke near where you keep your printer paper! Hey, we all have vices- I don’t judge. But you’d be stunned at how paper absorbs cigarette smoke, and when I open that envelope and catch a whiff of stale smoke, it’s likely I will not read your pages.

Please don’t feel the need to reply to a rejection letter or email. We appreciate the sentiment, but it just clogs up our inbox, and it’s really not necessary.

Please don’t ask us to recommend another agent/agency. If we wanted to, we would have done so.

Don’t forget to proofread your work!!

Some thoughts about the Dreaded Synopsis:

Everyone has different ideas about what this should look like, but basically a few pages that give the story arc is about right. Three pages at the most is probably sufficient, unless the agent specifies otherwise. Please don’t summarize every chapter of your novel. Main characters and story arc, including the end of the story. That’s it.

Remember, at the end of the day, we want to find the next Stephenie Meyer/Nora Roberts/James Patterson/J.K. Rowling. We want to read your work, and we want to love it!

I am happy to answer questions if you have them!

Thanks for stopping by, Beth. These are great tips and insights.

Is the Query Flailing?

First off, I just love that word - flailing - and second, no, I don't think that the query system is suffering. It's just getting a bit tougher. More and more people are deciding to write, which means more and more queries in an agent's inbox. The bad has to be weeded out, which, let's be honest, is most of it. I'm not being cruel; I've been querying since I was fifteen, and now that I look back I want to tell myself, "Stop, you delusional little girl. You're not ready."

While I was querying, I remember reading all these stories about authors finding their agents at conferences. I've honestly never had a chance to go to a conference, so I started to lose hope, thinking that this was becoming the only way to land an agent. I finally got smart and stopped looking at the success statistics for cold-querying. Simply because they're impossibly low, and I believe in exceptions. (You can ask my high school math teacher - he had a no-retake policy. Guess who talked him out of that?) A writer can easily be crushed or discouraged looking at those numbers. As long as you have something that's actually good and unique, you should only believe in being that exception.

People are getting signed from cold queries. I just read a blog post similar to mine about getting a full request and then getting the call. So it's happening out there. Believe that, if you find yourself doubting or despairing. I sincerely think that if you have skill as a writer, you're eventually going to get noticed. It just takes a lot of time, a little bit of luck, and perseverance.