Writer John Corey Whaley on Finding a Literary Agent and Getting Published


Goodgodbird_publication In October, John Corey Whaley submitted his book Good God Bird
to Agent Ken Wright through AgentInbox. The last three months have been an amazing ride. Over Thanksgiving, Corey incorporated some suggested edits from Ken, and in December the book went out to editors. Just a few days after the New Year, Corey got word from Ken that
Good God Bird had received its first offer. Over the next few months, Corey is going to share his exciting path to publication, right here, on this blog.  

Like many writers out there, I had almost given up hope that my novel would ever see a bookshelf other than the one in my own apartment. However, over the span of just about two and a half months, I have seen that it’s possible to go from being a completely unknown writer to a published author.


My story is a common one among writers: I wrote a book, I sent out query letters, I got rejection after rejection, and I sent more out.  Then, I got discouraged. I stopped sending out letters. I told friends and family that “maybe this just isn’t the right book” and “I guess I’ll just let that dream go.” Then a funny thing happened. A little over three years after typing the last sentence of my novel, I, on a whim, submitted a query letter and some sample chapters to AgentInbox (which I’d learned about through the WEbook’s newsletter).  A few days later, Ken Wright, from Writers House, asked to read my entire manuscript. He spent Sunday evening reading my novel and was on the phone with me Monday afternoon. Now, I had an agent.

And so, after some minor revisions and interest from several publishers, Simon & Schuster’s children’s imprint, Atheneum Books, has purchased the rights to my debut novel, a coming-of-age story for young adults. I am awestruck at the enthusiasm with which my novel has been met. I have also been forced to very quickly begin learning all there is to know about publishing a first novel, or any novel for that matter. So, I’m going to take you all along on this journey with me. As the next few months pass, I will be writing about my experiences with the publishing world and, hopefully, help prepare all of you, future novelists and writers, for the journey ahead. I will also be answering any and all questions you may have, so I encourage you to leave comments or follow me on Twitter (@corey_whaley).

Happy writing,
John Corey Whaley

Read more about Corey's path to publication or sign-up at WEbook today and get started on finishing your novel. Today's the day!

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  1. Congratulations Corey! I want to try and write a novel ... BUT, am finding myself intimidated, by having to come up with allll those words! AND to make sure they are all properly punctuated and spelled. I am a poet and have the honor of being published in WEbooks', first poetic anthology. But even the poetry I write, is considered "short" for poetry! lol I try to be as succinct as possible, without sacrificing clarity. That is going to be a handicap, for me, isn't it? And as you have probably noticed, punctuation is not my strong point either!

  2. Thanks. And, I would encourage you to try writing a novel whether you think you can or not. I found (and still find) it to be an awesome experience. You'll be surprised how attached you become to your characters-like they are part of your real life.
    Also, I think poetry is a good segue way into novel writing. I, too, write poetry-rather short poetry, I might add.
    Also, mechanics may be important, but it's the story that matters most. If you have one to tell-tell it.

  3. Dear Corey,
    Wow! That's amazing. I was really excited when I saw WEbook was beginning to connect people with agents. It's a great opportunity.
    Currently, I am working on a few novels of my own (the beginning of a book always seems so easy but I always get stuck in the middle). I wonder, how did you begin to write your book? Did you plan the whole thing out at first, or just start and go all the way to the beginning, or write scenes and then connect them together? Everyone seems to work differently. And did you ever get stuck?
    Again, wow! I'm very excited for you and for WEbook!

  4. Getting stuck is something that I think happens to all of us. As far as planning the novel out-I took several approaches. It was all sort of trial-and-error. I'd like to say that I worked out a great process, but as I continue to start new projects, some of my old techniques work and some don't.
    With Good God Bird, I initially jotted down some general ideas and just went right into writing the novel itself. After months of throwing things out and re-working major plot ideas, etc., I found myself stuck (mind you, I was also severely distracted by teaching middle school English).
    Then, one day, I dedicated myself to finishing it-nearly two years after starting it (with only 12 or so pages written)-and I worked on an outline to prompt my completion. I tried different techniques for this, but I found it best for me to know my ending first and work through the middle to get to it. I just recently found where I had written my novel's final paragraph several weeks before finishing the book itself.
    Here's hoping for success with your writing,
    Corey Whaley

  5. HELLO, John...it's great news that you have been picked up by agentinbox, and everything. I congratulate you on that success.
    I am curious however, because I looked for your webook profile and my search came up as "no member found."
    Pardon me, and please don't take offence, I'm not being rude, but it seems to me a bit odd for someone to just come in and use agentinthebox and yet have no profile and nothing here to show others the sincerity of your works.
    That, to me, is being like an 'outsider' not part of the webook community family' being able to make coup without being part of the activities of what webook is all about. We are a group of people, of diversity in age, race, and interests, who flock together and we hail everyone here whenever a 'success' is made; it is a joy to us all.
    If you are part of the webook community, and my search was a fluke then please direct me to your profile. I will be happy to review your works and take a look at your book, that is being heralded here; and God bless, thank you, sincerely, wayahowl

  6. Jerrian,
    I'm sorry for the confusion.
    Try searching for Corey_Whaley-this is my WEBook pen name.
    "John Corey Whaley" is my full name and the name that will appear on my published works.

  7. Also...because my novel is now it the editorial stage at Simon & Schuster, I am no longer able to have it shared on here.
    I will, however, post up new writings from time-to-time.
    Corey Whaley

  8. Corey, thank you, yes, I found your profile as you directed, and was glad to see it, and messaged you there, as well.
    I mentioned my own work which is in P2F right now, and which is the first in a series of 3 trilogies, Jeopardy MacNaill:The Chair of Release and Remembrance.
    Prior to when I started this i went through a 5 year writer's block, and it is an extremely awful thing to a writer to want to write but have no creative juices flowing, so when I finally became fluid again...one of the first things that came to me to write was this story, which i started July 11/12, and set in the story as August 11/13 and when 9/11 happened there was no doubt in my mind , due to the nature of the chair's ability this true-life tramatic event would need to be included in the story i was writing, but it took many months to get over the tip-toe on egg shell feeling i had of the touchy subject matter...i finished my first draft in Nov. 2005, and since then it had been in editing stage. Hopefully its season is close.
    So how did your get your inspiation to write Good God Bird...and what is the kind of woodpecker that is featured in the story?
    God bless,

  9. My inspiration for Good God Bird came from the real-life story of the re-discovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in Brinkley, Arkansas. Although my novel is a coming-of-age story at heart, it takes place in a town going through something extraordinary such as this.

  10. Corey, awesome, for that is exactly the woodpecker i suspected, and i have a poem in my poetry collection, "Resonance: the Soul-bloom's Quest" about this very woodpecker. I wrote the poem in 2005 after hearing about the rediscovery of this presumed extinct bird. The collection can be found here on webook and the poem is there for any to read who is interested.
    thank you, great that we have a similar interest in subject matter.

  11. Congrats, Corey! You are an awesome writer! When your book is published, I will read it! Yay for you! :)

  12. No way it can be *that* easy.
    After only a few months? Just like that and you get a contract?

  13. I don't wish to demean whatever "success" you may have found with Simon and Schuster, but all my experience these last 15 years never revealed to me a "magic pill"-website that automatically gets you through the front door of a mainstream publisher and grants you a contract right off the bat.
    I am certain that my 100+ rejections from a myriad of novels in my cache--over the years--has *proven* that it is difficult for one to break into print; especially for those of us whom are unknown to the industry.
    For someone like you to come along and blow all those facts out of the water--is not only extremely fishy to me but also a red flag.
    None of the books I've read, or the magazines I've subscribed to over the past year pointed out to me of this "site" that can get you published with a high-ranking publisher and all you had to do was *submit* a page through their website.
    In the real world, that would be called a *scam*.
    And I think that this such an outlet.

  14. I checked Simon and Schuster's site and found *NOTHING* about you, the book, or *anything* related.
    If the book is indeed acquisitioned by this publisher, wasn't there a mention on their site?
    Or in the last edition of The Writer?
    That's all I see.

  15. First of all, WEBook, in no way, has any affiliation with Simon&Schuster or my publishing contract. This is a misunderstanding on your part. I simply used the AgentInbox service, provided by WEBook, to query an agent and he subsequently found my work to be worthy of his review. After he (the agent) requested and read my full manuscript, I signed on with his agency for representation.
    After some editing, etc., my agent sent my manuscript to several publishers and Simon&Schuster made an offer to publish my manuscript that I, gladly, accepted.
    You will not find any information about my novel on Simon&Schuster's website because my novel is still in the manuscript stage. It is currently going through edits with my editor and, in my understanding, it is not typical for a publisher to release any information concerning an unpublished work.
    I realize that such a story may seem hard to believe from a veteran writer, but the simple fact remains that my work was found to be of high interest to an agent and publisher and all that has occurred is fact, not fiction.

  16. Schuyler,
    While we always like to hear user’s opinions about our site, we believe that you have misinterpreted and misrepresented a great deal of information, both about WEbook in general and about John Corey Whaley’s publishing contract with Simon & Schuster.
    First, WEbook does not claim distribution rights to writing that is posted on our site. We only claim the right to display the work. Authors retain all rights to the work they submit to PageToFame, or post anywhere else on the site. This is made clear in our terms of use.
    Second, John Corey Whaley used our AgentInbox service to query an agent regarding representation. This is a free service we are currently offering to make it easier for users to get in touch with agents. Corey signed with a literary agent who accepts queries through WEbook, but is in no way employed by WEbook. This agent then secured a commercial book deal with Simon & Schuster for Corey. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Publishers Marketplace, but the deal was posted by Ken Wright on Feburary 3, quoted here:
    “John Corey Whaley's GOOD GOD BIRD, in which a slightly apathetic man, stuck in his small southern town that is obsessed with the re-emergence of the extinct Lazarus woodpecker, must confront his little brother's mysterious disappearance, the death of his loser cousin, and a complicated relationship with the utterly flawed girl of his dreams, to Namrata Tripathi at Atheneum, by Ken Wright at Writers House.”
    Corey Whaley’s publishing deal is both real and legitimate, and we are excited that one of our users was able to find success using the tools on our site.
    Regarding the PageToFame writing competition, WEbook ensures that atleast one literary agent will review each portion of work that is passed through to subsequent rounds. However, WEbook makes no guarantee regarding the winners of PageToFame securing representation by an agent or a commercial publishing deal. We simply note that winner’s chances are improved due to an established positive response from a large audience, and attention from at least one literary agent.
    We realize that there is no “magical pill” that gets writers published, and we claim to be nothing of the sort. We do, however, strive to make the writing and publishing process as accessible and simple as possible for writers of all experience levels.
    We hope that this information clears up some of your misconceptions about WEbook, AgentInbox, and PageToFame.

  17. whats up mr. whaley its one of your sixth grade students well mrs. scott's students but i'm lexie's friend and i wanted to say cool novel!!

  18. FYI- WEbook removes comments that are unrelated to the posts.

  19. Taborie Gambari6 March 2010 at 07:08

    hi mr.whaley dis taborie gambari in your 6th grade class i can't wait 2 read ur novel bye bye :} !!!!!!

  20. I read much of the above with many chuckles - I think there's a healthy dose of writer-envy going on here, judging by the immature accusations and finger-pointing. I have experienced the same. Yes, it's damned hard to get published, but those who make the grade do so by dint of their own hard work and skill, and some degree of luck connecting with the right agent/publisher who "gets" your work. Well done, and don't let the nay-sayers get you down!
    Cat Collins.

  21. Mary Jane Seale16 July 2010 at 02:31

    Congratulations to John Whaley. Congrats for writing the novel in the first place, for persevering and getting off an acceptable query letter and lastly for doing a great job and getting a contract. Thank you WEbook for making this possible for the writers who belong. There is no down side to this. It is absolutely wonderful and John, I wish you great success with this book and thank you for sharing with us. I will follow your posts with great interest.

  22. Mary Jane Seale16 July 2010 at 02:40

    Sorry, I was so aggravated by Schuyler Thorpe's comments I didn't realize you went by Corey - not John. But you do have a wonderful story and by sharing it you do give us hope that perhaps we can get our own book out there. Although, if P2F is an indication, I sure have a lot of work to do.

  23. Glad you're following Corey's story with interest, Mary!
    You can check out all of his posts here: http://blog.webook.com/webook_blog/good-god-birds-flight-to-publication/

  24. I think it's wonderful that Corey is getting his book published. No matter what the odds, persistence does pay off. Congratulations.

  25. Congrats Mr. Whaley! I think your cover for your book is awesome! It's gonna be a great book and I hope to read it when it is available in stores. hopefully I can read it before the school ends.
    Sincerely Noah. (1st-2nd hour)
    p.s. I think George already pre-ordered it. I'm about to do the same!

  26. Susie Walls, Librarian, Gosnell High School17 May 2011 at 02:44

    Thanks again for coming to our school to talk about your new book. Our students really enjoyed hearing from a first time author.


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