At the end of November something TOTALLY AMAZING happened: I signed with literary agent Whitley Abell of Inklings Literary!
So here’s the long overdue story of how I got my agent🙂
THE SHORT STORY:
At the end of July 2014, about a week before I had Baby #2, I queried Whitley for my Young Adult novel by sending her a query letter (pitch) and some sample pages. In September she requested the full manuscript. (EEEP!) In November, she offered representation and I signed with her. (YAY!)
Wow! It happened just like that!
Well, not exactly.
THE LONG STORY:
I started querying agents in September 2013. I got a handful of bites from agents, but ultimately none of them panned out. Some encouraging and constructive feedback from an agent who passed on my manuscript sparked new ideas, so I started a revision.
While I revised, I got a few more full requests. (One request came six months after I originally queried, proof that this whole book publishing thing can be really slow going.) Fast forward to April 2014: with my shiny new revised manuscript I started my second round of querying, and I got a bunch of bites. Two weeks after I started this round, an agent offered representation. (WHAT?!) We talked on the phone, and she gave me a week to think about it and notify the other agents who had my query or manuscript. There was a frenzy of interest (note: an offer of representation is like agent crack). As I notified other agents that I had an offer, I was getting excited replies two minutes later! At midnight! I’ll read it over the weekend! I’ll get back to you ASAP! Abundant exclamation points!
That whole week of waiting to hear back from other agents, while I had an offer on the table, was like one big exclamation point. This was happening!
It was exciting, and crazy, and of course involved compulsive email checking. (Yes, Gmail, I’m aware my inbox was updated 2 minutes ago. I’d like to check it again, thanks.) But even through all the excitement and the rollercoaster of incoming requests and rejections, a few things niggled at me about my conversation with the offering agent. She just wasn’t the best fit for me. So, as crazy as it felt, at the end of Rollercoaster Week I ended up passing on that agent’s offer of representation. After doing so, I had approximately seventeen panic attacks that I’d forever ruined my chances of ever being published, but I kept telling myself I’d made the right choice.
There was one agent who hadn’t gotten back to me within the Rollercoaster Week, so I shot her an email saying that I was still seeking representation. Lo and behold: the day after I passed on my first offer of representation, this agent emailed me saying she was still interested and could we talk on the phone? (Okay, it didn’t happen before, but NOW it was going to happen!)
We talked on the phone, and . . . it didn’t happen.
She wanted me to do an R&R: revise based on her feedback and then resubmit to her. It wasn’t an offer, but I felt so close! At the end of June I emailed her the revision and gave her a four week exclusive. (Now? Now it happens?)
After four weeks I hadn’t heard back, so I checked in with her: still no word, which, after revising based on her feedback, was disappointing and frustrating. Over almost a year I’d queried dozens of agents and been rejected again and again. At this point the hardest part wasn’t getting the rejections, but that the rejections didn’t pinpoint a specific problem in the manuscript. The rejections were sweet and encouraging and complimentary, but they all came down to agents not connecting enough, or liking it but not loving it. While on one hand this was great and points to the subjectivity of publishing, I almost wished there was some concrete, constructive criticism. Please, tell me what is wrong! I will make it better! I felt like I was so close, but also completely helpless.
At this point, a querying writer has two options: move onto the next project or keep querying. I did both. At the end of July 2014, I sent out my third and final batch of queries as one last shot and then threw myself into another project. (That is, I threw myself into writing between naps because it was summer and it was hot and I was really, really pregnant.)
More requests came in. Fun fact: on the day my water broke, one of the last things I did at home before leaving for the hospital was send out two requested fulls.
When Whitley requested the full in September, I could feel her excitement.
AND THEN IT HAPPENED.
She emailed me in November saying that she’d like to talk about representation, and my brain did this kind of glazing over thing where that special mix of shock and excitement and oh-my-god-this-is-happening washes over you, and you have to re-read the email at least ten times to really believe it.
We set up THE CALL. I did lots of happy dancing, then tried to be professional as I gathered my notes and questions for THE CALL. I had done all my
Google stalking research and was so, so, SO thrilled because she seemed completely amazing. I knew I’d love to work with her. Even with my list of questions I was super nervous because I couldn’t shake the anxiety from the last two calls that hadn’t worked out, but Whitley gave me some grace. When I got off the phone with her, everything felt right and I was even more excited. I notified other agents, but I already knew I wanted to work with Whitley and spent the whole ten-day-wait asking myself why I hadn’t just said “yes” right away.
In the midst of everything, yes, waiting is hard and so is rejection. BUT in the end it is so worth it. I’ve seen my craft grow in the past year, and, of course, I’m now privileged to be working with an awesome agent🙂
Timeframe: September 2013–November 2014
Requests: 23 (7 partials, 16 fulls)
Offers of Representation: 2
Chocolate consumed: Infinite
* Friends and family have been asking when my book will be published. Answer: Signing with an agent is a big first step towards getting published, but there are lots of steps after this. Nathan Bransford does a fabulous job explaining how an agent helps an author with these steps and why agents are important.