March 12, 2018

How I Got my Agent

The story of how I got my agent is not groundbreaking. Actually, as far as these stories are concerned, it's pretty dull.

The thing is, if you're reading this post, it's most likely because you're in the query trenches yourself (that, or you're so bored at work you somehow reached the end of Reddit). Either way, your standards here are probably much lower than groundbreaking.

And if that's the case, do I have a story for you!



So I guess I should start at the very beginning, where most writers explain how they knew they wanted to be a novelist their entire lives, how they came out of the womb with a tiny MacBook in hand, already 5k words into their WIP, etc. etc.

Unfortunately, that's not how I started. I mean, I've always loved writing, but I never really considered myself much of a storyteller. (I felt like I was more a current events/science kinda girl.)

But like things sometimes do, one day in 2014, an idea fell out of the sky on my way to Wegman's (if you're from Maryland, you know) and I decided to start a novel. And that went pretty well! I started with Chapter One—as one does—and when I was finished with that, I took a snack break that lasted a little over two years.

I started Chapter Two of that book shortly after I got married in September of 2016. Luckily things went a bit more quickly after that, and I finished the first draft of that book in March of 2017, revised a bit, and then sent it to some people who agreed to be my beta readers.

Side note: If you're going to write a book, finding beta readers is probably the second best thing you can do in terms of revisions. The best thing you could do is find MY beta readers, but I won't let you do that because they're mine. Sorry. (But not really.)

Anyway, after I revised again per my beta readers' comments, I felt I was ready. I sent my first query out in April of 2017, and I just wish I could go back and pat my little April '17 self on the head. I was so naive, so full of hope and faith and color-coded spreadsheets. Poor thing.

To make matters worse, about three hours after I sent my first query, I got a full request—which doesn't sound like a bad thing, but trust me, it was. Because after I got that request, my poor little naive self was Confident (capital C) that this was going to be a breeze. I was already daydreaming of book jacket fonts at this point. I mean, I had a full request, so that was the next logical step here, right?

RIGHT?

The answer is no. That agent ended up rejecting my book with a pleasant and vaguely cataclysmic form letter. And to be really honest, I cried. It's not something I'm proud of, but we all do things we're ashamed to admit. (Except my cat. He has no shame, even for a cat.)

Anyway, by the 20th rejection, I wasn't crying anymore. And by the 30th, I'd pretty much accepted my book's fate. Luckily, I was already a good ways into my next book, which I had started for the sake of Gmail's refresh button. (I don't know if you can break that, but if you can, I'm sure I was only a click or two away.)

By the time I finished my second book in August of 2017, I had queried 68 agents total for the first book and had gotten a handful of requests (although frankly, no one really cared). So in August, I decided to shelf that project (RIP) and instead got to work on revising the second one.

(Again, I will never be able to thank my beta readers enough for their honest, harsh-but-not-too-harsh input and how fast they delivered. Seriously. They're the real MVPs.)

Anyway, the revisions took about a month, and by the end of August, I really couldn't think of how else to "improve" the story. Yet, at the same time, I didn't think I was ready to query again. It wasn't so much my book wasn't ready—it was me. I mean, one novel not getting picked up could have been a simple months-long, nationwide case of bad luck. But what if the second book was met with crickets too? Then what? Could I take it?

So instead of querying immediately, I took the coward's way out and participated in #PitMad. I mean, if no one liked my tweet, I could just delete it and pretend it never happened. Selfies disappear this way all the time, after all.

Thankfully, though, I didn't have to do that. Two people ended up liking my pitch: one, an author whom I don't know (although shout-out for the support!), and two, an agent named Jessica Faust, president of BookEnds Literary Agency.

After Jessica liked my tweet, I had to really look myself in the mirror, pull the stray Cheerio out of my hair, and ask myself: Do I have what it takes to do this again? 

As you may have guessed, I decided I did. (Otherwise, this post would have been an incredible letdown.) So I sent Jessica my query, and after I sent her that query, the floodgates really opened. I sent 7-8 more around the same time, and within a few days, Jessica had requested my full manuscript, as had two other people. And I'd like to say I handled this well, like I'd done it before.

I didn't, though.

Nope. I was a vibrating, vaguely nauseous ball of nerves every day since I sent that first query to Jessica. Thank god for Jessica, actually, as she put me out of my misery relatively early. A little over a month and a half after I sent her my full manuscript, she called me and offered to represent me and my book!

!!!

!!!!!!

Of course, I did the whole responsible querying thing and gave other agents time to respond. (And by time, I mean three-ish days.) After those few days, I realized it didn't really matter what the other agents said: Jessica was exactly what I wanted in an agent, so I'd turn anyone else down anyway.

And that's my story! Not groundbreaking by any means, but if you've ever queried a book (or done anything, really, that involves sending a darling child full of all your hopes and dreams into the world to be judged and ridiculed by your peers), you know how much this post means to me.

And now, for those people who aren't interested in the story and just want the stats:

Book One
Total Queries: 68
Full Requests: 2
Partial Requests: 5
Rejections: 68 (including no responses)
Total Time: 3 months 

Just a side note, I say 3 months here because that's when I decided to move on. That being said, I did just last week (March of 2018) receive a rejection for a query I sent out in May of 2017. So do with that information what you'd like.

Book Two
Total Queries: 25
Full Requests: 5 (although 2 came after I'd already accepted Jessica's offer of representation)
Partial Requests: 3 (again, 2 came after I'd signed with Jessica)
Rejections: 17 (including no responses)
Total Time: ~1.5 months