Wednesday, 29 June 2016

How I got my agent

Reading: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Listening to: Lil John "Snap Your Fingers"
Outside: Rain

It wasn't long ago I'd read stories like this. Blog posts, magazine articles, QueryTracker Success Story interviews. Weeks ago. I'd read each one breathlessly, leaning in close because here, here this kind of thing existed. This powerful, impossible, magical thing: writers getting literary agents. 

I'd read them with a mix of emotions. Always a lungful of hope and a gutful of - I'm going to admit it - hot, sick jealousy. Why was it happening to others and never to me? How many rejections would I have to endure?

That's how it felt. Getting to the center of the Tootsie Roll Pop would perhaps be easier. Image from here.

But I'm sitting here right now telling you that this has happened to me. An amazing agent fell in love with my novel and offered representation. Simple as that.

The short version: 

I sent a query on a Sunday evening, via one of those online forms where you're pretty sure your query chopped and spliced out of its normal layout on your painstakingly careful and polished query letter, so it feels like that's another strike against you gets swallowed up by some kind of monstrous hungry computer, only to discover that, while I slept (I'm in the UK, and the agency is five hours behind me in New York), the agent not only received the query but responded.

I woke up to a full manuscript request.

Oh, my!

So I did my Full Manuscript Request dance, which of course is different for everybody but I highly recommend you discover yours, and emailed the full to the agent. Then, with a cautious spring in my step, I left for work. 

After that, it all happened very fast.

By the afternoon I had an email from her saying she was halfway through and really enjoying it, and was anyone else reading it? (There was.)

By the next afternoon, on a Tuesday while I sat at work, I saw another email: She read it and thought it was fabulous, and I had such a great voice. Would I be free to chat over the phone?

Little did I know that that would end up being The Call.

The Call.

Imagine, me. Getting The Call. Like for real.

A mere 48 hours after sending the query.

This kind of thing doesn't happen to someone like me.

Ohhhh yes. All the feels.

And the long version: 

I have written 12 books since I was 21 years old. Most of these books are horrible and embarrassing. Perhaps four or five of them are actually decent. I queried several different books - oh yes, even a couple of the bad ones, but hey, ya gotta learn somehow - across the years since March 2010, when I believed getting an agent would be easy, that I'd send out a handsome scattering of queries and in a week or two I'd have a good handful of agents knocking on my door, contracts in hand. But no. No. That is not how it goes. Yes, I got a handful of partial requests, and I will never forget the time I got my first full manuscript request (what? A literary agent actually wants to read my stuff?), but they always came back as rejections. There's a whole lot of rejection out there. And that's okay. Because rejection teaches you things. 

Like how to to write a good book first. You have to learn how to edit. You have to fall down several times and then get back up again. You have to believe in yourself. Yes. This last thing is the most important.  

And here I've broken it down for those of you who really just want the numbers.

Number of queries sent: 85
Number of partial requests: 5
Number of full requests: 7
Offers of representation: 1

For all of you burgeoning writers out there, remember this: DON'T GIVE UP. Only about two months ago I was ready to throw in the towel. Two months ago I felt hopeless, after getting yet another rejection from what I thought might have been a sure thing (and almost half a year's worth of edits). I was devastated. For six years I had saved a bottle of champagne with a special note wrapped around its neck: OFF LIMITS - FOR IF WHEN VEE GETS AN AGENT. (Notice how I'd crossed out the IF.) Two months ago I was ready to open it up and pour it down the drain and throw the bottle in the recycling bin. There were tears. Lots of tears.

I'm sure glad I saved it, because I got to open it Monday, June 20th after signing the contract. And it was delicious.

No more waiting! Wooooot!

Here we go!

The sweet taste of success.

A sign my mom sent me for Christmas. It speaks the truth.

Now I am thrilled to be represented by the amazing, the one, the only Jen Marshall at Kuhn Projects / Zachary Shuster Harmsworth in New York City! With Jen by my side, the sky's the limit. I am over the moon to have found the literary agent of my dreams.

Now I've begun a fresh round of edits to make my novel the absolute best it can be.

So there you have it. Live, love, and be inspired.

If you'd like to read more, here's my QueryTracker Success Story Interview.

Look for me on the bookshelves someday! 

Happy Wednesday, everybody!

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