28 January 2014

How I Got My Agent

I read a lot of blog posts like this. Aspiring authors who finally get an agent after years of trying.

Usually it seems like those stories have some almost fantastical element to them.

Mine doesn’t. I hope someone finds that inspiring.

The first novel I wrote -- which is literally in a drawer in my house -- is terrible. Dreadful. Awful. Hang-my-head-in-shame bad. But everyone’s first book is this way. (By the way, I still think the idea for this novel is great; I just have to figure out how to make it work.)

I wrote another book. This one was based on incidents from my grandmother’s childhood. Because it’s written in a vignette style, it was harder to pitch as a first book. I set it aside.

Then I wrote another novel, this one for young adults. I wrote and revised and wrote and revised and worked hard to make it perfect. Then I queried agents. I got rejections. I revised some more. I queried again. I got rejections. I revised again. Sometimes agents would ask for the partial or the full manuscript, and then I would get a rejection. This process took about two years, and I eventually got more than 100 rejections for that novel. Somewhere about the time I had seventy-five rejections, I told myself I would buy an iPad if got 100. And I did.

Then I set that novel aside.

I wrote another young adult novel. I never queried it, but I did send it to an editor I met at a conference. It was rejected, but the rejection was quite positive.

I wrote another young adult novel. I remembered reading once that writers didn’t really learn what they were doing until they wrote their fourth book. This was my fifth. I felt positive about this book. I felt like this was “the one” -- this book would take me to the next step.

With more patience than I ever thought I had, I wrote. I worked on this book for about two years. I slashed scenes. I added characters. I dropped ideas. I changed details. I took my time to get it right.

Then I queried.

I sent out four queries and got rejections. I sent out four more and got a request for the full manuscript.

Then I got the email that stopped my heart. She liked the book but wanted to see some changes. Would I care to talk to her about it?

Of course I said yes. After listening to her, I knew her ideas would make the book stronger. She would be willing to read the manuscript again if I addressed her concerns.

I took my time and re-submitted to her.

And she offered representation! I actually cried when I read that email.

But it was a great day, and in October 2012, I signed with Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency. Now we’re on to the next stage.

Meanwhile, I’m working on another novel.

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