Writing Advice

How I got my agent…

While in the throes of the query trenches, I found so much inspiration in reading posts just like this and STILL cannot believe the day has come that I officially get to write one for myself!!!

My writing journey started back in college with fan-fic and short stories, but in the effort of brevity I’ll fast forward to 2017 when I really got serious about not only completing a full length novel but actually publishing it.

In the fall of 2016, my partner and I started a new business and I found myself quitting my day job to not only stay home with our two small children but helping with the bookkeeping and office managing of the business. In January of 2017, I made a new years resolution to start and finish a book. I finished it that April (we’ll call it Manuscript A). *Cue fanfare* In my baby writer innocence I googled how to get published and immediately ran into the brick wall that was “You need a literary agent.” (It couldn’t be THAT hard and besides, if they really loved it, they’d look past all the grammatical errors, gaping plot holes, and the fact that the word count was not appropriate for the age group, right?)

So, again, being completely ignorant of the industry, I gave the draft a quick once over edit and sent out terrible excuses for queries.

Surprise! There were floods of rejections.

While querying, I read blogs on how to get agents, how to perfect a query etc and quickly realized that I needed to start from scratch. Manuscript A was not going to be the one and so I gave up and started a fresh idea. In the Summer of 2017, I shelved manuscript A, and wrote a completely new story. This time for a different age group and genre. THIS time, I spent months revising and while drafting, I read craft books and read blogs on how to better my writing.

In the Fall of 2017, I started querying Manuscript B, and to my joy, received a few requests! One of which replied after reading that my YA story actually had a middle grade aged voice and I’d do it service to revise it completely for that age group. SO, I pulled all outstanding queries and spent the winter of 2018 doing so.
At which point, in January 2019, I saw a Twitter post about a writing/querying group that was looking for members. To be honest, I hesitated because surely THIS manuscript was the one and I’d join this group but within a month, I’d have an offer.

(*Surprise, surprise* that was not the case)

While in this group—the Llamasquad, as it came to be lovingly called—I discovered so many mistakes in my query as well as my story. I outgrew my self-conscientiousness and exchanged pages with others and everyday learned how to really hone my writing abilities. I entered a few pitch contests with newly revised manuscript B. I had many requests, and truly there were so close calls, but alas as I crept over a hundred queries, I felt it was time to move on.

It was very difficult decision but the urge to create something new had taken hold and so while waiting on the last of manuscript B queries to reply, I wrote manuscript C, something I highly recomend you do when facing the stressful days of querying.

WRITE THE WAIT 😉 Trust me, it’ll keep you sane, improve your craft, and should you happen to get an offer, your new agent will be ecstatic you have another project complete!

This new idea, manuscript C, (titled: Frayed) was so vivid in my mind. The characters more real than any of the other stories I’d worked on. It burned through me, and within two months I’d written a first draft. I spent the entire month of March revising it, taking notes from my critique partners and thoroughly polishing it.

I was more careful this time, making sure each and every agent I picked was seeking that genre and age group. I googled interviews they’d done, I subscribed to Publisher’s Marketplace searching what books they repped and if they were similar to mine. That spring I (obsessesed) over perfecting my pitches and entered several pitch contests.

The response was AMAZING. Suddenly, I had dozens of agents interest and garnered many requests. More than any of the other manuscripts.

It was really happening. For once I really felt hope that this story was something special.

Then, the rejections started rolling in. Many were kind and gave no feedback merely saying “Just not a good fit.” In July of 2019, I received not just a polite form rejection, but a long email that summed up was something like, “Here are all things wrong with your story, and while I like the premise, I can’t sell it as is. However, if you fix all of these things, I’ll take another look.”

I re-read the email several times and even shared it with a few close friends to double check, but it was indeed an R&R. A revise and resubmit. Not an offer, but the next best thing.

However, the edits this agent requested were extensive and would require a FULL rewrite. Querying tends to make most writers feel anxious because there is so much they can’t control, so being exactly that, I began a re-write that summer. What could it hurt? Besides, I could keep the OG version in case any of the other agents reading it fell in love as it was. I took almost two months to finish it, had some CP’s look it over, then I took a deep breath and sent it back.

A month passed before I heard a response, and *whomp whomp* while the agent said they were impressed with my revisions, it still wasn’t what they were looking for in regards to their list.

Rejection after an R&R is the worst I tell you

By the Fall of 2019, I’d begun to lose a lot of hope that Manuscript C as not being the ‘one’. The exciting rush I’d had earlier was fading and I felt the first sense of nagging doubt that THIS story too needed to be shelved. That winter, I struggled to start anything new, and the month of November was a tough one. Over the past months, the rejections to my complete manuscript were like gut punches and only contributed to the dark thoughts that grew that perhaps THIS path would never happen for me. More and more I grew to believe that my writing would never be good enough and that getting an agent would never be a reality I would get to experience.

Facing a bleak outlook on the last of my queries closing out, December was shaping up to be a dark one. With encouragement from my writing group, I decided to take one last chance at this story finding its match, and entered in December’s Pitmad contest. One last hurrah before shelving it for good.

To my delight, I did receive a few agent likes, not as much as before, probably because the publishing world is small and the same agents were seeing the same pitch over and over and thought “WOW, is she still querying that thing?”

However, one of the likes, did garner a full request!! While I waited to hear back, I did some find courage and started writing again and mentally I found myself forgetting that I still had one chance of hope.

On March 20th, I received an email from the agent who’d requested the full from Pitmad. The very last FULL request I had out, which to be frank I was excited to hear from them because then it would officially mean I was done querying that story and could move on for real.

But it WASN’T a rejection, instead they said that they were halfway through my story but could they see the other version as well to read along beside it. (I mentioned the revised version in my query because I’d spent so much time on it, why not offer both as options?)

Delighted, I sent it over, still not letting myself get too excited of course. I’d been close in the past, and I’d learned not to read too much into emails.

On April 2nd, the agent replied again and said she’d finished reading but needed some time to discuss with their managing agent about it.

Again, I felt a small flicker of hope, but quickly squashed it down. Nothing in this industry is certain.

One week later, April 8th, the agent replied and said they’d love to set up a time to chat. Still, I’d heard of agents asking for revise and resubmits on the phone and I prepared myself for this possibly being one of those calls.

We scheduled the call for 4/15 (a whole 7 days away which at the time was a blur of stress, excitement, and not enough sleep). The day of the call finally came, and I gripped the phone in my hand, my heart somersaulting when I saw the east coast number pop up.

Our call was great, and the agent said EVERYTHING I wanted to hear. They answered all of my questions and then some and the best part was how much they LOVED and really understood my story.

After we hung up, I received an email with the subject line:

OFFER OF REPRESENTATION!!!!

We decided to take two weeks for me to notify the few remaining agents with my queries and then I’d choose. On April 30th, I replied to the agent with an acceptance of their OFFER!!!! In the end, I had several kind passes and one other offer of rep. It was an incredibly hard decision to decline the other agent, but I am THRILLED to announce that I am now represented by Becca Crandall at the Carolyn Jenks Agency.

Becca has been a dream to work with and I cannot wait to grow my writing career with her by side!

QUERY STATS:

Manuscript A:

Queries: 32

Requests: 0

Manuscript B:

Queries: 124

Requests: 12

Rejections: 94 and 30 no response

Manuscript C (Frayed):

Queries: 97 (28 were pitch contest requests)

Requests: 21

Rejections: 20 on the partial/full, 78 on queries, 19 no response

Offers: 2!!!!

Me signing my agency agreement contract

HERE is a quick post with more info on the story that hooked my agent!

To all you still in the query trenches or just starting, there are so many fantastic resources available online. One of the greatest discoveries I made when I begun this journey was the true kindness other writers and authors show. I plan to post in the future with links to some of my favorite resources so stay tuned!

3 thoughts on “How I got my agent…”

  1. This is brilliant, Sarah Jane – so glad you’re persistence paid off. I’m in the query trenches now – my full ms is with an agent as we speak – and like you, I love to read of others success. I hope you get a deal very soon and I’ll be seeing your book in my local book shop. All the best

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats on signing! Can so relate to this, it’s been a long road for me of querying and revising and hoping and so many not-quites that I had pretty much given up hope, but then signed with my agent in March! Good luck with getting your book out there 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s