I've always wanted to write the HOW I GOT MY AGENT post.
It's been almost three glorious months. I cannot get over how much time has passed since I signed the contract and made the official announcement on Twitter.
Now that the dust has settled and the chaos has subsided, I've decided the time has come to share all the behind the scenes details into how I landed my incredible agent. But to do that, we must start at the beginning.
This isn't my first time landing representation.
Unfortunately some agent/author relationships don't work out, and I had to make the difficult choice to leap back off the cliff, knowing there was no safety net waiting for me.
At the time, it was terrifying. I'd fought so hard to get my agent - let's call her BECKY - that I was almost paralyzed at the thought of starting over. But as the saying goes no agent is better than a bad agent, and ultimately, leaving was the best decision I ever made.
Before I'd parted ways with Becky, I'd just finished the first draft of my YA Fantasy, TOUCHED BY FIRE. This was a book of my heart. I'd first written the story when I was seventeen, but I knew it wasn't quite where it needed to be. So I stuck it in a drawer and moved on to others - compelled to keep up with the voices in my head.
Fourteen years later, it came back to me, but stronger, and I knew I was ready to do it justice. Now that I had the first draft complete, I set my sight on pitchwars.
I wanted the mentor experience, and I've always loved engaging in community based competitions and thought, why not? But the contest didn't start until end of August and I knew to stand a chance of entering I had to put forward the best book possible. So between June to the entry date I scoured Twitter (via #CPMatch, #OnThePorch and the #Pitchwars hashtag) to connect with other writers and hopefuls to find skilled betas.
Side note: If you're looking to build CP/Beta relationships, Wendy Heard is the maven behind CPMatch.
I worked through at least ten, swapping chapters - some the full manuscript, query letters, and even the dreaded synopsis - because some of the mentors required them!
It was endless work, with not only my book but beta reading 90k manuscripts for each of my partners. And by August 24th I had a book I was really proud of. Finally the window closed, the week passed and I didn't get a single mentor request. It hurt for a minute, but I picked myself up, dusted myself off and pulled out PLAN B.
PLAN B = Cold querying. During the summer, while frantically revising and editing, I carefully researched and put together a new spreadsheet of agents.
I didn't want another Becky - so I devoted a great deal of thought and effort into researching a carefully vetted list of 36 agents. These were my top players, the only people in the game I would ever consider representation from, and if all else failed - I'd set my book aside, write a new one, and start the querying cycle with them all over again. Never again was I going to leap at the first offer or query just anyone because they had 'literary agent hitched to their name.
Also during that time I had a wonderful friend, a published author who put in a referral for me with her agency, and I'd also had a wave of agent requests from PITMAD.
Most from the same agents on my carefully vetted list which gave me the boost I needed to send out all my queries at once.
Now, I don't necessarily advise this - but in my case, I knew the book was a close to ready as I could get it on my own. It took about two weeks when the referral agent, code name: JUBILEE got back to me.
She was a spunky firecracker, fresh on the scene and determined to make her mark with such tremendous energy I was sucked in. She was passionate, excited, had a strong game plan in mind and I absolutely adored her by end of the phone call.
I had my first offer.
So, I rolled out the nudges. And within thirty minutes my cell phone rang. The number flashing on my screen was a New York listing, and at first I seriously thought - great, telemarketers. But for some reason I answered instead of letting it go to voicemail.
Spoiler: It was not a telemarketer.
It was in fact Agent WOLVERINE (gonna keep to an X-Men theme here lol). Wolverine was at the tippy top of my list. An agent usually synonymous with 'dream'.
As you can imagine, I almost fell out of my chair. At work.
I ran from my desk, out into the hall and by the time I hit the elevator bank he'd said the words, "I'd like to offer representation". I giddy squealed and jumped like a toddler in a bouncy castle for nearly a minute before I realized - SHIT! I need to get myself together and act professional. So I raced back into the office, snatched a notebook - an empty pen - I kid you not - and dashed into the boardroom.
For the next hour I scribbled down notes with a white board marker, but I didn't care - I was a babbling, excited mess and I couldn't believe it. He understood my book in a way I had always hoped someone would and the passion behind his vision for this book and all the books to come had me buzzing with joy and creative energy.
I had two offers. Two. And from equally passionate agents.
I went home and cried a little bit, reviewed my notes and realized what a spaz I'd been during WOLVERINE's phone call as I'd hardly asked any questions. My head had been too busy spinning off my shoulders - he'd caught me by complete and total surprise.
And it was about to get more insane as the third offer rolled in from Agent PHOENIX.
I wish I could screen cap this email and share it with all of you. I really do because it was seriously the most remarkable thing I'd ever read about my book, and without a word of exaggeration, I hugged my phone to my chest, sat on the couch and sobbed.
Fat ugly tears of sheer joy.
Agent PHOENIX overwhelmed me from the first minute (world domination might've come up at some point), and I couldn't wrap my head around half of what she was saying, but the impact was immediate and soul deep. She had a plan and was coming with guns blazing, take no prisoners attitude that made me realize I needed to step up my game and schedule another call with Agent WOLVERINE.
So I did, and scheduled it so they both fell almost back to back so I could get a clear picture of all the moving pieces I had in play.
As you can imagine, the third call with PHOENIX went as amazing as could be expected, and now I had a serious set of notes to review in tandem with JUBILEE and WOLVERINE so I could make my final decision.
Except I still had less than a week left on the clock - and things didn't stop there.
By Saturday morning I had my fourth offer from Agent ROGUE. Now ROGUE - if you know me - is hands down my favorite X-Men of all time, so I do not give out this moniker lightly. (Not Anna Paquin's heinous portrayal, folks.)
She called my book unapologetically feminist and I legit saw stars. By the end of my offer call with her, I loved her so damn much it hurt. It was like talking to my soul twin.
By Saturday evening I had my fifth offer from Agent JEAN GREY.
While I'd equally connected with JEAN GREY who really surprised me in a lot of ways with her tenacity - and impressive personal story, ROGUE really became a forerunner with her savvy, charisma, focus, passion and just overall connection to my story.
But that didn't mean I was any closer to having a single idea who I was going to pick. Everyone brought all that to the table and then some, and when you are bouncing between so many phone calls, emails, client conversations, twitter/Google stalking - it really boils down to a gut feeling and splitting hairs.
My notes were extensive - not just in what we spoke about, but how I was feeling during the phone calls. I wanted to capture that initial gut reaction and with each offer phone call averaging around 10 pages of hand written notes, I went over them repeatedly, latching on to the fine details to figure out who was winning this race?
Guys, as flattering as multiple offers can be - I'm here to also tell you the ugly truth:
The closer we got to my decision date (September 27th), I began having trouble sleeping, eating, focusing. My mind was a mess of what to do? How do I make this impossible decision and how can I possibly send out rejections to these FABULOUS women/men who so profoundly believe in me and my story? Every time I thought I had an idea of who to pick - my mind flip flopped between the top three almost every five minutes.
The night before I had to decide I was still pouring over my notes, and got almost no sleep, as I obsessed over every stray detail. Wondering if I was making the right decision?
Then the morning of D-day, as I was half way through drafting my - sorry, but I chose someone else - emails, Agent MYSTIQUE hit me with my final offer and I literally almost threw up.
It was almost too much, and as a result of the stress I did something I will strongly advise against anyone else doing in future: I sent her a very polite, thank you so much but I'm going to have to say 'no' email. Hindsight, maybe this wasn't the best thing to do - maybe I should've sucked it up and just had the offer phone call and tried to squeeze in clients before the day was out. But it was literally about self care at this point.
I was sick with stress. Anxiety had me by the throat and I couldn't fathom falling in love with yet another incredible agent so late in the game when there just wasn't enough TIME to give her the same care/consideration as I had everyone else?
MYSTIQUE responded, obviously disappointed but still willing to chat with me if I'd changed my mind. An offer I never took her up on as I was now finally pressing send on the longest and most personalized rejections possible, starting with the bottom of my list and working my way up.
Legit my face each time I hit send:
Each one got harder, and sent a fresh wave of panic to shock through my bloodstream. By the time I reached Agent ROGUE I was having full out heart palpitations. I had to call my husband to help me hit that final send button, and even now part of me wishes I could have taken two agents just because I loved her so much.
But I saved the best one for last. My 'Yes'. To give me that boost I needed to pick myself up off the floor and stop feeling so terrible.
Because this was it - I had my DREAM AGENT! Doling out rejection is hard, but the hard part was over and I could finally, finally celebrate the months of hard work and shocking disappointment of having to end my relationship with Becky earlier in the year.
So, if you haven't already scoped me out on Twitter - Agent WOLVERINE is none other than the powerhouse: Jim McCarthy!!!!!!!!!!!!! I called him Wolverine because yes, he has a beard, but he's also the kind of person you'd want to have fighting in your corner.
I hope you found this both entertaining and helpful, and to anyone else in the querying trenches, best of luck! I will be cheering for all of my warriors yet to land rep, and for those who have moved onward to the next exciting stage:
REVISIONS & SUBMISSIONS!!! <--Which will be the subject of my next blog post :)
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