how i got my agent: part two

As promised, here is the second part of the long road to finding my agent – featuring much more Tina and happy times! (Read Part One here.)

2011: I begin sending out queries for this new project. Manuscript 3. Receive a fair amount of requests from agents. Realize this time is different. The requests are more enthusiastic and even the rejections are, for the most part, positive. Finally understand that I have found MY VOICE. Hallelujah! This elusive “voice” thing I’ve been trying to nail down for years? I have it, and other people like it (!), even if they think the story I’ve written is too quiet.

Here’s where things get real: An agent I very much respect read Manuscript 3 and thought the story was too quiet for a contemporary YA debut. However, this agent wanted to know if I was working on anything else! And as it turns out, I was. For some unknown reason, I had picked up the abduction story (again) at the end of 2010, while I was waiting for feedback from readers on Manuscript 3. I added a few elements that took the story in a new direction and suddenly it was mine again. I was so proud of it, even if I only had about 40 pages. So I revised the hell out of those pages and sent it off to the agent. We scheduled a phone call. The agent was intrigued, we talked through my plans for the rest of the novel, and I agreed to send the manuscript when it was complete and revised. However, it turns out we didn’t have the same vision for the book, so the agent passed.

I was crushed. I had finally written THE BOOK, the one that I was so damn proud of. I knew for a fact that it was the best thing I’d ever written and although the agent had very, very kind things to say about the writing, they did not see how they’d be able to sell it. Once again, I considered giving up. This was my fourth manuscript and if such a reputable agent didn’t think it was special enough, surely no one else would. With my pity party in full effect, I fired off a handful of queries to other agents on my Dream List and removed myself from the internet for a while.

The Happy Conclusion I Promised: Only a few hours after I sent the query, Tina Wexler requested the full manuscript. I was floored, but I sent it and did NOT tell her I was trying to figure out a way to hug her (a complete stranger who pulled my submission from the slush) through the screen of my Macbook. So I got excited again, but I was more cautious. Because this could end badly. And then it didn’t.

Three weeks later, I received an email from Tina. She’d read my book! And she had a lot of nice things to say in the first paragraph, so I held my breath while I skimmed those wonderful words, as I was so afraid the second paragraph would lead to an eventual rejection. I’d been there before, more times than I could count. Instead, she asked if I’d be interested in revising, so I stopped myself from typing “Hell yes, lady!” and sent what I hope was a professional response saying I’d love to hear her thoughts.

She sent a very thorough email detailing her plot concerns, interspersed with several comments that made it clear she knew she was asking a lot and I may not agree with all of the changes. But the thing is, I did agree with her suggestions. I’m pretty sure I read that email no less than 50 times and I just couldn’t stop staring at it because it was the first time someone in publishing truly understood me. Tina got it – this story I was trying so hard to tell – and I was not daunted in the least by her revision suggestions. Just ecstatic and ready to get to work.

I revised and tried not to constantly dwell on whether my little abduction book might actually find representation. I also obsessively read all interviews and profiles of Tina I could find online. I’d queried her with my first manuscript, so I knew that she had a great sales record, not to mention an impressive list and excellent reputation. But honestly, she was so far up on the Dream Agent list for me that I’d been scared to query her (again) until my fourth novel. Six weeks after the initial revise + resubmit request, I sent the new (and very improved) manuscript to Tina and tried very hard to keep calm and work on another project.

On August 1, two and a half weeks later, she called to offer representation. I kind of stared at the phone for a while when I saw the 212 number, thought there was no way this could actually be happening. Not after four years of waiting for this very call. And then I made a bad joke about her calling to reject me and she offered to rep me anyway! We talked for a while and I knew by the end of the conversation that my book and my career would be in good hands with her. I accepted her offer at the end of the call. I don’t recommend this, but a) I’d been querying and researching for years and hadn’t found a bad word about her online, and b) I knew by the way she treated me when I was just a slush pile submission that it would be an honor to be her client. Best decision ever? I think so. We polished up the manuscript in August, went out on submission at the end of September, and received an offer on my book the first week in October.

So to sum up (if you are still reading and jeez, if you are, thank you): Don’t give up. Seriously. Just keep writing. Get better. Do your research. Read (a ton), in and outside your genre. Be professional. It will pay off. If I had to go through the last four years all over again to sign with Tina, I’d do it in a heartbeat. There’s a reason most authors speak so highly of their agents – when you find that perfect fit it’s hard to imagine working with anyone else.

Do you have a favorite How I Got My Agent story? Have a link to yours? I’d love to hear them!

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