Now, you guys may have noticed I’ve been putting off this post. Not because I’m not excited as heck about it. And certainly not as a reflection on the fantabulous Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services , a.k.a. MY AGENT!!! Let’s be real, just typing that still makes me feel like this:
No, I’ve been putting it off because, not too long ago, I was on the other side of these posts, picking apart every word for hidden meaning. I was sure, mixed in with all those exclamation points, I’d find the secret handshake to Agentland. But here’s the thing. There is no secret handshake.
Don’t believe me? Here’s how it all went down:
I sent my very first query about four years ago. June 19, 2009, to be exact. The query itself was atrocious, and the manuscript was even worse. That’s right. Worse. Thankfully, my next manuscript was a little less horrible – and the one after that was almost good. It was so almost good I thought maybe it could be the ONE. Pretty much everyone who read it agreed. So I queried.
And got requests! Actual requests from actual agents! And I was all:
Then the requests turned into rejections. Lots and lots of rejections. It was sort of like this:
Which made me feel like this:
But only for a few minutes because then something really magical happened. One rejection came with feedback. Awesome feedback from an awesome agent (okay, agent’s assistant) who’d read the manuscript and believed in it enough to send something other than the dreaded form letter. It wasn’t an R&R – not by a long shot. But it was a start.
Needless to say, I went all Jillian Michaels on my manuscript. You know that scene in Close Encounters where the main dude attacks his mashed potatoes? Yeah. It was like that.
That’s when something else really magical happened. I entered Deana Barnhart’s Gearing up to Get an Agent contest. Not only did this put me in contact with lots of awesome writers, it also lit a fire under me to finally join Twitter. I’m not exaggerating when I say this was a game changer.
Did you hear that? Game. Changer.
I’ve learned so much by stalking – I mean, listening – to agents. Super casually, of course.
I’ve also met amazing writers I admire something fierce, including Brenda Drake, Krista Van Dolzer, Jen Malone, and Dee Romito. These ladies all deserve my eternal gratitude for their Pitch Wars feedback, especially Jen, who volunteered her sons as my first kid beta readers, and Dee, who taught me a new bad word… which I’d accidentally used as a character name.
Last but not least, I met a new critique partner named Brooks. That’s when things got really interesting. See, Brooks heard about Pitch a Partner, a contest run by the lovely Mindy McGinnis, R.C. Lewis , and MarcyKate Connolly .
The idea was simple: if you did a good enough job pitching your CP’s book, you got to pitch your own manuscript to actual agent-types. I hadn’t known Brooks that long, but I’d read his book and knew it was genius. So we entered.
Please note: I was still pretty new to contests, but I’d entered enough of them to know I was probably going to get silent rejections. A lot of them. So imagine my surprise when I oh-so-casually checked the blog comments for the (three-hundred and twenty-)first time only to discover I had a request! Then I got another one. And another. And I was all:
By the end of the contest, I had four requests from rock star agents. My mind was pretty much blown. After that, I started stalking my email instead of the contest comments. Partial requests turned into full requests. And then one full request turned into a request for a phone call.
Confession time: I had no idea who Adriann was before I entered Pitch a Partner. Once she requested, I researched like crazy and realized she was essentially an agent ninja. Our phone call did nothing to challenge that assumption. Adriann’s editorial suggestions were spot on. She seemed to love my characters as much as I did. And, well, we just seemed to click. I know everyone says that, and it’s frustratingly vague. But there it is.
Let me be clear: even after all that, I didn’t realize this was THE call. I thought we were discussing an R&R – or that I was being Punk’d. In fact, I was so sure it wasn’t THE call that, when Adriann offered rep, my brain short circuited and I actually asked her to repeat it.
Yeah. That happened.
Thankfully, she didn’t rescind her offer, and I somehow managed to say I needed to be professional and contact the other agents with pages, blah, blah. But the little inside voice my head was already screaming:
So I followed up with the other agents, which led to another epic staring contest with my inbox. During this time, Adriann sent a follow-up email that outlined her awesome vision for my book. I peppered her with questions (I don’t even want to admit how many emails this entailed). Most importantly, I spoke with her clients, who said things like, “She’s determined and professional and encouraging and smart,” “I couldn’t have landed a better agent,” and “SIGN WITH HER NOW, YOU FOOL!”
Okay, that last one might’ve been me. Needless to say, I accepted her offer, and I’ve been doing this ever since:
So there it is. To everyone out there in the query trenches, if there’s any doubt in your mind, banish it! Four years ago, I knew diddly-squat about querying and contests and agents. I learned pretty much everything I know from falling on my face. Repeatedly.
When rejection makes you feel like quitting, you just gotta reply:
If I can do this, you can too! Never. Give. Up.
Whew! To anyone who’s made it this far, thanks for reading! Now go out there and show the world who’s boss!