Monday, October 15, 2012

How I Got My Agent

First of all, thank you to everyone who stopped by to wish me congratulations last week! It's such a great feeling having so many supportive friends. :) I'm still working through the comments, but I might be slow. So in the mean time, know that every comment was VERY appreciated!

Anyhoo, last week you got the short version of my news, so today, for those who like this sort of thing (I always do), I give you the long version. I totally understand if you skim. Because it's long. Especially for me!

Many moons ago, when I was but a wee lass, I wrote a book. It was amazing. A best seller. Humorous. Touching. Emotional. Gripping from page one. (Okay, I'm lying. It was TERRIBLE. But that's how I felt about it.)

I queried precisely one agent. And I got precisely one partial request . . . and then an exceedingly kind rejection. And I KNEW. I put that book on a shelf and moved on to the next book.

The next book took me . . . um, A LOT of years to write. Because by golly, I was going to get it right this time! I entered one pitch contest, and got one full request (I know! Crazy, right?). And then I got the rejection. And I KNEW. This book was not ready. I tried to fix this one, but just never felt ready to let it go. So I moved on to the next book.

Except, really, I moved back to the previous book. I re-read it. Groaned at how awful it was. But I saw the spark in my characters. I replotted. Made my darling husband talk plot points on date night. Carried a notebook with me everywhere so I could write in every spare minute. But before I was done, I sent the first ten pages to be critiqued by an agent at a conference.

And people, you are going to laugh, but I got a full request! So I worked even harder and finished the first draft (I use the term loosely). I edited it, polished it, and finally sent it off (Jan. 2011). And then . . .? Nothing. So I took a deep breath and began querying in March. Slowly. V-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y. And I got some requests, but one by one, they all came back as rejections.

Something had to be done. Come October 2011, I battled in an online auction for an editor critique. I paid my money, and got some fabulous advice. But alas, it meant major revisions. So I dug in, and by February 2012, I was raring to go again. So I sent off ten more queries, and got a couple of requests. I even e-mailed some agents who had rejected the full, and they all agreed to look at it again. I was feeling good!

But when those rejections came, I was crushed. CRUSHED. I came to the only conclusion I could. My book was not ready. Irrational, I know, but there we have it. I stopped querying last April.

So I threw my heart into my next book which I am absolutely in love with. And this time I was feeling it. This was going to be THE book. My breakthrough.

Halfway through draft two of THE book, I got an email from a former CP telling me how she had given her novel one last shot and actually gotten an agent. I was so happy for her, and so humbled. Deep down, I knew I hadn't really given my previous book a chance. So I told myself: "One last hurrah. And then I can't say I didn't try."

Right about this same time Brenda Drake was starting Pitch Madness. 300 entries. 60 finalists. 9 agents.

I entered, and was lucky enough to be pulled from the slush by Dee and chosen as a finalist by Erica Chapman.

Now see, I had read all the agent bios. One had already rejected this ms, and 3 or so didn't do Middle Grade. Of the remaining 5, based on interests, I thought I'd probably get one request. Two if I were particularly lucky.

That week I bit my nails (which I DON'T do), followed the #pitchmadness twitter conversation religiously, and tried my best to sleep at night. And of course I told myself, "It's not like anything's going to come of this. Even if I do get a request."

Yeah. Pessimist, much?

The day arrived. With shaking hands I went to twitter for the announcement of which agent won each entry. But my entry didn't come up. They skipped right past my number. I felt sick. But wasn't it just the inevitable? No interest. More of the same.

Dejected, I went to my entry just to make it real, and my jaw dropped to the floor to find that SIX of the nine agents had expressed interest! SIX!!! Including the one who had previously rejected it. And including an agent I KNEW didn't rep middle grade. There had been a tie, which is why my entry hadn't been announced.

I was agog. I must have stared at that screen for a full minute with my mouth still hanging open.

Anyway, to bring this epically long post to an end, I ended up with three requests in addition to the winner. One of those being the agent who had previously rejected this book.

So when I received an e-mail from the said agent a mere six days later, I assumed she had finally realized her mistake.

I could not have been more wrong. She wanted to talk representation!

I know!

We had a wonderful telephone conversation in which she told me what she loved about my ms (among other things), and though I tried to keep an open mind for the other agents still reading, I knew I wanted to work with her. And if you haven't guessed by now, yes, this was Victoria Marini. SHE WAS THE AGENT WHO HAD REJECTED THIS VERY SAME BOOK! Form rejection of the query, no less.

I tell you this because I had written her off. She hadn't like it. So even though I'd done a major revision, I had no plans to re-query her.


Writing a book is a bold endeavor. It takes hard work, patience, and lots of courage. And querying is no different. Be bold! Be brave! BE BRAVER THAN ME. Don't be afraid of a 'no' . . . or even a second 'no'.

And there I shall end, but for those who like stats, here are mine. I've combined contest requests with queries, just to make it less convoluted:

Time spent querying: 9 months actively (over span of 1.5 years)
Total queries sent: 63 (fyi, I only sent 55 queries, the rest were requests from contests)
Query Rejections: 28
Non-responders: 20
Partial requests:  8
Full requests: 9
Offers of Representation: 1

It just takes one, right? Don't give up. And BE BOLD!


Faith E. Hough said...

That's awesome, Janet! Congratulations again--and I love hearing the long version!

Mara Rae said...

Wow, it's always good to hear the full story (and see the numbers). It's a reminder not to give up, because you never know what's right around the bend. Thanks again for sharing, and congratulations (again!).

Old Kitty said...

Wonderful!!! Well done you!!!!

Take care

Melissa Sarno said...

Oh, I love this :) I'm so happy for you. And I need that message to be brave.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

Aww! What a great story! Patience does win out sometimes.

Lori M. Lee said...

Wow, Janet, I'm so glad you persisted. What an awesome story. HUGE congrats again!

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

GREAT story! I love a story with a happy ending :) Yay for you :)

Anonymous said...

What a great story! Your tenacity is inspiring!

nutschell said...

CONGRATS!! Woohooo! I love reading stories like these. Love it!Certainly inspires me to keep barreling through my own writing hurdles.


Rachna Chhabria said...

Congratulations! Very happy for you.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, Janet. CONGRATS!

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I love it that you kept up with all the numbers. Makes it look like a numbers game vs. a words game. Good luck with the next phase.

LTM said...

LOL! OK, first, holy crap, CUF! You hit it every time--one query, one partial request; one query, one full request. How could you ever doubt after that?

I'm so proud of you. Here's hoping lots of agentey love and submissions success to you!!! xoxo ((jugs)) NTM

Saumya said...

Congratulations! What an incredible story. Your success is inspiring and we all can't wait to hear more!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. And I read every word. :)

Kristin Rae said...

Wow! What a great story!! Isn't it amazing what happens when we don't give up?! I'm so looking forward to seeing your career take off! Victoria seems amazing!! :)


Romance Book Haven said...

I loved reading the longer version-gave e more insight and information!



Golden Eagle said...

It was great to read about your journey to representation. It's very inspiring to know other writers are reaching their goals. :)


Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Oh, Janet! (HUG) I am so pleased and excited for you!!!!! Thank you for giving us the details of your quest. I loved reading every word of your post. Congratulations!!!!

Vicki Rocho said...

How exciting! I love reading these stories -- and I didn't skim at all! Thanks for sharing and congrats again!

Stina said...

I love this story. Super cool! The best agent stories are the one where the agent almost got a way. :D

Margo Berendsen said...

I love these stories. I never get tired of them. I love the stats. I love the huge numbers that slowly get whittled down to that amazing "1"!!! 1 offer of representation! And now let the number slowly increase again to # of publications!

Beth said...

That is wonderful news, and I couldn't be happier for you! But you must be a terrific writer in the first page to have such amazing stats. Seriously, 8 partials and 9 fulls? Very impressive!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Janet - it's so true isn't it .. don't give up ... and be bold - you can never do any harm asking (over asking and pressing yes,) ..

So pleased for you - cheers Hilary

Kristy Shen said...

Wow, Janet. You are an inspiration! I'm so glad you posted your story, and I'll read it whenever I'm feeling down so that I'll know never to give up. Congrats and I can't wait to read your book when it gets published. I've added myself to your followers list. :)

Lily Whalen said...

Congratulations, Janet! So excited for you! And thanks for the encouragement to the rest of us!