How I Got My Agent, Part I

I don't know about you, but when I read these stories, I'm always more interested in how long and difficult the journey was (it encourages me when I'm dealing with The Long and Difficult myself). So this first part is everything leading up to the call. The part where Tricia chose me comes on Friday.

BACKGROUND
2003-2008: I wrote a novel (Travelers). I learned what a query letter is. I got rejected a lot.

2008-2010: I wrote another novel (Air Pirates). I got lots of feedback on it, learned how to delete whole chapters, and queried again. I got rejected less, but still . . . rejected.

(Side note: I also spent some time writing three short stories, getting one of them published, and drafting another novel (Cunning Folk)).

2010-2011: I revised Air Pirates from adult SF/F to Young Adult and, in May, queried it again.

THE REFERRAL
Querying the YA version of Air Pirates started off fantastic. Three agents from the adult round said they'd be interested if I did revisions or had another novel, but more than that, I had the Holy Grail of the Unpublished Author: a referral.

As part of my, ahem, "networking" I lucked into a couple of beta readers who have agents and/or book deals. One of them LOVED Air Pirates (still does, I believe) and thought her agent would too. Her agent requested the full within hours.

Three weeks later, she passed.

She was really nice, and said her client was right to refer it to her, but she just wasn't passionate enough to represent it. And I learned something I thought I had already known: a referral can only get your work seen, not sold.

THE ROLLER COASTER
That rejection hurt the most, I think, because I'd put so much hope in it. Over the next month I got a couple more requests and a couple more passes (always with the same thing: "There's a lot I liked, but I just don't love it enough to offer representation."). I also wrote this post and found myself in Stage 6 of this one.

Then in August I got 8 more requests(!). I thought I was level-headed about it, but I also doubled the rate I sent out queries so . . . maybe not.

In September, my manuscript was with 10 agents. A month later, half of them had passed -- some that I'd been really excited about -- all with the same comments as the others. I was still querying, but emotionally I was in the final stages.

THE OFFER I TURNED DOWN
This is another post, because it comes with warnings I think every Professional Aspiring Writer should hear. For now, know that I got an offer that may or may not have been a real offer and probably wasn't a good idea even if it was. I turned it down.

And I realized I was sending my 140th query letter to agents I probably wasn't going to be very excited about even if they offered -- agents I might even have said no to. I stopped sending out new queries.

I was done. Yes, there were still a few manuscripts out there, but I'd lost hope in most of them. I didn't even know some of the agents who had requested them. Would they turn out to be the same as the offer I turned down? I let it go and focused my efforts on drafting another novel.

It was less than 24 hours after finishing that draft when I got an e-mail with some hope in it. (Continued here)

17 comments:

R.S. Bohn said...

Loved this. Tweeted it.

Congrats again.

Emily White said...

Very exciting story! I can't wait to hear the rest of it. Congrats, by the way!! :)

storyqueen said...

Looking forward to reading the rest of your story!!

And congratulations are in order, I hear!

Shelley

Amie McCracken said...

I'm sorry. But you can't just stop there and continue on Friday. Seriously! The suspense is killing me!

Krista V. said...

I can't wait to hear more about the offer you accepted - and about the offer you turned down. Like you said, I think that's something that every querying writer needs to know about it. Not all agents are created equal.

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

ohman! that near miss must have killed. i'm so sorry you went through that.
but
mr. perseverance, you did well! :)

Iliadfan said...

Why did you revise from Adult SFF to YA? Do you feel like your story is better for it, or just different?

Can't wait to hear the rest!

Nancy Thompson said...

Thanks for sharing this. It does give me hope which, like you, is waning after so many rejections, two of which were the holy grail type: referrals. But I keep muscling on bilstered with the hope from writers like you, Adam. I'm so excited for you & can't wait to read about the rest of your journey!

Holly L'Oiseau said...

Don't leave us hanging! I really want to know what else happened! *waits not so patiently*

Beth Hull said...

Getting ready to send my query off with referrals from some published friends, and MUST keep in mind "the referral can only get your work seen, not sold." Think I will tape that to my computer - thank you!

Myrna Foster said...

I can't wait for Friday's post! My favorite publication stories are the ones that take a while, even though I know they're rough on the writer. They're easier for me to relate to. It's taken me years just to reach that first query, and it would have taken me even longer, if I hadn't promised Krista I'd query by the end of the year.

Jessica Silva said...

wow. I mean, I knew you had a life before I found your blog (fancy that!), but I hadn't realized yet how long you'd queried and where you were with it before you got your agent. I suppose that's my fault for not reading your archives, but still. admiration for you getting an agent. A LOT MORE admiration for you for enduring this looooong haul to getting one :)

Ellis Shuman said...

Your posts prove that you should really be a writer of suspense novels! I'm looking forward to Friday's post.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Oh man, way to leave us hanging!

Yes, I remember being in give-up mode when I got THE email from my agent wanting to set up a phone call. Isn't it funny how that can happen?

Matthew MacNish said...

Every single journey is unique.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

I know this is an older post, but man, it offers me a lot of hope. I had 9 full requests right off when i started querying my MS. None of them ended up going anywhere, but reading this post makes me feel much better. It's a hard lesson to learn that a full request, like a referral, really only guarantees a look at the MS and nothing more

Matthew MacNish said...

I guess I had read this. I just didn't remember Cunning Folk.