I cannot believe I'm actually writing this post. I love reading other writers' How I Got My Agent Posts, and I always hoped I'd get to write my own. And now I do! :D
Warning - this will be long. I've been composing this in my head forever. Feel free to skip to the end for the good stuff.
I'm going to start from the very beginning, because it's a very good place to start (and if you know where that comes from, you will make my day!).
In 2006, I found out about this thing called NaNoWriMo. I was in law school and needed to do something that wasn't studying or law review or outlining. Something creative. I had an idea for a middle grade book (although I had no idea what "middle grade" was then). So I tried NaNo. And wrote about 30,000 words in a month. I added to it here and there, and in the meantime, I read up on revising and the publishing industry and anything writing-related I could find.
The following November, I still hadn't finished that first book but I had an idea for a second book (which would eventually become EX-DRAMA QUEEN). So I started that one in November 2007, and wrote a whopping 7000 words. Ha! In my defense, I'd just found out I'd passed the bar exam in October, was interviewing for jobs, and then started my first lawyer gig immediately after Thanksgiving. So I was a little busy that month.
Fast forward to 2008. I decided to put EDQ aside so I could finish my first book. I polished it up and read about query letters. On November 10, 2008, I sent out my very first batch of queries.
And they were AWFUL.
Somehow I actually got one partial request and one full request on that book. I don't know what those agents were drinking, but I'd really like to have some. I cringe when I think of the manuscript I sent them, too. They probably added me to a "Never Ever Ever Request From This Writer Ever Again" list they keep on their wall. Because you know all agents totally have one of these lists. :)
Yeah. So after sending somewhere between 40-50 queries on that book, I decided it was time to move on. Between 2008 and 2010, I sent those queries and I (very slowly) finished EDQ and revised it. In 2010, I joined SCBWI and went to a local writing retreat and my very first writing conference. I also found two local critique groups, lost my job, had a miscarriage, and went on a ginormous road trip out West. 2010 was an eventful year.
In November 2010, I sent out the first queries on EDQ. (And really, what IS it with me and November??) Over the next few months, I only sent a few queries. No bites.
And then I got pregnant and everything writing-related stopped while I ate every piece of food in the house and spent hours perusing my Babies 'R Us registry. Well, not everything. I did go to an SCBWI conference in May 2011 where I sat in the back near the door so I could go to the bathroom about 900 times a session. I did WriteOnCon in August with my laptop propped on my belly. I started a new manuscript (DON'T FALL DOWN). And I even got a query rejection at 4:46 p.m. on September 9th, while I was getting checked into the hospital to give birth.
And then I really did nothing writing-wise for several months. I had a newborn and I was dealing with a crazy unexpected health issue from the pregnancy. It went undiagnosed for six weeks, and was such an incredibly scary thing that I still have a hard time talking about it. (Choriocarcinoma, if you're feeling ambitious and want to Google it. PS - do NOT Google this if you're pregnant right now. It will freak you the heck out.).
So....in 2012 I got a LOT more serious about my writing. A brush with death will kind of do that to you. I found a new critique group. I went back through EDQ with more critical eyes. I joined Twitter. I found beta readers (Stefanie Wass @stefwass, Jen Malone @jenniferlmalone, Heather Brady, and Jenn Brisendine @jennbrisendine). I went to more conferences. I drafted another version of the query for EDQ, and I began querying in earnest. I also discovered online contests and may have become a little addicted. ;)
And - I got requests!
Requests from contests, requests from Twitter pitch parties, requests from queries. I started getting personalized rejections! (You KNOW you're getting somewhere when you start getting those.) I even got my first R&R on EDQ. In November, I found a full request for EDQ from this really funny, nice, newer, awesome agent in my inbox. I may have done a little dance (okay, I admit I did a little dance every time I got a request), and then I sent it off.
Meanwhile, I finished DFD, revised it, had it critiqued, and revised it again and again.
In November, I entered the Pitch Wars contest with DFD. I didn't get in, but I got some of the most helpful and inspiring feedback from the mentors. Not to mention some help with my first few pages and my agent search. (Shoutout to Dee @writeforapples, Brenda @brendadrake, and Krista @kristavandolzer - go follow them!!)
Also, I thought I'd do NaNoWriMo again with a new idea. Because I'm crazy that way. I also joined the #5amwritersclub to get some uninterrupted writing time.
In December, DFD got into the Baker's Dozen contest, and I almost broke the internet at work refreshing the website the morning of that contest. After that, I decided to set EDQ aside and concentrate on querying DFD. I also did this fun Twitter pitch party - #PitchMas. And what do you know - that same Awesome Agent requested DFD!
An agent had TWO of my manuscripts. *dies*
In January 2013, I put DFD into a few more contests - Cupid's Blind Speed Dating Contest, Project Mayhem's I Have A Dream Contest, and the contest with the best name ever, The PAPfest (Pitch a Partner Contest). I sent a few queries. Then I decided I hated the query letter, so my writing twinsie and critique partner, Jen Malone, helped me make it 1000 times better. And I sent a few more queries. I found out I'd gotten into the Blind Speed Dating contest, and that I was a finalist in the Project Mayhem contest and the PAPfest.
Then I got this funny email from Jen asking if I'd heard anything back from Awesome Agent because she'd had a dream that said agent had offered me representation. I laughed and said, "I wish!"
And then Awesome Agent offered me representation.
Seriously, if you need something to happen in life, go ask Jen to dream it for you. ;)
I was sitting at work, chatting to my office-mate, and checking my email. I opened the email from Awesome Agent. I had to read it about fifty times before I believed what it was saying. I pretended to listen to my co-worker while my brain was screaming, "OH MY GOD!!!!!"
And THEN, when I emailed to pull my entry from the I Have a Dream Contest, I found out I'd won that contest, which came with a referral to another agent. Ack!!
I sent out all my notification emails to the agents who had my query, partial, or full. I had just queried several of those agents the day before I'd gotten the offer. And even though I had started querying DFD, I still had unanswered queries and submissions out on EDQ. I had to combine two spreadsheets, y'all. This was some serious spreadsheeting.
Awesome Agent answered all my questions via email, and we decided to Skype after she got back from a trip out of the country.
I got requests from the agents I'd notified.
Then I waited.
I annoyed the bejeezus out of my agented friends.
I SQUEE'D with a local writing buddy, Sara Thompson @ThWritingSpider (who writes the most hilarious blog entries! Yes, that is a shameless plug for a friend.).
I commiserated with another writer friend who also had an offer around the same time (and I can't tell you who because she's still in that excruciating waiting period - but you'll find out soon!).
I refreshed my email a few too many times.
And I got the most encouraging and friendly rejections EVER. Literary agents are the nicest people on the planet. Well, maybe after nuns. And kindergarten teachers. But still, I want to frame most of those passes because they said so many sweet things about my writing.
Finally, it was Monday!!! Time to Skype with my new-agent-to-be. I got home a little early, tamed my frizzy Helena Bonham Carter hair, put on lipstick (you know you're important when I bother to put on lipstick), and waited by my laptop.
Then I had the best conversation with the best agent ever. You guys - she really gets my books! And she said all kinds of nice things about them. And she was just as friendly and down-to-earth as I thought she would be. And she didn't mind when my husband got home early and Little E crashed our call by demanding to be picked up. And and and...!!!!!
I'm represented by the awesome Julia Weber! :D *cue dance moves*
So here are the stats (on both books)...
Queries Sent: 36
Partial Requests: 3
Full Requests: 7
Queries Sent: 16
Partial Requests: 1
Full Requests: 4
Offers: 1 - the only one I needed! :)
(PS: This blog post shows exactly why I cannot write picture books or short stories.)