How I (eventually) got my agent
Updated: Feb 8
... hello? *clears throat* hello. hi!
Thanks for reading my first blog post, ever (unless you count my live journal from 2003 which I am definitely not counting).
Since I joined the writing community, I've been devouring all the "How I got my agent" stories I'd find on Book Twitter. They've been a source of comfort during those long, cold days in the query trenches. I looked forward to being able to write my own post one day, but alas, I didn't have a blog OR an agent. For a long time, it was me, my one CP, and a dream.
My path towards representation was not a straight line. Eight years in the making, it wasn't the longest path but it certainly wasn't the shortest.
For those interested in the stats, my first "yes" took:
- 8 years
- 3 completed manuscripts (book #1 shelved, #2 & #3 queried)
- 100 rejections (63 rejections on book #2, 37 on book #3)
And for those interested in the story itself...
When I was little, I'd thought about becoming an author. I even won first place in a state-wide short story contest in third grade, but writing books seemed too hard-- they were so LONG! Instead, I studied psychology. I love clinical psychology so, so much--it's essentially the art of untangling people's stories and helping them come to terms with them. When I eventually started working (after finishing 22nd grade, as I like to tell my kids), I finally had reading time again. I read on my commute, I read after work, I read in the wee hours of the morning when I should have been sleeping. And eventually, I wanted to see if I could do it myself: write a book. It was initially just for fun, a challenge for my newfound free time, now that I was no longer a forever student. So I started writing a super dramatic, super romantic YA dystopian cli-fi, as one does.
I loved writing. I loved it even more than reading, which I never thought was possible.
Fast forward a few years of trying to figure out HOW to write a book, I entered my first completed manuscript in Pitch Wars 2017. If you're a writer who doesn't know what Pitch Wars is, you should check it out here.
A friend of mine (the illustrious Alexa Martin, author of the Playbook series and the soon-to-be-released Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes) had entered and gotten in, and I hoped I'd follow in her footsteps. While my super dramatic YA dystopian cli-fi did NOT get me in, it did get me a few bites. Both requesting mentor teams were kind enough to give me feedback. At first, I was too crushed to give their feedback much consideration. I really, really wanted to get in. I knew so little about writing at the time, but I knew enough to know my manuscript wasn't query ready. I'd also discovered that dystopian YA was apparently out of style, even though it was (and still is) one of my favorite genres.
I licked my wounds for a few months, then decided to get serious about writing and give it another go. Inspired by Peak, a compelling theory about how to become the best at just about anything, I realized that I needed to learn from people better than me. So I went back to the mentors' feedback and gave it some real thought. Reluctantly, I (re)joined Twitter and began following authors who gave writing advice. I bought craft books and read them, highlighter in hand. I started allowing myself to write during breaks, rather than only at night. And soon, I had a shiny new idea, one I drafted with the help of deadlines and community, courtesy of CampNano. This time, I hustled to trade with other aspiring writers so I could get the thing I desperately needed in order to grow: feedback. Participating in events like #CPMatch, in Facebook groups for Pitch Wars hopefuls, and #PWPoePrompts on Twitter, I traded first chapters, and eventually whole manuscripts, with other writers and Pitch Wars hopefuls. By the time Pitch Wars 2018 came around, I was ready.
And I got in! *shocked squeals*
Under the brilliant mentorship of Hoda Agharazi, I finally had what I needed: someone more advanced in talent and experience to teach me the ropes of plot, story, characterization, voice, and so forth. With Hoda's mentoring, my beloved YA space fantasy (also quite romantic, surprise surprise) became a tightly paced, shiny story. And beyond Hoda, I found myself in a community of other Pitch Wars mentees, many at my level, and plenty more with skills above mine. I learned from them as much as I learned from my mentor.
I love Pitch Wars. It changed my life. But--Pitch Wars is hard. I had under three months to revise my entire manuscript--twice--while also working full time as a psychologist, being a mom to two wonderful but tiny humans, and the usual holiday busy-ness of November-January. I was so, so, so busy. The laundry piled over my head. Work calls that used to take me minutes now took me days to find time to respond. Countless texts were lost. My children miraculously didn't develop scurvy from their lack of balanced meals. My mess of notes and scene cards took over our home, but I did it-- I worked my tail off and was happy with the finish product. I went into that showcase as proud and sure-footed as a writer can be--especially one who had never queried. It was my time. I just knew it.
And then the showcase hit and... crickets.
I queried my manuscript for nearly a year after the showcase but received no offers of representation. While in the trenches, I began writing a YA contemporary, hoping it'd be more "commercial" than my quirky speculative ideas. But around the 70% mark, a new idea struck me, one equal parts bizarre and romantic. My contemporary idea had been losing steam, and I couldn't bring myself to write another word of it. So I began writing what eventually became REVELLE.
I drafted it in three months, which is unusually quick for me. It took me another nine months to revise it, courtesy of the pandemic slowing me down. Thanks to the friends I'd made during Pitch Wars, I had plenty of help from betas and critique partners, and with each round of feedback, the manuscript improved tremendously. Eventually, I had the external plot down pat, and was happy with the voice of both main characters, but something was... off. It was still far too long to query (I tend to be very wordy) and the romance wasn't quite right. So I applied to Pitch Wars again, with my fingers crossed for the opportunity to work with Emily Thiede, a debut author who had the exact strengths I was looking for: trimming manuscripts and increasing the tension between characters, among other things. She'd worked with top editors and seemed like a wonderful teacher. And she picked me!
Fast forward three months and several intense rounds of revisions with my incredible mentor (who literally let me send her each act as I finished it, so we could review my revision plan for the next act), and it was showcase time! Unlike two years earlier, this time, I was thrilled by the attention my manuscript received from agents. Still, for three months, rejection after rejection trickled in. Dozens of my fellow mentees had signed with agents already, while I continued to collect rejections. Until finally, one of my top choice agents emailed to express how much they were enjoying my manuscript. Two long weeks later, and they requested a call.
It was one of the most exciting days of my life. One of the few silver linings of having a long path to publication is that, when I finally received an offer of rep, my friends (many whom had already debuted) were thrilled for me. Telling them, screaming with them, crying with them-- it was amazing, and I love them immensely.
I ended up receiving offers from four agents. It was a true shock-- 100 rejections later, I would have been thrilled with a single offer, let alone a choice. And they were all incredible. Every client of theirs I spoke to only had the highest things to say, across the board, and they all had the editorial vision and sales records to boot. The bottom line, for me, came down to fit. I chose Lauren Spieller at TriadaUS because of her hustle. She had the most sales in my genre, the quickest turnaround time for edits/revisions, and had demonstrated her selling skills in how much she hustled while I was deliberating. Like me, she works hard and fast. The day after I signed, she sent my edit letter, and it was time to dig in--again.
And that's how I got my agent :)