*I'm sorry this is a long post! But let's be real, you're going to skim it anyway ;)
Recently I signed with the amazing Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, a pairing that was actually rather close to not happening at all. I'm fascinated with "how I got my agent" stories, so for those of you who are curious, here's mine. Parts of it are ridiculously unbelievable, even to me, but I hope it will inspire you not to give up on your own dream!
So I wrote this book... that was step one. Drafting and a few rounds of revisions took about a year. Then came the time to actually send out queries. At first I targeted agents that had success representing books similar to mine. This isn't exactly the best idea, since they already have a client like me. I got great feedback from several agents, two of which took the time to send extensive revision suggestions, and I reworked where I saw fit. The changes made the story stronger, but mid-end of summer was maddeningly quiet on the query response/request front. I was losing hope. Maybe this story wasn't the one. So I worked to emotionally let it go, and dove into my next story.
And I went query-rabid.
Now, Marietta was closed some of the time I queried, but I had a watch set on her agent profile on Query Tracker to be notified when she reopened. To me, her and her agency felt extremely unattainable. One of those dream agencies you query and try to forget you queried because you don't want to think about the rejection that's coming. One of my critique partners queried Nancy Gallt, and for a second I was tempted to fill out that form on the website too, but something held me back. Inside, I knew I needed to wait to query that agency until Marietta was open again.
I spent the first half of September sending queries to the rest of the agents on my list (the peak of my query-rabid stage, expecting nothing, happy with how my new story was shaping up). On a whim, I participated in a Twitter pitch event (#pitmad) on a Thursday (that I only knew about because my critique partner happened to mention it on gchat that morning), which led to a request, which led to my first offer by an unscheduled phone call the following Monday, September 17th, which happened to be the same day Marietta reopened. I had queried her as soon as I woke up that morning, and the offer that stemmed from #pitmad came just a few hours later. I notified a couple agents with my material of the offer, as well as some agents I'd queried that I was especially interested in hearing back from. Suddenly there were a handful of agents interested, all promising to get back to me as soon as possible. But being me, I didn't expect any more offers.
After that first phone call, I got an email from Marietta, asking to read the entire manuscript! A same-day response from an agent that JUST reopened, on the same day I got an offer. This was just too unreal. I sent her the full, and notified her of the offer.
I got a second offer on Tuesday, and my head was spinning. I now had a decision to make. I was going to have to tell someone no, and someone yes. I could hardly eat or sleep.
Thursday, on my way home from work, I got another unscheduled phone call. It was offer number three. I had to pull over to a parking lot to talk to her so I wouldn't wreck.
Friday, an email from another agent to set up a phone call. Offer number four.
What. The. Bleep. Do. I. Do. Now?
I spent the weekend in shock. Tossing and turning. Not eating. Anxious. Confused. Thrilled.
Monday I checked in with the agents still considering, letting them know I now had four offers, and that I was preparing to make my decision. Marietta responded, and we set up a phone call for that afternoon. Offer number five. I felt so good after speaking with her. Not only did she get my story the way I wanted readers to get it, but she was incredibly kind, experienced, and just... right.
But I still had time to think, and Tuesday I got another offer. Number six (I told you this story got completely unbelievable. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it).
Wednesday morning I woke up with the clarity that Marietta was my agent. I still had one more agent with the full, but she was pretty much unresponsive by this point. Convinced I was done, and confident in my decision, I emailed Marietta, set up a phone call, and accepted her offer on the phone. Much squealing of delight followed after I hung up.
I HAVE AN AGENT! OMG! WHAT? IS THIS REAL LIFE? AHHHHHH!!
Later that afternoon, of course, I finally got an email from the last agent I was convinced I would never hear from. She wanted to set up a phone call to make an offer. Number seven. You've got to be kidding. I wrote her back and thanked her, but had to decline the phone call.
I know what you're thinking. This story is bogus. Trust me, I was saying this to myself and my family the entire time. With each phone call, I just felt like I was falling farther and farther down some rabbit hole of a dream. It sounds exciting--the problem you want to have, they say. But it was, at times, heartbreaking. There were tears involved. There was much stress. I felt sick all the time because I wasn't eating or sleeping well. I had to choose between amazing agents who all loved my story. Who wanted to take a chance on me and my little YA contemporary story that I had just started to believe would never make it anywhere. Thankfully, once I talked to Marietta, the agent that almost wasn't an option, my choice was clear.
So I don't have one of those stories where I queried 10 people and got an offer right away. I queried wide, and for months. I got a lot of nos. I just about gave up, but decided to go ahead and send queries to the rest of the agents on my list. To jump into a Twitter pitch event, of all things. To go ahead and query that unattainable agent as soon as she reopened to queries. And suddenly it was all worth it. Every little thing during my query experience happened because Marietta and I were always supposed to work together. Let this encourage you not to take rejections so hard. They're going to happen. Keep in mind, that one "no" might be making way for that one "yes" you're meant for later.
And because it inspired me to see the numbers on these types of posts:
Total time querying: 5 months
Total queries sent: 121
Query rejections: 59
Partial requests: 13
Full requests: 13
(Those numbers are the same, but not all partials were upgraded to fulls. Some agents ask for fulls right off the bat)
Offers of representation: 7
The rest are no-responders, or have yet to respond (as of the time of this post, I'm still getting rejections!)
"Your time will come, if you wait for it, if you wait for it. It's hard, believe me, I've tried..."
- Imagine Dragons
Don't give up on your dreams. They're worth the effort it takes to get there.