When I first thought about writing this post, the first answer to the customary How I Got My Agent question was just…the same way everyone else did. But once I thought about it, I realized that’s really not the answer at all.
I have a treasure trove of thoughts, feelings, and generalized rambling to put here, but the first thing I want to say is that I could never have expected to be a Twitter pitch party success story. That idea was so far out of the realm of possibility that I considered not even participating in the pitch party that actually landed me my agent. Before we get to that, though, we need to cover the reality of what happened before that fateful like of a tweet.
Picture this, it’s 2015. Seventeen year old me has recently graduated from high school, and had written a book that she thought was the most spectacular piece of literature the world had ever seen. I recently found a list of 100 YA agents I’d printed out back then. It had different colored highlighter smudged all over it, and some names crossed off. Even I couldn’t make sense of it, and the book wasn’t even YA. I was actually that stupid. Obviously, that was not an agent-landing manuscript.
Fast forward to September, 2019. I’d written another book. There’d been two in between my first book and this one, but I loved this one the most. It took me over a year to write the first draft, and it was so vulnerable, so honest. I didn’t know how anyone could tell me no. Well, I got plenty of no’s. Nearly 100 rejections on that book alone. It was crushing, and awful, but I kept going. I queried and queried and queried, getting these glimpses of positive feedback but ultimately very few bites. Now, here’s where things get difficult. For me, the key to the querying process was the balance between being determined to never quit, and knowing when to pull a manuscript out of the trenches and start the process over when I had a new one ready. That point came when I got extensive feedback on a full request. I knew then that the book, as beloved and personally impactful as it was, needed a lot of work. So, I pulled it, and I dove headfirst into the project I started drafting right after I began querying.
By November 1st, the first day of National Novel Writing Month, I had a detailed outline, moodboards, character sheets, everything. I threw myself into that book and I barely came up for air until I had almost 60,000 words. I didn’t quite hit the 50K goal for NaNoWriMo, but the draft came together by January. I had it edited by late February, and I was ready to query.
I compiled a list of an initial thirteen agents to start with, and I was determined to get responses from them before I queried more, because I wanted to take this process slower than I had the last time I queried. I sent six queries out on Leap Day, because it felt lucky. Waking up the next day to a full request was the moment I knew this time was going to be different. Obviously, a full request doesn’t mean an offer. No amount of full requests does, but this was progress. It took months before I got a full request last time, so this felt like a definite step forward.
The following Thursday was #PitMad. For those of you who don’t know, PitMad is a pitch party where authors condense their query letters into succinct pitches that fit into a single tweet. Then, throughout the day, agents and editors like tweets from authors they’d like to see material from. The day before PitMad, I hadn’t decided if I was going to pitch or not. I’d done pitch parties before, and gotten absolutely no response. On a whim, I decided to draft a pitch or two, just to see how they turned out. I liked them enough that I scheduled them to post while I was at work the next day. Then, Wednesday night, I saw other people posting moodboards of books they were planning to pitch, as an “everyone look out for this” kind of announcement. My moodboards had never seen the light of day, so I posted one, talking about my plan to pitch my book the next day. That tweet garnered a reply from Emmy Nordstrom Higdon, Associate Agent at The Rights Factory, and my eventual agent. They requested material even before PitMad, and even though I got other likes during the pitch party, this was the one that set the ball rolling. I had a full request from them by Sunday, and two weeks later, I had an offer.
It was wild. I was used to querying being a slow process, a form rejection every couple of days, and some nice feedback in between. This all moving so fast was completely unexpected. The part that felt so radically different to me were the responses from agents I nudged with an offer of representation. I got emails back in record time, with compliments and wishes that they’d had more time to devote to a potential new project. Even a couple “can’t wait to see your book on the shelves.” These were agents I’d admired since I’d begun querying years ago, even people who had rejected me before. Getting that positive encouragement from them was an incredible way to end a querying journey that managed to span five years.
When we do the math, it was 5 manuscripts, 3 rounds of querying, hundreds of rejections, and one moodboard that landed me an agent. So, my path to being agented probably wasn’t exactly like anyone else’s, but there are some components to querying that are pretty much universal. Persistence, anxiety, frustration, and hopefully, eventually, this feeling of exhilaration that a years long goal is finally within reach. For me, that was all more than worth it.
I am so beyond excited to work with Emmy, and join the #SpineSquad and The Rights Factory team. I can’t wait to move into this next phase of my writing journey.