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You’ve heard the phrase “it takes a village,” right? The story of how I got my agent is the epitome of this saying.
I have been writing for over 10 years. Trying to get an agent has comprised at least 8 of those years. I’ve written over a dozen manuscripts.
What did I not do? Give up.
Flashback to 2016, when a friend encouraged me to pick up Story Genius by Lisa Cron. I like to think of this day as the moment that changed my life. If you write, and we’ve ever spoken, chances are I’ve raved to you about how much I love this book. I devoured it, and then I got the best news ever: Lisa teaches a CLASS.
I signed up.
What followed were some of the best writing times I’ve had. I wrote LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY using Story Genius and continued with Author Accelerator’s book coaching program to finish it. My book coach, Julie Artz, is about the best cheerleader around. She’s the one who encouraged me to submit to Pitch Wars. PW is a contest…sort of. You pitch to mentors, who then select one writer to work with over the course of two months. They help you rework your manuscript and query letter. In the writing world, getting into Pitch Wars is like winning the lottery.
To my shock and disbelief, I got in. Out of nearly 3,000 people. Me. Little old me. Up until this point, I’d mostly known rejection. I had a few short pieces published, but I never thought I was good enough to get into PW. Cue the crying. Through PW I met the ever-wonderful Katherine Fleet, who took me through yet another round of revisions. With my manuscript as shiny as can be, I entered the agent round with high hopes.
I had some nibbles, a few requests, but the worst part afterwards was the waiting. It took some time, but eventually I sat down and started working on a new project. In December of 2017, I participated in my first #PitMad. I had several requests from agents. More waiting. In the interim, I kept writing.
In March, I participated in my second #PitMad. More requests. More waiting.
Curious about my most successful Twitter pitch (aka the one that got me my agent)? Here it is:
Hudson has the same disease that’s killing his brother. Dying doesn’t terrify him, but the girl who interrupts his suicide does. Two strangers, a night of firsts and lasts, and one impossible decision: Is life with a deadline still worth living? #PITMAD #YA #CON #MH
Then came the fateful day. The moment of truth. In the midst of a family vacation to Florida, I received an email from an agent that said, “I’m enraptured. Please send the full.” Happily, I obliged.
The following day was a visit to the Animal Kingdom. I visited the Pandora exhibit. I rode rides. I basked in the awesome Florida sun. Then we went on a safari, and it was actually pretty awesome. I’d been careful not to check my email, which, over the course of several rounds of querying, has become like neurosis, but when I got off the safari truck, I noticed the agent who’d requested my full had liked a tweet of mine.
As I’m excitedly telling my family this, I opened my email and saw the words: OFFER OF REPRESENTATION.
She loved it. She stayed up until 2 a.m. reading. Cue more tears. I suddenly became the author I dreamed of being. The one who sends a full and gets a nearly-immediate offer of rep. I read the email aloud to my family, who looked on, eyes wide (possibly with disbelief, or maybe excitement).
Aside from the compliments she gave, my favorite part of her email was this line: I’m very excited about this manuscript Kasey (She did realize right after sending that she spelled my name wrong! Agents are people, too!!!) and what you’ll accomplish in the future, and would love to offer you representation for this and all future work. (Most exciting part: ALL FUTURE WORK.)
And this is the part where I was jumping up and down and screaming in the middle of Animal Kingdom’s Africa. The agent and I set up a call for the next day. I wandered Animal Kingdom in a fog. A joy-induced haze. I rode more rides. I think I ate something, but the details are blurry. A writer dreams of the day they’ll get the email. I’m so glad I spent it in Disney, surrounded by my family. The email couldn’t have come at a better time.
The call was great. We clicked. We talked about my writing and what I envisioned for my career. She had everything I was looking for in an agent. From the moment I spoke with her, I had this feeling of rightness. Of course, there was still some housekeeping to do with the rest of the agents who had my full: Send emails that said, I HAVE AN OFFER OF REPRESENTATION, and get on the phone with the agent’s clients to talk business. (They LOVE her. This was definitely a positive sign!!)
I expected more rejections to roll in, after all, as a writer, I’m well versed in rejection. However, I ended up getting two more offers and speaking with both agents, but in the end, I went with the person who is as enraptured with my story as I am.
Here’s a picture of me signing my contract. Ahh!!
And that’s the story of how I ended up with Ali Herring of Spencerhill Associates, my literary agent extraordinaire.
Some history on my querying. LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY is the 5th book I’ve queried. My stats look something like this.
BOOK 1: Queried before I knew Query Tracker existed. I sent it to a handful of agents and small presses. Crickets. I don’t even think I got rejections.
BOOK 2: 9 queries, 1 partial request. All rejections/no response. 3 months.
BOOK 3: 47 queries, 2 full requests. All rejections/no response. 4 months.
BOOK 4: 63 queries, 5 full requests. All rejections/no response. 13 months.
BOOK 5: LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY VARY 70 queries, 16 full requests, 35 rejections, 30 no response, 2 step asides because they didn’t have time to read (publishing is weird), and 3 offers of representation. 6 months.
As you can see, I got better and better with each round of queries. My writing improved, my queries improved, my success rate definitely improved. But I never would’ve made it here if I gave up after querying my first book, or my second, or my third… You see my point.
It takes a village. From Story Genius to Author Accelerator to Pitch Wars to #PitMad. And that’s not mentioning the countless manuscripts and books I’ve written. Every step brought me closer to fulfilling my dream of being an agented author. And every rejection taught me something about perseverance.
A month ago, after a slew of rejections, I was at my lowest point. This was literally the day before #PitMad when Ali liked my tweet. I cried for 4 hours and stayed up all night, a depressed mess, certain that I’d never get an agent, never be successful. The funny thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only place you can go is up.
Now, I have no illusions about publishing. I know getting an agent isn’t the golden ticket to success. I still have a long, difficult road ahead of me. But now I have a community, mentors, book coaches, and one cheerleader who I know will champion this book the way it deserves.
I can’t wait to see what comes next.