As Confucius once said, “If you get an agent but don’t tell anyone how you did it, did you even get an agent at all?” (He also said “don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”) (In case you missed it, I am lying.)
But I’m not lying about this: Getting an agent took a lot of hard work and persistence. At the risk of being a total cliché, I figured why not share my journey, in case it helps any aspiring authors out there?
I should start by saying that CAFE EUPHORIA, the book I’ll soon be revising with my new agent, was not the first book I queried. That book was called MADWOMAN, and it was very therapeutic to write but also ended up being a bit problematical. I queried it for about a year, and though various professionals at conferences said it was well written, it was not something that anyone would be able to sell. Over the course of that year I got only one partial request, which turned into a rejection soon after. Obviously I was upset, but thankfully I was already working on the next thing.
In case that’s a piece of advice you haven’t heard before, I’ll just put it right here in bold for you: Always be working on the next thing! Unless of course you need a mental health break, which is also valid. You do you. Artists shouldn’t feel pressure to constantly produce, but for me, working on the next thing (mostly) kept me from fixating on all the rejection I was getting. It forced me to focus my energy elsewhere. Personally, I need to know that I’m constantly working towards my goals, or I feel like I’m stagnating. It may or may not be healthy, but it works for me.
But I digress. I worked on CAFE EUPHORIA (which was technically my third book, but we won’t talk about the hot mess that was my very first one!) and got some really helpful feedback from my writing buddies to strengthen each draft. Somewhere in the middle of that process, when I was feeling solid about my beginning pages, but less so about the end, I decided to use a great resource, The Manuscript Academy.
If you haven’t heard of The Manuscript Academy, it’s a fabulous way to get feedback from industry professionals. (They also have an excellent podcast.) You choose an agent you think might enjoy your work, then select whether you want written or video feedback, and how many pages. None of the options are cheap, so if you’re struggling financially I would recommend only subscribing when you’re sure you’ll be using their service, and then cancelling until you need it again. (That’s what I did.)
Roughly a month after booking my feedback appointment, I received an email from the agent I’d selected, Larissa. The email included some line edits and more general feedback, and in the body of the email was this very encouraging message: “I love this. Please send me the full when it’s ready.” (I’m paraphrasing.) I won’t lie to you, reader, I jumped for joy!
It took another six months—until last March—for the manuscript to be ready, but you can bet your bum that Larissa was the first agent I sent it out to. Then, to make sure I was maximizing my chances, I set myself a goal of sending out 5 queries a day. Did I hit this goal every day? No, definitely not. But over the course of the next six months I sent 58 queries.
Rejection is never fun, but when you’re querying it’s just something you have to get used to. I did have a couple of close calls: once, the agent of one of my FAVORITE authors in the world requested a full. I was crushed when she rejected me, just a few months later. The feedback she gave me directly conflicted with the feedback I got from another agent who’d requested my full. How many full requests did I get, you ask? Four. Two swiftly became rejections, and the other two ghosted me. Or so I thought.
There are various bits of advice floating around the internet about how soon you’re allowed to “nudge” an agent who has your full. We all know agents are busier than ever, and no author wants to destroy their chances by coming off as needy or annoying. I figured 6 months was a safe bet, so I marked my calendar for August and told myself I’d send Larissa a nudge at the beginning of the month.
She replied immediately. It turns out my manuscript ended up in the wrong folder in her email and she never saw it! She told me she would prioritize it immediately. I should note that while I was happy she’d responded, I kept my expectations low. After 58 rejections, you learn not to get your hopes up.
So, imagine my surprise when, roughly two weeks later, she emailed me saying she’d read the whole manuscript in one night, that she loved it, and that she wanted to have a phone call! I started **screaming**. Our dog Bhalu must have thought I’d lost my mind. I called my boyfriend immediately, shouted my news, and danced around the house to a very long Youtube playlist entitled “Happy Music” until I was panting.
Needless to say, no work was done that day.
I spent that week furiously preparing for “The Call.” (Side note: there are some excellent resources online. My favorite is Alexa Donne’s Youtube channel.) I broke out my most beautiful unused notebook, and wrote down four color-coded pages of questions to ask. Then I listened to some podcasts in which Larissa was being interviewed, to get a sense of her personality. It reassured me that she seemed like a really sweet person. (On the call, when I told her I’d listened to those episodes, she was mortified. Ha!)
The call went amazingly. I rambled quite a bit, as I tend to do when I’m nervous, but she was fabulously tolerant, and all her answers to my questions were exactly what I wanted to hear. And at the end, she said, “This is my favorite part,” followed by these magic words: “Will you be my client?” I might have caused permanent damage to her ear when I shouted: “CAN I SAY YES NOW?”
So there you have it. In a couple of weeks she should be getting back to me with revisions notes. I imagine that will be a whole other beast, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but I can do it. I’ve written entire books, after all! And until that process starts I’m focusing on making my way to the end of the first draft of my next book.
If you made it this far, you deserve a medal. I was much wordier than I intended in this post! I’ll conclude thus: I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but I’m damn proud of myself. I’ve come a long way since I first decided to take myself seriously as a writer. Obviously I have a long way to go before I’m published, and it’s always possible that things still won’t work out with this book. It’s also not uncommon for things to go south in publishing, but right now, I’ve earned the right to celebrate. This is a big deal!