Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How I Got My Agent!

I am so, so, so excited to announce that I'm now represented by Jennifer Azantian of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency!

I've always found "how I got my agent" posts to be very motivating--so in the hope that others might feel the same way, here's mine. (Fair warning: it's long!)

THE LONG-TIMERS is the third novel I queried. I started writing seriously in 2010 and banged out what I thought was a pretty decent YA paranormal novel by the end of the year. I sent off a whole bunch of email queries (75 or 80, maybe? I remember it was a lot!), to pretty much anyone who represented the genre. This shotgun approach resulted in a handful of requests to read fulls and partials, and while every single one ended in a polite form rejection, it was enough to convince me I wasn't completely nuts.

Figuring I'd probably do better with another genre, one that wasn't quite so saturated, I decided to try writing a MG sci-fi novel next. As with my first manuscript, I got a handful of partial and full requests, but each one ended with a polite rejection.

But around this time, I lucked into my first real critique partner (hi Laura!). We met through our husbands and discovered we both wrote YA, so we decided to meet once a week and work through our previously completed manuscripts, critiquing a chapter a week.

Holy crap. Seriously, if you've never had a real CP, one who's also a writer, one who's willing to dig into your work and discuss it with you for hours, you NEED ONE. My writing improved immensely after just a few months of weekly meetings.

In late 2011, I figured I'd try my hand at another YA manuscript. I'd just finished the first draft of THE LONG-TIMERS when I stumbled across an agent's blog post promoting the 2012 Big Sur Writing Workshop--which was only a six hour drive away from where I was living at the time. The idea of going to an actual writing conference terrified me, to be honest. I wouldn't know anyone there. I'd never had more than one person actually critique my work. I'd have to meet (and talk to!) live agents. But somehow I screwed up my nerve and signed up. And I'm so glad I did! The conference was amazing. Not only did I meet my future Thinking to Inking co-bloggers there, but I also had actual conversations with several agents and got amazing feedback from editors and fellow attendees.

Just as I was finishing up the revisions from the conference and getting ready to start querying, I found out about a Twitter pitch party and signed up for an account. Suddenly (seriously, I still can't believe how fast this happened), I was a member of a thriving, awesome, incredibly supportive Twitter writing community.

I started querying THE LONG-TIMERS in June of 2012. This time, I was determined to query in small batches. This turned out to be really smart, because I got some tremendously helpful feedback early on which helped me make the manuscript much stronger. While I was waiting for responses, I entered contests--and to my surprise and delight, I started getting lots of requests! One of these was the Gearing Up to Get An Agent (GUTGAA) blogfest pitch contest, hosted by the lovely Deana Barnhart. I was thrilled when I made it to the agent round of the contest and even more thrilled when I got multiple agent requests to read partials--one of them from Jennifer.

I had over three times more requests to read material for THE LONG-TIMERS than my previous two manuscripts combined, but then the rejections started to roll in. Most of them were personalized--a big change from my first query attempts--and they were incredibly nice (I'm convinced literary agents are some of the nicest people on earth). But almost every rejection said the same thing: I really like these specific parts, but I'm not connecting with the whole thing/don't love it enough to represent it.

Well. As you can imagine, I felt a little discouraged. At the end of November, Jennifer emailed me to say she had loved the first fifty pages of the manuscript and wanted to read more, but I told myself not to get my hopes up. She probably would be another in the string of agents who liked it, but didn't like it enough.

So when I got Jennifer's email telling me she loved it, I just about fell off my chair. When she called me to offer representation, I was bowled over by her passion and excitement for the manuscript. I am beyond thrilled to be working with her and so happy that I finally found the exact right advocate for my work.

The moral of this particular story: get yourself out there! If I hadn't gotten together with critique partners, gone to conferences, and hooked up with a larger writing community, there's no way I'd be writing this post today.

I am incredibly grateful to the friends who helped me get to this point: my wonderful first CP Laura; Jenn, Stacy, and Lauren (seriously the nicest co-bloggers/critique partners I could ask for); Erin and Andrew for the great critique notes; Dee and Summer for being amazing and awesome and incredibly supportive; and my husband Gavin, who's stuck by me through all this craziness and makes everything possible. I love all of you guys!

Stats (because I know I always like to see them, heh):
Queries sent: 55
Rejections: 31
No-response: 13
Partial requests: 14 (9 from contests, 3 from queries, 2 from in-person pitches)
Full requests: 15 (8 from queries, 3 from contests, 4 upgraded from partials)


  1. I LOVE this post. I am so excited for you!!! Congratulations!!!!

  2. Totally got cold chills! Get yourself out there is right. It's a long hard road, but oh so worth it. I'm so happy to have played a part in your journey:) WOOT!

  3. Thank you! You're totally right. Your story is inspiring. :) I wish you all the best. I'll be looking forward to your book's release. Please let me know when.

  4. Congrats! Great story. I'm still in the dazed/happy just-got-an-agent phase myself (just posted my own story over at, so I know how you're feeling! It's so amazing to have an advocate for your work who's as passionate about it as you are. :D I love these stories, they're always so inspiring. Thanks for posting!

  5. I remember that feeling of gathering the courage to go to my first writer's conference alone. I am a fairly extroverted person and yet I was terrified. But on the very first day, at the very first lunch, is when I met my two CP's who have changed my life! So here, here, to getting yourself out there! Congrats :)

  6. YAYAYAYAYA! This post warms my heart. LONG-TIMERS is fantastic, and it's no surprise you found an amazing agent to rep it. And I got chills when I read the status change in your bio. YAY!!!

  7. Exciting, congratulations! Sounds like Gearing Up To Get An Agent really worked! I agree, working with writers who know your genre and have some experience behind them is incredibly helpful. I owe so many writers for the time they took to help me as well.

  8. So excited for you!! I'm glad GUTTAA worked for you. Woohoo! And so glad you told your whole story. I love reading these:D

  9. Whoop, Whoop!! You're right, tales like this are totally inspiring. [And thanks for the stats. The nuts & bolts are as good as the lead-up.]

  10. I'm pretty sure I started following you on Twitter while watching GUTGAA in progress in the Twitterverse. (I didn't have a work to submit at the time, but I still followed the event with great interest.) You had just joined? Nice!

    This is an inspiring story. Congrats!

  11. Congratulations! I was at the Big Sur Conference that year, too, and it was a great experience. (I honestly don't remember if we met, but HI!)

  12. Congratulations, Triona! So, so happy for you! I've been a fan of The Long-Timers for, well...a long time (LOL), and I can't wait to clear a spot on my bookshelf for it. Best of luck!

  13. I can't believe I forgot to post on this yesterday!!! I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!

    Drew is beside himself with glee at the thought of getting to beta your next round of revisions, ;)

    Seriously, I couldn't be happier for you, sweets!! What a ride!!!

  14. I love reading "How I got my agent posts." It's so encouraging! Congrats!