Monday, May 9, 2016

How (And Why) I Got My Agent

If you can't tell from the title of this post, I have some exciting news to share. :-) But first I hope you'll indulge me with a trip down memory lane, because the story of how I got my agent starts many years ago, when I was first querying my debut, Where the Staircase Ends.

Going it alone

I queried Where the Staircase Ends on and off for almost two years, taking breaks to revise. While I had some requests from the slush pile, I found most of my success through contests. (I'm pretty sure I
entered every single query contest I could get my hands on.)

It was through one of these contests that I received two full requests from small presses. I hadn't thought about publishing with a small press, but I figured, why not give it a shot? So I sent them my manuscript. At the same time, one of my critique partners suggested that I check out Month9Books and a few other smaller publishing houses. So I decided to query them as well, because I wanted to improve my odds.

Weeks passed. Thumbs twiddled. Twitter feeds were stalked.

And then one day an offer of publication showed up in my inbox. Then another. To say I was in shock was the understatement of the universe.

After several squeal-induced sessions of jumping up and down, I managed to get my head on straight and remembered that I still had manuscripts out with several agents. So I gave them the appropriate heads up. Most politely passed, one went back and forth on a potential R&R, and one made an offer of representation.

More jumping. More squealing.

But here was the rub--when I had "the call" with the offering agent, I learned that she hadn't read the manuscript yet. She was offering to negotiate the publishing deal for me without even know if she liked my story. She was incredibly nice and very generous--in short, she wanted to make sure that I was receiving a fair deal and offering her services to help me get there. But something didn't feel right. I didn't just want someone to help negotiate a deal for me--I had a lawyer and felt like I knew enough to negotiate a deal alone if absolutely needed. What I wanted was someone who was excited to work with me. Someone who loved my writing. Someone who wanted to work with me whether or not I already had an offer of publication.

So I surprised myself and passed on the agent's offer.  Ultimately, I signed with Month9Books sans agent, and Where the Staircase was released onto the world on April 14, 2015.

I am very fortunate to have had a wonderful debut experience. My publisher is open, friendly, helpful, and provides tons of information to help their debut authors when needed. But here is the honest truth--as great as my publishing experience was, I often found myself wishing I had someone to help guide me through the process. Someone who could answer the millions of questions I had that I didn't feel comfortable bugging my editor with. Someone who could offer perspective about marketing plans, cover artwork, and what I should expect from the process.

Someone like an agent.

What does not kill you makes you stronger (also known as the part where I find my dream agent)

Earlier this year when I finally finished revisions for my latest project, I knew without a doubt that I would enter the query trenches again. Even though I knew from the past that the trenches were hard, painful, and wrought with rejection. Even though I knew that I could still come out on the other side without an agent.

It was around this time that I learned Brenda Drake was hosting a contest called Pitch Madness. I've been stalking following Brenda Drake's blog for years, so I jumped at the chance to participate in one of her amazing contest. (If you don't already follow her blog, run over there right now and start. And check out her amazing books Thief of Lies and Touching Fate while you're at it.)

I was over the moon when I found out that my manuscript, THE DARKNESS RISES, was picked to participate. And like (I imagine) the other entrants, I bit my nails down to nubs the day of the actual event.

I was thrilled to receive multiple requests from the main contest and the Twitter party that followed, but I knew better than to get my hopes up. After all, I'd been down this road before.

Weeks passed. Thumbs twiddled. Twitter feeds were stalked.

Then one day an email appeared in my inbox from an agent who had requested my full during the contest. She wanted to let me know that she was greatly enjoying my manuscript AND that she had ordered a copy of Where the Staircase Ends and couldn't wait to read it.

I nearly fell out of my chair. Not only did she take time out of her day to let me know she was enjoying my story, but she wanted to read my debut, even though it's already been published and wasn't open for representation? What?!

I told myself not to get my hopes up. I'd been down this road before and I knew what kind of disappointment could be waiting on the other side. What if she hated the ending? What if the plot twists didn't work for her?  Suddenly all I could think about were all the reasons she wouldn't want to rep me

Two more weeks passed. My thumbs were now nubs from all the twiddling. I thought I might die.

Then THE email came--she loved my story, and wanted to find a time to chat.

I did my homework. I prepared my questions. And because this wasn't my first time to the rodeo, I didn't hold back when it came time to ask them. Because I knew what I wanted this time around.

I was blown away by her enthusiasm and passion. She'd thought of potential comp titles. She had a list of potential editors in mind and was ready to start building my submission plan. But more than a plan, I felt like she could give me the thing I'd been missing the first time around--a business partner who believed in me, my writing, and the future of my writing career.

I couldn't ask for anything more.

So without further ado, I'm excited to announce that I am represented by the fabulous Jessica Schmeidler. And I'm feeling pretty darn excited to see what the future holds for us.

Thanks for indulging me while I shared my story.

And because I know how much everyone loves the numbers, here are my query stats:

Queries submitted: 36
Full Requests:  5
Partial Requests: 6 (5 of the 6 turned into fulls)
Number of fabulous agents now representing me: 1


  1. Congrats!! I'm sure it feels amazing to have reached this milestone. Here's to a future of more pubbed books, w/that partner by your side!

  2. Thanks, Leandra! <3 It does feel pretty amazing, and I'm excited to see what comes next. Cheers!

  3. So awesome! Congrats! I really enjoyed your first book and look forward to reading your second!!

  4. So awesome! Congrats! I really enjoyed your first book and look forward to reading your second!!

  5. Thanks so much Karen! Hopefully you like the second one even more. ;-)

  6. Oh wow, congratulations! I remember Where the Staircase Ends very well. I was one of your CPs! I'm so glad to hear it found a publisher, and congrats on the agent!! :-D