How I Found My Agent

At the end of April 2011 WriteOnCon hosted a live query event.  I knew I wanted to participate, but I didn't have a good query yet. I sat down with my husband and read him all the queries I had written.  And he was...nonplussed.  So he took my computer and started fiddling around; an hour later he handed me back a very experimental query.  It wasn't quite there, but there was something about it that actually sounded like the voice of my novel.  I spent another couple hours with it and then posted it to the website, hoping it wasn't too different from traditional query form.

But it wouldn't let me add it to the thread.  I tried several times and I kept getting a message that it would have to be approved by a mod.  I texted my critique partner: Did you have to wait for your query to post?  She replied that she hadn't.  I waited a couple hours the next morning to see if it would show up, but it didn't and more and more queries were grabbing the last few spots.  I finally broke down and messaged a mod.  She found it in the spam filter and, lucky for me, posted it in the spot it would have if I hadn't waited for approval.

I spent the weekend nervous, but excited for feedback.  I was more scared she wouldn't get to my query than of hearing what she had to say.  The Monday night of the event, I wanted to puke.  I knew it was time to start querying, but I was dragging my feet.  

Long story short: she liked it.  She asked for more, and I gleefully sent it off.  The next morning there was a request for the full manuscript in my inbox.  I cried (I did that a lot back then.  Now I'm more emotionally numb), and feeling encouraged and because my critique partners strong-armed me, I sent off more queries.  The next two responses asked for fulls, too.  I was beginning to feel like I was dreaming.  Then a form rejection put me back in my place.

On Sunday of that week, I got my first email requesting a call.  I cried (yes again).  My husband said I was scary (note to significant others: not the thing to say).  The next morning I woke up excited, scared, asking if agents ever called to tell you that you suck.  Before the call, I got two more full manuscript requests.  I was beginning to feel overwhelmed in a wonderful way.

I spoke with the agent, and she loved the book.  She offered rep and I told her I had other fulls out, she advised me to send email nudges to everyone, including the ones I hadn't heard from, since it had been less than a week.  I did and by that night I was up to ten full requests.

Then I got another call from an agent who read the sample pages and wanted to chat to see how serious I was and ask me to send the full.  Three hours later, she asked for a phone call the next morning.  Then another agent asked for one in the afternoon.  I felt anxious and happy and overwhelmed and hopeful and uncertain all at the same time.  Both agents offered.  That night an agent called at 8:45 to talk and offer rep.  I was up to four offers!

The second agent, Mollie Glick, then asked to fly out to meet me.

At the time I was a stay-at-home mom in the midwest.  These things didn't happen to me, but the next day I went on my first business lunch with Mollie.  I got us lost like ten freaking times, because I rarely went into the city back then (Mollie was good under pressure).  And I'm sure she was super-jealous of my awesome gold mini-van, but it was very cool and showed me just how serious she was about the book.  Also I got to eat crab cakes.

By that evening, three more agents asked to speak on the phone.  That Thursday, I spent over five hours on the phone.  My poor husband dragged my kids all over town.

In the end I had seven offers of representation, and all because I attended a WriteOnCon query event.  That's how those fabulous authors from WOC changed my life in less than a week.  I can't stress enough to get out there and take chances!  Yes, it's scary and stomach-turning, but it could change your life!  Having an agent see my query there put me on their radar in a way the slush pile could not.  I will be eternally grateful to the WOC girls.

I struggled with my decision.  I really loved all the agents I spoke with, but I sensed Mollie provided a certain business acumen I lacked (I'd much rather be writing pretend conversations).  If you are ever in that situation, my best advice is to take the time you need to make the decision, ask to speak with some of the agent's clients, and try to listen to your gut.

Now people have told me this is a bit of a Cinderella story, and I certainly felt like I was living in a fairytale while it was happening.  But while that story is fun to share, because it could happen to you, it doesn't tell you about the months leading up to that magical week.  While my querying experience was short and sweet, there was lots of planning that went into it.  Here are some of the things I did to prepare myself for querying.  I hope they help.

1.  I joined  (If you can swing it, get the premium membership.  Worth it!) I spent about four months researching agents, building a tiered list of who to query, and making notes on the individual agents' pages.  

2.  I became an active member of the QT forums.  Reading and offering feedback on other queries made it much easier to start writing my own.  It also prepared me for what to expect and gave me a supportive community to lean on when I was struggling with writing.  They were the first people to give me a thumbs up on the query that snagged my agent.

3.  I participated in pitch contests.  I did every blog/twitter pitch contest I could find.  I never even made it to the final round of any of them, but it helped me perfect my blurb line.

4.  I researched agents during the day when I couldn't focus enough to work on the novel.  I had two very small kids at home (3 years-old and less than 1 year-old at the time), and my out of the house writing time had to be that: writing time.

5.  I read Queryshark religiously.  Actually it was my friend Josin McQuein's query for Premeditated on Queryshark that gave me the guts to use a more experimental query for Crewel.

6.  I treated it like my job.  I was organized and methodical about it (probably more organized than I've ever been.)

So if you're joining the trenches, I salute you and leave you with some of the best advice I ever got from pinterest:

from pinterest:
Source: viaGenn on Pinterest


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Genn. I'm researching agents and struggling with my query right now. You're inspiring me to continue on.

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

Absolutely wonderful post, Gennifer! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I'll definitely be passing this one along.

Elana Johnson said...

I love this story on so many levels!

Kim (YA Asylum) said...

I always love hearing this story. It's so inspirational :)