I recently received a reader question about how many manuscripts I wrote before I sold and how I got my agent. Last night, I discussed how many books I wrote and when I got started writing. Tonight, I am going to talk about finding my agent.
There are stories of writers who managed to snag an agent within a few weeks of sending out their first query letters. I’m not one of those writers. Actually, it took me roughly two years and a stack of rejection letters to win over my agent.
I tried the usual route of the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents. I searched the Internet and I had a few connections that were kind enough to recommend me to their agents. No luck. Of all my rejection letters, I will say that I had a very strong response overall. About 30% were just plain old rejection letters. No name, no signature. Another 10% were rejection letters with a handwritten note. Another 30% asked for the first 3 chapters. And another 30% not only asked for the first 3 chapters, but they went on to ask for the whole book.
The rejection letters were mounting and I will admit that I got discouraged. It’s hard not to. I was getting a lot of positive responses; the most popular being that I had a great voice. But for some reason no one could quite pin down, no one wanted me.
A good friend once told me that I wanted to find an agent who loved my book as much as I did. I understood what she was saying, but I can’t say that I necessarily believed her.
It had been 2 years of rejections. I was getting worried. Was urban fantasy getting too saturated?
I had just received an issue of the RWA magazine, which listed several agents that were looking to take on new clients. I copied down 5 names, all that I could contact via email. I drew a line in the sand. I needed a serious bite from someone in this group of 5 or I was going to pack away the manuscript and start on something new. If I was lucky, I thought I would be able to sell the new project and maybe be able to sell my urban fantasy at a later date when I was an established author.
From the group of 5, I got some very serious bites. Out of the 5, only 1 rejected me outright and 3 immediately asked for samples. One I don’t think I ever heard from. From the 3 that asked for samples, 2 asked to see the whole book.
However, one asked faster than the other. I couldn’t give her an exclusive look, because the book was actually with another agent and an editor who had yet to give me a final decision. I did promise not to send the book to anyone else. She asked to me hold off for only a week. I was willing to give her more time. That weekend was Mother’s Day. I didn’t expect her to read my book over Mother’s Day.
The following Monday, I was prepared to email her and tell her that I was willing to give her more time to review the book. Instead, she called me. She wanted to represent me. What really awed me was when she started talking about my characters. I could hear it in her voice. It was the same tone of love and excitement I used when I talked about them. And the clincher: she hadn’t finished reading the book yet. She still had about 100 pages left. She saw something in that book she couldn’t pass up. She saw something in my ability that she didn’t want to pass up. I was honored, flattered, and humbled in that moment.
My friend was right. I had found someone who loved my book as much as I did.
A couple days later I signed some paperwork making it all official. After a week of quick revisions, my agent had my book in the hands of several editors in all the big publishing houses. We got several serious nibbles.
My same friend warned me that it might take a while to land an offer.
We had an offer before Father’s Day.
So my advice… it’s not anything new. Stick with it. You’re going to get lots of rejections letters. Lots of rejections letters. No matter what I say, you’re going to take it personally. Just don’t let it stop you. If your writing is important to you, if you feel like this book MUST be shared with the world, then don’t let a few “no”s stop you. In the meantime, this process involves a lot of waiting. While you’re waiting, be working on that next project. You might not sell your first book first. Your third book might sell first and then you get back to your first one.
Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates is my agent. She’s amazing. She believes in me. I’d be completely lost without her.