Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Very Long History of a Very Long Agent Hunt

I was asked on another forum how I got my agent so I thought I’d post it here as well:

2003: The novel is "finished" (I use the term loosely) and ready to go, but have NO IDEA where to start. No clue how to submit, the book's is waaaay too long, and I didn’t even "get" that it was really YA. I’m not internet savvy, I know no other writers, and I do very little research. I shot-gun agents straight out of Writers Market, maybe 5-10 at a time. I wait a few months till I get all the responses, then try again with another few queries. I get a couple of requests for partials and maybe one full. The partials are reject. The full is sent unopened because the manuscript's fricking HUGE. I even query a very well-known scam artist (no, not NYLA) who kindly refers me to an editor with the promise of looking at it again. I'm green, but not stoooopid. I spend a fortune on return postage because I’m worried someone might steal it, ha-ha-ha, as if. Hello? Like they can’t Xerox it first and THEN send it back? A total waste of money.

All of my rejections are form letters.

2004: I wise up. I discover the internet. I discover writers conferences. I talk to people online. I join a crit group. I drastically slash the word count. I learn more about the YA market. I thank God I didn’t send out 300 queries the previous year. I revise my ms. I revise my query letter and start sending it out again--VERY selectively--to a few YA agents at a time, still from Writers Market (I hadn’t heard about AgentQuery but I did learn to research these people first). Post office dude and I are on first name terms. He cringes when he sees me. I spend more time watching the mailbox than I do watching TV. I get a couple requests for partials. No dice. More rejections arrive, but of a more personal nature. Amazingly I get a request for a full from Writers House, woo-hoo! They LIKE it, but... Per the agent's request I excitedly revise the whole shebang. I resubmit. only to be rejected again.

In spite of feeling somewhat validated by that experience (hey, someone was interested enough to put in all that time) I lapse into a major snit. Merry Christmas.

2005: I decide, ok, this is my LAST CHANCE. If I don’t find an agent this year I’ll either start querying publishers (ha, good luck--I'd still be in the slush pile) or throw in the towel. Throwing in the towel sounds pretty damn good right about now. I’m tired of the whole thing. I pitch my copy of Writers Market, but I do forgive Writers House: thanks to them, I have a much stronger--and shorter-- manuscript.

Someone suggests looking at acknowledgement pages for specific agents' names. I spend hours in the library and bookstore doing exactly that. In one YA book I find the name of an agent at ICM.

This is how clueless I still am: With all the research I’ve done, I never heard of ICM. I check their website; you can’t really get into it, plus it says they take clients by referral only. This agent is big-time. The agency is BIG TIME. I’ve already been rejected by the smaller joints, so I doubt I stand a chance, but...

Screw it, I say. I query them anyway. I also send out 19 others and start a blog to track my progress. I decide this is IT. My nerves can’t take much more. In the meantime I've start a GREAT ghost story, lol.

Soon I get an email from Tina saying that the agent I queried passed my query onto HER (they really do that?). Could I mail her a partial? Gee, lemme think, lol. I'm still not hopeful because I’ve been through this a thousand times. And there's always my ghost story...assuming I finish it one of these decades.

A miracle happens. Suddenly I get requests for fulls and partials from several major agencies. And within the same freaking week Tina writes back, says she loooved my pages, could I send the whole thing? One catch: she only reads on an exclusive basis.

Now I freak out. Everyone tells me: do NOT give an exclusive, oh, no, no, no! Do I give her the exclusive and ignore the others—including Charlotte Sheedy and Evan Marshall???

But I think, wait, Tina already READ my work! The others hadn’t. And I highly doubt Charlotte and Evan are waiting with bated breath.

I ask for a time frame. Three weeks, she says. So I blow off the others (though I later sent them thank you notes) –and three weeks later Tina calls to say: “I LOVE your book and I’d like to represent you.”

I thank her politely, chat for a few minutes.

Then hang up the phone and SCREAM! :)

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