Exactly a year ago, I had a crazy idea. I’d finished my adult fantasy manuscript and was querying it, and I was afraid I’d never have another concept for a MS that I’d love as much as that one. But then this crazy idea happened. A semi-tragic, semi-funny story about a gutsy teen with a classic film obsession falling for her never-reckless, responsible cousin. This could be good, I thought. I think I kind of love it.
The idea was alarmingly different from my first manuscript, but I didn’t care because it wouldn’t let me go. A stalker. A missing best friend. A night of truth or dare that turned a cousin-crush into a love story. I drafted it in six weeks and sent it to my critique partners in mid-October. Revised. Sent it out to some very generous, incredibly knowledgeable beta readers. (Kat Brauer, Amy Sonnichsen, Diana Gallagher, all my beta readers—you guys helped so much with the ugly first drafts. I can’t thank you enough.) I revised through Thanksgiving and Christmas. Having queried before and completed my internships, I knew what kind of agent I wanted. I queried a select list of 12 agents in late January/February and entered a Twitter pitch contest.
The responses I got back varied wildly. Some people thought I was crazy and some people seemed to love the idea. Agents requested, and I was thrilled. The queries I’d sent were to a great list of agents and I’d received eight full requests, so I stopped querying and waited to see what they had to say. (To avoid being insane for the next two months, I started a new manuscript. It almost kept me distracted.)
Responses trickled in over the next nine weeks. Some upgraded from partials to fulls. Some of the passes asked to see a revision if I did one, some said they loved X but not Y, and nearly all of them included tremendously generous feedback. One of the responses was an R&R. (The R&R arrived while I had friends over for dinner. I shrieked. Then had to explain what an R&R was.) I’m so grateful to all the agents who took the time to write me such extensive letters. I compiled the comments that resonated with me to make notes for another revision that included this R&R. I got three more R&Rs, and I talked on the phone with two agents about possible revisions, but didn’t get the feeling that those agents were for me. They were lovely, smart, professional people, but just not quite right for me.
I revised in May and June, and loved the changes. It was deeper. A bit darker. Even a little more quirky. I compiled a list of my very top agents, some of them ones I knew from their passes/revision notes would be fantastic to work with. I queried again the end of June and July. I went to a conference and pitched in person; I kept going on my WIP. I waited. Waited, waited, waited.
I got several more passes. Stretches of silence made me doubt that MOON RIVER would be the MS that got me my agent. Maybe the revisions weren’t enough, I thought. Maybe I’m not a good enough writer to do this story justice right now. Maybe I should overhaul it again, once I have an agent? It was hard, guys. I made determined plans of action with my critique partners, and then threw them out the next day, certain it wasn’t going to happen. I explained as best as I could to non-writers who kept asking “why aren’t you published yet?” But my CPs and writer friends wouldn’t let me get depressed. They encouraged me, pushed me, sometimes scolded me. Mostly, they told me I could do it. My husband sent me on writing weekends and to a conference, knowing I needed the escape. Over and over again, from January through August, they kept telling me to keep going.
In July I turned my attention to finishing my next story, and started thinking of who to send it to. The excitement and motivation of working on something new, something else I loved, helped me to ignore the nerves-on-fire feeling of waiting for MOON RIVER.
My phone rang with a call from an unknown number. I answered it, my silly brain thinking “this could be an agent!” It was not. It was an automated call letting me know the warranty on a car I don’t own was about to expire. An hour later, my phone rang again. Another unknown number. I answered, thinking “spam. Ugh.”
It was an agent. An agent who loved my book. We talked for nearly an hour and a half. I loved her professionalism and her sense of humor, her ideas for both my career and MOON RIVER, and how well she understood the story. She answered every question I had and then some. When she offered, I had a hard time coming up with words. I think I said something vague like “that’s great. I’ll let you know in a week.” Way to let your personality shine, self.
I nudged the agents who had requested material, and I emailed back and forth with a few, but I’d pretty much made up my mind. The more I thought about it and talked to my critique partners, the more I loved her.
I am beyond thrilled to announce I have signed with literary agent Carlie Webber of CK Webber Associates! She’s brilliant, passionate, and dedicated, and she loves my book. I have every confidence she’s going to be a tremendous asset to my career.
Thank you so much to everyone who helped me with MOON RIVER and encouraged me. To my husband Jesse, thanks for knowing what an R&R is, and remembering so many agents by name, and reading so many drafts. You kept me sane. To my incomparable critique partners– Nikki Urang, Nicole Baart, Tonya Kuper, Alex Yuschick— you ladies have challenged me, encouraged me, and kept me going. I can’t thank you enough. My friends and family (you know who you are) asked questions, stayed in involved, and let me write when I needed to, which meant the world to me. And of course, so much gratitude to the Twitter community and all my writer friends who are so encouraging. It’s so wonderful to have colleagues, even though I work in a tiny library with mostly my coffeepot and Siberian Husky for company– especially Darci Cole, Rachel Geertsma, Kiersi Burkhart, Talynn Lynn, Em Lord, Summer Heacock, and Bethany Robison. You all have helped more than you know.
And now, because writer people seem to love them, my querying stats:
Requests: 23 (6 partials, 17 fulls)
A final note: This was not my first manuscript, and the stats for my first one looked pretty miserable. To all the querying writers out there: don’t get discouraged. Keep writing, keep improving and querying and connecting. If you love it, keep going, and it will happen! Want proof? Check out these other “how I got my agent” stories.