We all want an HEA story with our agent, right? Finding the perfect match can be daunting, if not discouraging. (Kind of like digging through your closet for the second half of your favorite pair of shoes.) All those hours spent writing, editing, refining (and trashing some) query letters can be mentally draining. And most definitely harder to write than the actual story. Is it worth the hassle?
It is when you find the perfect match! Here's my story, written a month after I signed with the lovely Jessica Sinsheimer from the Sarah Jane Freymann Agency two years ago. I added some updated and wise 'ole insights in bold :)
I HAVE AN AGENT! : : Blog post from November 2013
I woke up one night–yes, smack-dab in the middle of the night–with an idea for a contemporary romance. So I did what any writer would do: I tapped my husband on the chest, woke him up (and scared him in the process), and begged for his phone to send an email to myself. (I still do this...because using my own phone makes no sense...right?!)
Of course, I couldn’t sleep after that, examining, dissecting and completely stressing out my new characters as I worked out the finer details–the way they would meet, the reasons behind their meeting, their flaws–and, of course, the fantastic, blush-worthy, crank-up-the-AC sex.
When I was finally able to justify getting out of bed (still well before the roosters), I snuck into the kitchen and brewed the largest pot of coffee possible. Seriously, it was a swimming pool of pure caffeinated awesomeness. Sleep deprived and high on caffeine, I opened the midnight email and set to work, breathing life into a strong woman in a powerful position and her overconfident (and delicious) assistant.
When I finished the story months later (and had edited it dozens of times), I sent it to my critique partner. I’m super lucky to have an honest CP who isn’t afraid to point out where my story lacks–but who can also point out what works. (Thanks, Renita! You’re a rock star!) I highly suggest you find a CP you can’t live without. We found each other through a message board for the YA writing community (I started writing YA paranormal romance before I switched to contemporary romance). Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask someone writing in your genre if they’d like to try out a critiquing partnership. The worst they can say is no.
While my WIP was with Renita, I readied another story I’d completed for queryland. Then summer came, and my days filled up with activities, vacations and a new job, leaving me little time to write. Returning to work took some getting used to, but I found my groove and was ecstatic that I still had time for my writing. I picked up my WIP and, with notes and suggestions and wandering body parts at the ready, I sliced, diced, sprinkled and massaged the story. I wrote new scenes, omitted filler, and revised, revised, revised. After round two of revisions, I had PIERCED, a hot and steamy manuscript I loved.
A few days after I admitted it was finished (sometimes it’s hard to let go of characters who’ve become a part of you), Renita urged me to start querying. Then she sent me the dates for September’s #PitMad (If you haven’t heard of it, click here. It’s a fantastic twitter pitch party set up by Brenda Drake and a great place to meet other writers, as well as pitch to tons of agents/editors/publishers at once). I pulled together several pitches, and managed to tweet them while at work.
And then I saw stars! If you’re familiar with #PitMad, you know Twitter favorites equal requests. And requests are typically for a query and sample pages (make sure you follow the agent’s detailed directions on submissions; their requirements vary and can usually be found in their twitter feed). FYI: Twitter changed the awesome stars to hearts this past year.
The tweet that worked:
Now for freak-out time! Stars meant I had requests and, yes, I had a complete manuscript, but no query. Queries are my nemesis (with dark linguistic evils looming between each word). I worked for hours (handing over kid duty to the hubby), polishing and reworking several versions. Then I formulated the email, checked the pages a gazillion times, and clicked Send.
I remember saying something afterward along the lines of, “Holy crap, I guess I’m ready to query.”
So I did. In addition to my requests, I sent seven in my first batch and received several rejections. The replies were quick, which could only mean one thing: my query needed work. While painfully reworking it, I received an email from Jessica, requesting my full and my synopsis (which for me, is more painful to write than the dreaded query BTW). Bubbles lit up inside me (yes, they lit up, like turned into sparklers).
As anyone who has a full out for review (or even a partial) knows, the wait is excruciating. A lot of sleepless nights, wondering if a particular scene would come across as intended, if the beginning was strong, if the main characters were likable and chemically combustable in all the right ways, etc. Since I had yet to start my next story, I worked on rewriting my query and sent it to eight more agents. I received three more full requests.
Two weeks after sending my full to Jessica, I received an email from her requesting a phone conversation. Um, of course! And then I said something like, “Oh my stars, agents are real people and don’t just exist in my computer!” I thought I should probably shake the screen just to make sure no agents fell out! Because if that's possible, I have a long list of ab-o-liciousness I'd like to fall out, too!
I pulled together my list of questions, read them a thousand times, all while hoping I didn’t forget how to formulate a sentence. I was sooooo nervous. What if there was dead silence between comments? What if my third grade teacher was wrong, and there really are stupid questions? (FYI, there are!)
But I had no reason to be nervous. Jessica is easy to talk to. The first thing she mentioned was my southern accent. That made me smile. Since moving to New England, I knew there was a possibility my accent might freeze right out of me. (Because it’s freaking cold up here!)
We talked about sewing, crafts, yoga–and then we discussed the manuscript, and–believe me–if you ever have the pleasure of taking a call from an agent interested in your work, hearing them quote lines from your manuscript is ahhh-maaaz-ing! It really solidified that I AM a writer. We discussed changes and ideas for PIERCED, and I could easily see how her suggestions could make the story stronger overall.
Jessica made an offer, I asked questions (I handwrote her answers, but I can’t read anything I wrote) and I tried not to act like the crazy girl in the chocolate shop hopped up on sugar. I had a week to make a decision, so like a good little query-er, I sent my “Offers of Representation” emails out, withdrew my query from some, and waited to hear from others. I counted down the minutes of each day of a very…very…long week, my deadline being Halloween.
I really suggest to anyone out there with an offer: Take that week! It puts things in perspective, shows you what you want out of an agent, and what style of agent is right for you and your career–even if you know you’ll likely say yes to the offer you already have. Kind of like comparison shopping, you want the all around best quality product offered. Don’t settle for less.
The closer Halloween came, the easier and clearer my decision became. I’d researched Jessica when I’d queried her with a different manuscript. I’d read many interviews she gave (this is my favorite) and ran searches on her agency, her clients and her work ethic. I couldn’t find a reason not to love her!
It brought me great joy and a feeling of contentment when I sent her the email accepting her offer. I can’t wait to start my career with Jessica by my side. I see many great things in our future!