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Monday, November 27, 2017

HOW I GOT MY AGENT (!!!): A Tale of Hogwarts Houses, Micro Dreams, and Anxiety




The weird thing about wanting to be an author (besides the fact that it's a totally masochistic thing to want to do) is that the larger dream is comprised of micro dreams. Things like seeing your book in a store, seeing it shelved face out, having a signing in a bookstore, having a signing at a con, being on a panel, getting your ARCs in the mail, seeing your name printed on a reak cover and holding that cover in your hands.

For me, even before I let my imagination run wild enough to imagine those pie-in-the-sky goals, I had the ultimate dream of writing a How I Got My Agent blog post. (Oh, and putting “rep'd by @AwesomeAgent” in my Twitter bio.) I don't know why this specific goal always seemed so wonderful to me--probably because I've read and loved dozens of them and always found them deeply inspiring. I’ve daydreamed about this post for ages, ever since I decided I really, REALLY wanted to do this masochistic writing thing, back around 2011 when I was young and pure of spirit and unblemished by the harsh realities of the world.



But long before I actively started educating myself on how publishing works (and took a detour through blogginglandia that I so don't regret), I was a writer. (Not a GOOD one, that took like twenty years, but certainly a prolific one.) I definitely was that kid who knew from way early on that making stories was the thing I wanted to do, because I did it all the time. I have twelve-year-old word documents excavated from ancient rickety computers and preserved in the museum of my google drive to prove it.

So now, naturally, after 12 years in Azkaban waiting to write this post of posts, I don’t have a flippity flopping clue what to say. Other than SOB SCREAM OH MY GAAAHD and other eloquent things that prove that writing the word stuffs is tooootally what I should be doing. BUT ANYWAY. This will be a long one, because it’s been a heck of a month, and I will have to waste a lot of words to find the right ones.

Previously, on The OC: I applied to this no big deal, absolutely not a life changing thing called Pitch Wars, which I go into detail about HERE. I had Much Feelings and there were Much Happy Tears.

And then came the WORK.



It’s hilariously, tragically infuriating to me that sooo many people somehow think writing isn’t work, because omg, THE AMOUNT OF WORK THAT IS EDITING A BOOK ON A DEADLINE. I've never had a deadline before! It is. It is so. Like your BRAIN. IT JUST. WORDS GONE? WHAT SLEEP. My glorious mentors, Tomi Adeyemi and Kit Grant, compiled two exquisite edit letters for me for my Pitch Wars book, SORROW’S HEIR, the first of which was a not at all terrifying 28 pages.

(It was a very NICE 28 pages! Full of kind suggestions and brilliant ideas and also pointing out all the places I done fucked up so I didn't done fuck up again. WHICH IS GOOD. But I'm pretty sure I had the Pitch Wars 2017 record for longest edit letter, and it was only my first. I got a second one about 6 weeks later.)




So yes, cue the hardest revisions I’ve ever done ever. My manuscript was 97k to start. I cut about….oh, 30k, and wrote another 40k, bringing my beast of a book, with its four POV characters and massive world building and oh god why did I do this to myself, up to 107k. There were character reworkings and plot obliteration and scaffolding everywhere and line edits for days, and in the end, I had a much better book than the one I started out with. I’m so in awe of what Tomi and Kit were able to come up with and just how HELPFUL they were. THEY KNOW OF WHAT THEY SPEAK. (SO BUY THEIR BOOKS, CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE AND A COURT OF MIRACLES, BOTH OUT 2018, BECAUSE HONESTLY, THEY ARE CREATIVE GENIUSES).

I know a lot of people aren’t fans of the hybrid Hogwarts houses, like Ravenpuff and Slytherclaw, since duh, the whole point of Sorting is to only pick one. But I think of it more like a scale, or a Venn diagram, or something like that. There are Gryffindors with Ravenclaw leanings, like Hermione, or Hufflepuff leanings, like Ron, or Slytherin leanings, like Harry. I’m Ravenclaw to the bone, but I’m a certain type of Ravenclaw. I’m one with Hufflepuff leanings. We are not the Sherlocks of the Ravenclaw house, the brilliant and ambitious and inventive, the doctors and strategists. I’m more of Luna Lovegood Ravenclaw, a whirl of benign creativity and Too Weird to Function and frankly a complete disregard for the conventions of reality. THE NARGLES ARE ALWAYS BEHIND IT. Those are just facts.

I also think we all have four inner House Points Hourglasses, keeping tally of our inner Ravenclaw-ness and so on. I’m naturally full up on Ravenclaw sapphires and Hufflepuff….yellow things. (I think they’re diamonds? I am too lazy to google this.) But my Gryffindor ruby and Slytherin emerald levels are woefully low.

here they are filled with candy, which is absolutely the correct thing

But an experience like Pitch Wars--and the spinning carousel of terror and insecurity that is querying--requires you to up your bravery and ambition quotas. So this journey has been all about dragging my Gryffindor and Slytherin levels up into an even balance with my Ravenpuffness. Tomi and Kit are especially good at bucking up my G and S levels, since they are Slytherclaw queens.

I promise this will come into play later. BEAR WITH ME.

So after all this editing, and polishing, and editing some more, and freaking out over pitches and first pages came... THE AGENT ROUND OF PITCH WARS.

DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

AND MY PITCH WENT LIVE AND THERE WAS MUCH SHOUTING AND EVEN MORE STRESSING.

Here’s how the Agent Round of Doom and Panic and More Panic works. You write a pitch, and you share an excerpt, and then THAT IS IT. THAT’S ALL YOU GET TO DO. So you write this gigantic 107k word manuscript full of all your THOUGHTS and FEELINGS and WITTIEST LINES and CLEVEREST PLOT TWISTS…and you must sell it in 50 words. And then share only 250 out of 107k bookwords and hope that does the trick.

WHAT. I’M NOT A POET. I DON’T WRITE HAIKUS. I WRITE NOVELS BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW HOW TO SHUT UP. HOW. HOWWW.




So like all anxious bullet blenders whirring at high speed masquerading as functional adults, I was in a state of utter collapsing panic in the hours leading up to AGENT ROUND and our pitches going live on the interwebs. Thankfully I was in New York visiting my mother at the time (and doing my line edits seriously RIGHT UP to the last minute, gahhh), so I was able to distract myself.

The day the Young Adult pitches went up, I flew back home to LA all the way across the country. THIS WAS ALSO A GOOD THING. I spent the whole morning pre-plane REFRESHING MY PHONE BROWSER LIKE A REFRESHING REFRESHER, dying a little every time I saw a new comment. Because somehow, magically, amazingly, I was getting comments. I was getting requests. I’d written a pitch that worked. I was ON THE FLOOR. (Not literally, literally I was on a plane watching Cinderella and crying into my peanuts, but I did have a moment where I felt like lying in the plane aisle and thrashing like a fish. But they frown on this on American Airlines? For some reason?)

So I hurried my lazy bum up on those line edits, and the moment we were allowed to send to the Pitch Wars agents who'd requested, I did, right on schedule and in a very timely and professional manner

HAHA! No! I was still line editing! So adorable you thought I’d ever do anything on time. I stayed up until 5 am, quite literally 5 am in the morning, do not do as I do kids, sleep is your friend, to get my requested fulls and partials out as soon as I could. (I probably should have taken a day. I found typos almost immediately after sending. AGAIN, DON’T DO AS I DO.)

But Pitch Wars is this funny pressure-cooker-hyper-speed-I-don’t-even-know-what, where if you can feel the moment of RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW, you go for it. You go full Slytherin, and you think about being ruthless and going for what you want. You go full Gryffindor, and you become brave enough to just say SCREW IT and send off the manuscript you’ve bled all over. So I went for it. And once I sent them off, I was like AH, FINALLY. IT'S OUT OF MY HANDS. I CAN SLEEP. (Because I am part Puff. We just want to sleep and be fed.)

Eleven hours later I had an agent call.

O_O



One of these days I’ll put together a post about what it’s like to query when you are little more than a collection of anxious molecules of caffeine and mental illness bouncing off of each other at a frantic pace, powering generators and the entire country, but for my anxiety in particular, I have much difficulty with phones and with email. I don't know how much you know about querying, but it is….quite literally that entirely. Like, that’s how it works. Why don't agencies accept queries by carrier pigeon? Damn millennials are killing the carrier pigeon industry!

What followed were more calls, and more emails, and more and more and MORE calls. I had a designated call station set up in my living room, in my comfiest armchair, with a little foldy table  for my laptop set in front of me, with a word doc in which to take notes and my browser opened to various references, and a big warm cup of tea set to the side. Also a furry blanket to snuggle under.

I took a lot of self care steps in the way I set up my querying experience, which again I’ll go into at some point. I was also VERY LUCKY in that I had the best mentors evarrrrr guiding me through things. They had spreadsheets! They had knowledge! They were founts of everlasting support! They had celebratory gifs! How do people query without mentors, because I honestly don’t know.

I was also lucky in that the number one scourge of traditional querying is the WAITINGGGGGGGGG. I did not have to wait. In fact, I did not GET to wait. There was no time to breathe, because everything I’d wanted for a long time was happening ALL AT ONCE.

The next two weeks were a complete anxious whirlwind. It was wonderful, and it was stressful as I began to realize I WAS GOING. TO HAVE. TO MAKE. A CHOICE, a position I'd never envisioned myself in. It was rather horrible, actually.

It is a first world publishing problem to have multiple offers of representation, I know this, but I am an INFP Ravenpuff with a marshmallow heart, and I love absolutely everyone I talked to. And I mean really, REALLY loved. To the point where I cried at the prospect of saying no to certain people (Remember me watching Cinderella? I'm a weeper. I am not a person to sit next to on planes. Random Business Man in the seat beside me actually gave me one of his tissues when Cinderella’s mother passed away. THAT’S TEN MINUTES INTO THE FILM. But that is not what this post is about, moving on.) It was wonderful and gratifying and excruciating.



Again, my querying experience was highly atypical. Pitch Wars can hypercharge the process, so everything not only happens FASTER but ALL AT ONCE. I was very overwhelmed, and so glad I had a full two weeks to just think. And breathe. And drink a lot of calming tea. (I misspelled that as "tears" on the first go. I probably drank those too.)

And I was so sure I’d never decide, and that I would always feel completely freaked out, until at the very end I realized…I kind of knew. There was one agent I just couldn't stop thinking about, who I'd jived with completely, and whose enthusiasm for me and my book turned my eyes to hearts. I thought about it like a Slytherin, felt it in my heart like a Hufflepuff, realized all the creative stars aligned like a Ravenclaw, and then COMMITTED like a Gryffindor.

 And that was ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING, NGL, and yes I cried, all the crying went on. And I definitely went “oh my god oh my god oh my god” for about three straight minutes after sending the email whilst staring at the ceiling. But it all felt right, and amazing, and I realized…….I HAD AN AGENT. The thing I’d wanted most for AGES. HOLY ACTUAL WIZARD GOD.



I know people love statistics (though again, mine are useless because Pitch Wars is its own beast, because you are sending to agents who have already expressed an interest in your book), so here they be:

Number of manuscripts written: 10+ (I have a very full drawer and about 7 of them shall never see the light of day)
Number of manuscripts queried pre Pitch Wars: 0 (I had no Gryffindor rubies)

Pitch Wars requests: 35
Fulls I actually had time to send: um…I should know this…15? ish? I am a bad statistician and my spreadsheet mentors shall keel haul me

Times I cried: incalculable
Cups of tea drunk: number too high for known mathematics

Offers of representation: 8 (!!!!!!!!!!)
Agents I signed with: 1

I am so beyond over the moon to announce that I’ve signed with the amazing, warm, ferocious, and fabulous Jenny Bent of the Bent Agency.

SDFKHSLKFJHSLDFSUEIJFKSDH !!!!! GBAHDUIFSL:”O!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SCREEEEEEEEEECH!!!!!

FKDJHSLKKJKSKJFHSLEOFSPEHG!!!!!!!



Jenny is the dreamiest of dream agents and I've pinched myself every day because I can't believe how lucky I am to get to work with her. Seriously, I just pinched myself again, because how is this real life?? AHHHHHH.

Honestly, that’s all I can say. Just endless ADKFHSL:SLFSSFDHFUS *muppet flailing* *more Cinderella sobbing*

And thank you to my mentors and my wonderful friends who coached me through this intense and terrifying and wonderful experience, and for messaging me every time I had a new comment on my Pitch Wars post (THAT WAS SO WONDERFUL, SOBS), and just being ABSOLUTE STARS. And thanks to Jenny for being the bee’s knees and so wonderful to work with. I’m just so excited about everything that comes next! Which is more editing! Yay!

6 comments:

  1. This is the best how I got my agent post ever for reasons:
    1. I too am a Ravenpuff
    2. The Nick is a writer vein of New Girl was so hysterical
    3. I'm an INFJ but so close!
    4. Jenny IS awesome!
    5. I identify with so many feels from this post. GOOD JOB YOU!

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  2. I also love How I Got My Agent posts and just now realized I never did one when I got mine. I flew right into revision land and forgot. What the heck.

    But hey! I’m also repped by The Bent Agency, so, you know, high five, agency friend!

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  3. Love, love, love this! Congratulations!! Your book sounds INCREDIBLE! Can't wait till it gets released into the world! :)

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  4. Girrrrrrl! That is so flipping awesome--congratulations, it's so well deserved! I wish you all the best and hope to read your book a couple of years from now. :)

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  5. *refreshes post daily for inevitable publication announcement*

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  6. Congratulations and good luck!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete

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