Hello again, and if you’re back for more on How I Got My Agent, thanks for bearing with me! You can read the first half of the story here, but to sum up, I wasn’t doing so well in the query trenches, so when the opportunity to enter Brenda Drake’s famous Pitch Wars contest came along, I was all over it.
SECOND NEW NEWS or EPISODE TWO: PITCH WARS
I got in! And it was incredible. And I could never in a million years have predicted just how amazing the whole experience was, but here are some of the highlights:
Working with my mentor, Renée Ahdieh, author of the forthcoming YA fantasy THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, a lush retelling of Arabian Nights due out in Spring 2015. She’s sharp, savvy, and she doesn’t pull her punches when it comes to feedback. Plus, she’s hilarious and declared in our very first conversation, “We’re gonna make them want to sell the shit out of this.” Um, yes please! Over the course of two months, she had me cut the word count, pump up the romance, and rewrite the ending, and when I called her freaking out over a revision I’d been bashing my head against for two days, she solved it in five minutes. All of this while turning over her own revisions and rewrites and handling her own career like a boss. She. Is. The. Best.
Getting to know my team mate, Renée’s alternate, Kirsten Squires, who wrote a Bushido-inspired space opera so stunning that it haunts my dreams. She helped me with my pitch, turned over a beta-reading of my manuscript in a weekend, and has been a great friend and confidante through the whole process—and after!
Making friends in this wonderful community. I cannot gush enough about my fellow Pitch Warriors. They’re funny, loyal, smart, and dedicated to their craft, and I’m so glad that I met them. I hadn’t realized how lonely querying is until I met these folks, who are always there to wallow and commiserate when you need it, and to pick you up and cheer you on, whether you’re up or down. I mean, no one gets it like they do. It’s amazing. If you’re in the query trenches, I highly recommend that you reach out to people in the same situation as you. It’s helpful, sure, but my fellow mentees and alternates are good for my soul.
Pitch Wars culminated with the agent round at the beginning of November. Two days of nail-biting, celebrating requests with the other Pitch Warriors, and desperately trying not to refresh my page, and I ended up with a total of nine requests, followed by a whirlwind of events that I still can’t quite believe are real.
EPISODE THREE: AFTER THE WAR
The day after Pitch Wars ended, I sent out my Pitch Wars requests, plus a medium-sized batch of cold queries. There was a brief flurry of activity as some of the Pitch Wars agents upgraded from partials to fulls… and four days later I got my first offer of representation.
I’ve heard that some people squee or dance celebratory jigs when they get “the Call,” but for me getting an offer jumpstarted two weeks of head-down, brace-yourself hard work. In fact, it wasn’t until my fourth “the Call” that I even really thought about it. You will never experience this again, she said. Remember to celebrate.
I had half a glass of champagne, and then went back to work. I sent out emails, took calls, interviewed prospective agents, spoke with their current clients, read their clients books, and by the end of the two-week deadline, I had four amazing offers from four amazing agents. I knew I couldn’t make a “wrong” choice, but I wanted to make the “best right choice.” So in addition to all the other research I did, I also made extensive pro-con lists, did head-to-head match-ups, and created intricate weighted points systems.
This all felt very fast, compared to the long hard months of nothin’ that I’d experienced earlier in the year, and it made me think that publishing doesn’t really move at a glacial pace. Sometimes it’s slow, yes, but other times it feels like being buffeted about in a whirlwind of good news! things happening! hurry up and read/research/decide!
In the end, I went with Barbara, who I loved talking to so much that my notes are peppered with things she said, like, REST IS FOR THE WEAK, I get to do books!, That’s totally gonzo!, and Fill your heart with goodness. She is amazing. This whole journey has been amazing, and I want to thank all the people who helped me along the way so, so much because I would not be here without them.
And I can’t wait for what comes next.
Partial Requests: 5
Full Requests (including partials upgraded to fulls): 11
Time (from first query to first offer): 5 ½ months
Hello! This has been a long time coming, and I’m happy to welcome you to my new home on the internet, tracichee.com. I’ve got a lot of exciting things to share, so please settle in, take a look around, and join the conversation!
FIRST NEW NEWS
I have an agent!
I’m now represented by the incomparable Barbara Poelle, literary agent extraordinaire and all-around gloriously talented badass. She’s VP at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency and represents incredible authors like Lauren DeStefano and Renée Ahdieh. Also I am pretty sure that when she rides into the office on Monday mornings, she looks something like this:
In case you’re wondering, yes, she’s riding a dragon. Because she’s that awesome.
I am so lucky and so grateful to be working with such an amazing agent, and I’m excited to tell you how it all went down, so here’s the story of How I Got My Agent, separated into episodes for easy digestibility.
EPISODE ONE: THE QUERY TRENCHES
In June 2013, I began work on a book I’d been wanting to write for three years. It took me about eleven months to finish, and I started querying it on April 21, 2014. The manuscript was 121,000 words at the time, which I, oh naïve little thing that I was, thought was fine. As I soon found out, it was not. In about two months, I sent out 23 queries, racking up one request for the full manuscript, three requests for part of the manuscript (also known as partials), and 18 rejections, most of them form rejections that offered little guidance on what I could do better.
This was not what I’d hoped for.
So I kept working. While the rejections trickled in with agonizing sluggishness, I got help with my query.
I submitted to Query Drill, which is an online resource run by slush pile interns who read queries every day. The great thing about Query Drill is that they’ll not only tell you what they’d do (full request, partial request, or rejection), they’ll also give you a brief paragraph on their reasons, which is invaluable when all you’re getting are form rejections.
I also entered a query critique giveaway by YA authors Adam Silvera and Jasmine Warga, who agreed to read and critique my query if I followed them on Twitter. They’re both agented with books coming out in 2015, so they’ve been through the wringer themselves and have a lot of insight into what makes a good query.
Finally, I asked for help from a literary agent I know. She doesn’t represent my genre, but she asked some of her fellow agents for tips and tricks and gave me some great ideas for how to make my query punchier and more concise.
Every single one of these people told me that the word count was too high.
So I kept working. In mid-July, I stopped querying altogether, buckled down, and set out to cut 21,000 words from my manuscript. During this time, I learned that Pitch Wars, an online pitching contest for aspiring novelists, was starting in September.
Hosted by the inimitable Brenda Drake, Pitch Wars is an online contest in which industry insiders (published/agented authors, editors, interns) choose one writer each to mentor for a period of two months, during which time they hack, slash, burn, revise, rewrite, and regrow their manuscript until it’s pretty-as-a-picture. During those two months, the mentors also work with their writers to spit-shine their pitches and first pages for the agent round, when a whole slew of agents traipse by, making requests.
I’d been wanting to enter Pitch Wars for over a year, because unlike many pitch contests I’ve seen, this one isn’t just about getting your pitch in front of agents, it’s also about getting better as a writer. So I cut down my word count to 107,000 words, squeezed in under the deadline, and alongside over 1,200 other aspiring authors, I waited for two long weeks to see who the mentors had chosen…
Go here for the SECOND NEW NEWS and the conclusion of my “How I Got My Agent” story!