14 October 2013

Big News!! ... or How I Got My Agent!

This summer, I finished final revisions on the most difficult novel I've ever written.

LETTERS FROM HEAVEN is about twelve-year-old Missy Tuttle, whose mother dies from a brain tumor. Dad starts dating too soon, her best friends have gone AWOL, and Missy has no one to turn to. But then, a letter arrives, signed Love, Mom. When the letters keep coming, referencing events Mom couldn't possibly have predicted, Missy realizes she's receiving actual letters from heaven.

This story is so deeply personal that it took me a full three years to finish, as I had to give myself several months between each revision. In fact, last year, I gave up on it completely, certain I'd never find the emotional distance necessary to write the story effectively.

I wasn't sure if I was ready to share that much of myself with the world.

But my amazing critique partners wouldn't let me put it away forever. And so, when I started querying TWELVE STEPS, I pulled LETTERS FROM HEAVEN out of the virtual drawer. 

The goal was to have LETTERS ready to query by the time I reached the end of my query list for TWELVE STEPS. Yikes!
Then, just as I finished revisions for LETTERS FROM HEAVEN,I accepted an offer with Swoon Romance for TWELVE STEPS. And I gave myself permission to wait on querying "just until life gets back to normal."

In other words, I chickened out.

Luckily, Brenda Drake and Ashley Turcotte, wouldn't allow me to quit. 

Not ready to take the leap of faith required to query, I entered Pitch Madness. My top agent choices were participating, and the contest circuit worked with my first novel. It would work for me again.

But I didn't make it to the final round of Pitch Madness, so no agents saw my entry.

After a brief battle with self-doubt (where I forced myself to re-read my own blog post about how even phenomenal entries may not be selected for Pitch Madness), I decided to enter the Twitter pitch party #PitMad.

I knew at least one of the agents on my wish list (we'll call her Agent A) was watching the #PitMad feed. In fact, I chatted with her throughout the day, about various topics, but mostly Pitch Madness and #PitMad. Surely, she'd see my Twitter pitch tucked into my feed as we conversed. I waited all day for her to mention my pitch and request my pages.

Nope.

Of course, an agent not requesting through a Twitter pitch party is NOT the same as a rejection. The feed moves so fast, there's no way to even know if your agent crush saw your pitch.

But sometimes, it still feels like a rejection.

As much as I wanted a contest to make the introductions for me, the "easy route" wasn't so easy this time around.

And after all I'd been through with this manuscript, I couldn't put LETTERS FROM HEAVEN back into the drawer.

My first manuscript died because I was too afraid to query widely. I gave up on it before giving it half a chance. My second manuscript made its rounds on the contest circuit to find a home.

But this time around, I knew I had to take that leap, trusting wings to sprout in time to carry me to the ground. In other words, I had to query.

I was meticulous in my research. Because the story was so personal, I couldn’t bring myself to follow the common advice to "query widely." I knew I had to put myself out there, but not that much.

After weeks of research, I had a very select list of "rock star" agents, who were likely, I thought, to connect with my story. 

I started with just a couple of queries, to test the waters. I decided I'd write my next manuscript while I waited for responses, and by the time I got through my select list, I could be ready to start over again with the next manuscript.

But a week passed, and I had not heard from anyone. (Shocking, right? -- A whole WEEK with no response!)

And I was too nervous to write anything new. So I took a deep breath, sat myself at my dining room table with my laptop, and wrote out ten more queries to ten more rock star agents.

By the next morning, I had two requests. 

The only problem? You're generally supposed to include a synopsis with your full, and I didn't have one.

I spent the rest of the day frantically writing one (with the help of Ashley and Brenda, who dropped everything just to help me whip it into shape!), so I could send the requested pages.

Always have a synopsis ready, kids!

I sent off the pages.



A few hours later, Agent A tweeted: "I like books that make me a bad subway passenger--laughing, crying, throwing my Kindle across the train--well, maybe not the last one." 

But that couldn't possibly be MY manuscript. I'd just sent it to her!

Except... it was.  We'd spoken on Twitter, and she sent me a note to tell me that my book--my very personal, very emotional, very heartfelt book--had struck a chord. "Just so you know, I was crying on the subway. This is powerful. I feel for her. You've done a good job. So, again, whatever happens from here on out, I just wanted you to know that."

This didn't make me nervous at all. Not one bit. Nope. Not me. Cool as a cucumber.

The next afternoon, she asked if we could set up a phone call.

We talked for nearly two hours, about my manuscript and her ideas for it, about family and hobbies and everything else. And I wasn't even nervous! (This is huge, by the way! I have a severe phone phobia. I even have mild panic attacks when talking to my own mother, my husband, or my very best friends on the phone!)

When she offered representation, it took every ounce of my self-control not to jump up and down and scream YES!!!

But I had other agents with my work. And I'd queried each of them for very strong, specific reasons. I couldn't just write them off. So I emailed the other agents to let them know I had an offer. And within minutes, I had another full request.

Thus began the longest week of my life.

I always thought it would be awesome and amazing to be that writer with dozens of offers at once, but I quickly realized that the reality didn't fit the fantasy. How could I possibly turn down any of these rock star agents?

In the meantime, a few agents told me, "This manuscript is wonderful, with a lot to love, but it's not right for me," or otherwise passed. Yet, the rejection didn't sting.

Deep in my heart, I knew I'd already made my choice.
And now, I'm happy to announce that I've accepted an offer of representation from the fabulous Agent A -- Jessica Sinsheimer (Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, LLC)!!!

60 comments:

  1. Congrats! I am so happy for you!

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  2. Congratulations!! So happy for you and Jessica!

    I added you to my inspiring stories list. :) http://www.writeforapples.com/2012/06/inspiring-stories-getting-their-agents.html

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  3. Congrats! What a great story of perseverance and heart!! :)

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  4. Congratulations! I'm sure we will be reading about a publishing contract soon. :-)

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  5. Aaaaah what a wonderful story, and the perfect proof that sometimes queries convey what pitches can't - so glad you persevered, and huge, huge congrats!!!

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  6. Wahoooooo! Fabulous news! Congrats!!!

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  7. I am so, so, so happy for you! What a beautiful, inspirational story. Best wishes for success on this novel and all the other stories dancing inside your head, waiting to flow out of your fingers.

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  8. Veronica, wonderful news!!!! Congratulations!

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  9. I couldn't be happier for you, love! I really couldn't. Jessica is the ACTUAL best.

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  10. Congratulations! I never doubted you'd be here! Hugs!

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  11. Congratulations, what a great & inspiring story!

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  12. as you know, I'm SO STINKING HAPPY FOR YOU!!! Jessica is an amazing agent, I've met her personally and adore her, and I know the two of you are going to have an amazing work relationship. Can't wait to read this story!!!

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  13. Congrats! So happy for you! Happy dance!

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  14. Conrtatulations on your happy news, and thanks for sharing your story with all of us who are still hopeful!

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  15. What fantastic news! I'm so happy for you. Jessica's amazing and I'm sure you guys will do great things together.

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  16. Congrats to you and Jessica! Well deserved. I'm so happy for you!

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  17. Well-deserved indeed. Congratulations!!!

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  18. CONGRATS, Veronica!!!!! I'm SO SO SO happy for you! :)

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  19. Yes! That is wonderful news! I'm so happy for you and I remember your #PitMad pitch. I knew you were going to get picked up. Woohoo! Excited for you!

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  20. Congratulations! Jessica IS a rock star agent! You are lucky to have each other! YAYYYYY!!!!

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  21. Phones... i hate talking on them most of the time too, the echo of my voice and dealing with speaking too fast so what i say is misinterpreted.

    Enough about me...

    Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You personal book has an agent!!!!!! I'm glad you found someone you connect with!

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    2. Good to know I'm not the only one with a phone phobia. :)

      And thanks for your kind words!! <3

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  22. Congratulations! Great story! :D

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  23. That is wonderful news. Congratulations!

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  24. What a fantastic story. And I look forward to reading Letters from Heaven.

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  25. Thank you all so much!! I appreciate your love and support, and I'm so glad to have each and every one of you in my life! You're amazing!! <3

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  26. Congratulations Veronica! What an amazing journey you went through. The important lesson here is to believe in yourself and never give up. Thanks for the reminder and for sharing your story.

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  27. I really enjoyed reading your post. Thank you so much for sharing. And above all....CONGRATULATIONS!

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  28. Congratulations, Veronica! What a rollercoaster ride of emotions. So happy this worked out so well for you.

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  29. Congratulations! I remember seeing that tweet in Jessica's feed and hoping we'd get our hands on whatever she was reading. Even better that it's you! You're awesome and I KNOW you're going to go far!!! *hugs*

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  30. So excited for you and the fact that it's with a manuscript that is so close to your heart is especially powerful. I can't wait until it sells so we can all read it!!

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  31. Veronica, I'm over the moon for you. You've worked so hard on your manuscripts and on your agent search! It's great to know that perseverance pays off. (Phone phobia?! Thanks for talking to me this morning. I had no idea. You're a good friend!)

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    1. :) I'm working through the phone issues (only mild flutters today), and you know I love ya. Of course I would drop everything for a quick phone call, since we can't see each other in person right now! <3

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  32. Congratulations Veronica! You should be so very proud of yourself. I am so happy for you! Can't wait to read it!

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  33. So so many congratulations! I'm so excited for you both! *cupcake cannon*

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  34. Congrats, Veronica! So happy for you.

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  35. Thank you all so much!! I really want to reply to each comment individually to let you know how much you mean to me, but I'm afraid that would clutter up the comments section. So just know that I love each and every one of you!! <3

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  36. wwowowowoo!

    What a year!!! So thrilled for you!!

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    1. :) When I got Jessica's offer, my daughter commented: "Who says 13 is an unlucky number? This year has been pretty good to you!"

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  37. Oh, Veronica! I'm so happy for you! You absolutely have been putting your heart and soul out there and I'm thrilled your hard work is now beginning to bear fruit! I loved reading your story about the process!

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  38. What an amazing story, Veronica!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm thrilled to pieces for you!!! And its the story of your heart! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!

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  39. Thanks, Jen & Kimberly! <3 Love you guys!!

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  40. Congrats!! This is such a wonderful story, thank you for sharing it :)

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  41. Just heard the news through the grapevine. Congratulations!! So happy for you!!

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  42. Congratulations! Thanks for your story and installing hope for me and my novel!

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