Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Official "How I Got My Agent" Post (And A Couple Query Tips)

Hey everyone!

I know this is almost old news by now, but since last week I've been getting messages from people asking me questions about querying and how I ended up signing with my amazing agent. So I figured I'd sit down and write a post about it real quick!

And in case you didn't hear already.... I am now represented by Mandy Hubbard at D4EO Literary!

*Smiles like a crazy person*

Okay, so I started querying in January (kicked off the 1st of the year by sending my first query ever written and then promptly got nauseous.)


(Said no one, EVER.)

Most of my queries were requested via contests or twitter events so I ended up having about a 50% request rate. I love contests. I participated in Pitch Wars, the Secret Agent contest, #Pitmad (x2) and a few others and loved every one of them.

**(If you're still querying and have any interest in this kind of thing, you should enter. Contests are your friends because even if you were planning to query the agent who makes a request anyway, it might bump you to the top of their to-read list, or at the very least you have a little more confidence in sending your query. Their favorite or request means they already like what your book is about, and sometimes finding the right agent with the right taste is the hardest thing. So let a contest or two point you in the right direction, and see what happens.)**

I first connected with Mandy a little over three months ago. She requested pages of The Blood Train during a #Pitmad event at the end of March, (which was a funny coincidence because she was already  getting a query letter later that week.) I didn't notice her request right away because TweetDeck tried to eat it. But then I happened to go on the Twitter app on my phone and spotted it.

It was a good day.

And an even better one came four days later when that turned into a full request.

When Mandy wrote back after reading all of The Blood Train, I opened her email waiting for the "but." You know the, "I really enjoyed your sample pages, but..." or "This is super creepy, but..." or "You have a lot of talent, but..."

Except this time there was no "but." She called me a "phenomenal writer," and said The Blood Train was spectacular! She even talked about how my book kept her up late, trying to get to the end. I waited for the punchline. She couldn't be talking about me. Only my crazy critique partners say things like that. Not Mandy Hubbard. Not the agent that required three months of gathering courage just to query.

And she wanted to talk about revisions. She had all these ideas, she suggested I watch a movie that she thought might be a possible comp title, and she put lots of exclamation points in her emails. It was fantastic!!

I disagreed with a couple things she wanted me to change and she immediately came back urging me to only do what felt right to me. There wasn't a moment talking to her that I felt uncomfortable or that my questions would be bothersome or annoying. (Which, for me, is really saying something.)

After half a dozen emails, I had a plan in place and dove in. I totally pulled everything apart and pieced it back together again, during what was definitely the most stressful and hellish eight weeks of my life, but it was worth it.

I sent her the new version and the next email I got from her held an offer of representation.

We talked on the phone, I signed, and the rest is... week old history! It was a 4th of July I'll never forget.

And while I don't feel nearly qualified to be giving advice (despite the long paragraph above about contests) but I'm going to do it anyway. Again.

Are you ready? Here it is: Target your queries. Target the heck out of them, and I don't just mean clicking on your genre in QueryTracker and sending to everyone who reps YA, or romance, or thrillers or whatever you've written.

Search through their twitter feeds.

Stalk #mswl.

Google them and look for interviews.

Find their lists of what they rep on their agency or personal websites.

Look at their client list and see the types of novels they've already signed.

Do so much research you almost feel creepy (but don't mention their dog or how cute their kids are in your query letter otherwise you WILL BE CREEPY.)

And yes, I may have learned this a little too late. (Sorry for babbling about your hedgehogs, Pam.)

Know your stuff, and take the time to figure out who has the best chance of loving what you've created, and your querying life will be a lot less stressful.

A 50% request rate might seem really high, and it is, but I also put TONS of work into making sure every single agent I submitted to was looking for creepy young adult horror. Every. Single. One.

Don't query someone in the hopes they might change their mind and you'll be the one to bring them into a new genre, because even if that happens, they won't have any clue how to sell your manuscript properly. They're experts in what they actively represent, so find yourself an expert and send it their way!

One of my most popular rejections was along the lines of "I really enjoyed your premise but I'm looking for horror grounded in the real world." And that was fine, because none of my research ever turned up anything as specific as "YA Horror- Realistic." I just happened to miss the mark on the type of horror they were interested in. And those were a lot easier to swallow than form rejections would have been.

So, yeah. Those are my two little slices of advice: contests, and TARGET TARGET TARGET.

Thanks for wading through all the babble of my "real quick" post. My long windedness has won out again. Haha!


4 months of active querying before R&R
16 query letters
5 contests