Monday, June 24, 2013

How I Got My Agent

If you're like me, you love "how I got my agent" stories. Preferably fairly lengthy and with all the details. I've long dreamed of writing this post, and I'm going to take my time drag it out milk it for all it's worth tell all.

First, though, the spoiler: I am beyond overjoyed to announce that I have signed with Peter Knapp of The Park Literary Group. And I do mean "beyond overjoyed." I have not simply "found an agent." I have found a MATCH. But not to get ahead of myself.

Backtrack to December, 2011. That's when I began querying a MG dystopian speculative novel, probably most accurately called post-apocalyptic, if we're splitting hairs on terms. When I started writing it, I had what I thought was a wonderful idea (I still have a huge soft spot for it, as do several of my CPs, one of whom maintains that it's her favorite of my books). And I wrote the book with that Wonderful Idea front and center in my consciousness -- but not so much the realization that a futuristic, dystopian, call-it-what-you-will trend was burgeoning in the marketplace. By the time I finished the book, the cry, "I am so done with dystopian" was beginning to ring loud and clear in the industry. I began to worry. "But those dystopian books are YA," I reasoned. "This is MG. Why couldn't, why wouldn't, a successful YA genre be adapted to MG?" And in a whinier mood: "I wrote it cuz it's a great idea, dagnabbit!"

So, on December 28, 2011, I began querying agents. Yes, during Christmas vacation, yet on January 2 I had a full request in my inbox. I sent out more queries, and got more requests. Rejections began to trickle in. "I didn't fall in love the way I'd need to, but I'm sure another agent will feel differently." Well, no, they basically all felt that same way. :) I researched more agents, sent out more queries. The request rate began to drop off. I researched more agents, sent out more queries. The response rate even to the queries dropped off. For some of the agents, of course, I had higher hopes than others, because they seemed like quite a good match, or the tone of their request had seemed especially chipper. Yet, over the course of 12 months, every single one of those queries, partials, or fulls either limped back home with an R or disappeared into the void. I sent my last batch of queries on October 31, 2012, and at year's end officially retired from querying the book. Now, since there is occasional math in this blog, and I like the stats and know that many of you do too, here they are:
  • Queries -- 85
  • Partials -- 16
  • Fulls -- 8
  • Rejections -- 14 personal, 25 form
  • Offers -- 0
  • Time span -- 1 year
But while I was querying this book, I was writing another: a MG mystery that I'd started around 2005 and then interrupted to write the dystopian plus the start of a MG historical. Deciding that the mystery was my best shot, I got back to it in earnest in January of 2012, was ready for beta readers by February of this year, revised, and sent my first query letters for the new book on May 6, 2013.

I was both excited and nervous about getting back into querying. Every query represents new possibilities, but the process can be so grueling. I started out querying those who had liked but not loved the previous book, and/or those who had said they'd gladly look at more work. The result? Form Rs. I really zeroed in on agents who were asking for my type of book, which was a much easier task with a mystery than it had been with a futuristic. I sent out a few more queries. No thanks. I went into a bit of a slump. The new book, which I thought was better than the previous and more marketable to boot, was meeting with a deafening silence. No initial flurry of requests like the dystopian had gotten. Yes, it was a bit early to be panicking, but I felt like I was seeing the handwriting on the wall: every response will always be an R, and that will never change.

More agent research. I began to look very closely at Peter Knapp. Hmm. He wanted what I wrote. We had a LOT of the same tastes. Everything I could find about him online spoke well of him, from his interviews, to his critiques in WriteOnCon forums, to his Twitter account, to his other clients' "how I got my agent" stories. This is going to sound crazy, and easy to say in hindsight, but I thought something like, "If this is not a match, I'm not sure how to find one." Then I went to his blog and found its title: "The Emperor of Ice Cream." What? Books AND ice cream? I began to hear Twilight Zone music. I told myself to keep a lid on it, and sent him a query on May 30.

On June 10, I checked email on my phone and there was his name in my inbox. Now, I've developed a pretty thick skin, and, outside of the aforementioned slump, I've learned to let most Rs bounce right off. But there are those you know will sting if they come back as Rs, and this was one. I took a few deep breaths, leaned on the wall, and opened it. It was a full request. One that sounded like he really had enjoyed the sample pages. I imagine I was wearing a silly smile as I fired the full back through cyberspace. This was a Monday, and I even dared hope he might find time during the following weekend to read it. A girl can dream, right?

One week later, the morning of Monday, June 17, my critique group met. Afterwards, I checked email on my phone again, and there was his name in my inbox. Heart-attack time, right? Well, it might have been, but right above that email, time-stamped something like 13 minutes later, was the subject line "Peter Knapp is now following you on Twitter." Suddenly, my heart had wings. If he was now following me on Twitter, how bad could it be? I opened the email. It was a long, detailed, complimentary letter about my book, which he had read the night before, and could we talk on Tuesday? Yes, we could! And we did, for an hour and a half, and it couldn't possibly have gone better. As I had no other partials or fulls out, I was free to accept his offer, and, after a great email exchange with one of his clients, I did exactly that. Again, here are the stats:
  • Queries -- 12; Pete was the 12th. Did I mention 12 is my favorite number? For real?
  • Partials -- 0
  • Fulls -- 1
  • Rejections -- 0 personal, 4 form
  • Offers -- 1
  • Time span -- 6 weeks
I am so excited. For now, and for what the future will bring.

So this is what they mean by "a match." And what they mean by "trust your gut." The RIGHT agent is so worth the wait.

44 comments:

Faith E. Hough said...

CONGRATULATIONS, MARCIA! I've been keeping Peter on my radar for a while, too--he's right at the top of my to-query list once I polish up this ms baby. :) (Considering our similar taste in books, that makes total sense.) He seems like such an enthusiastic and talented advocate for great books. I am so happy for you!

Kim Van Sickler said...

I am thrilled for you!!! Yes, Peter does seem a good fit for you. He passed on Muleskinner, must be because he was waiting for your ms. :-) Here's hoping Peter sells it quickly!

Melissa Gorzelanczyk said...

I have tears in my eyes reading this! I am so happy for you and thankful for this inspiring, hopeful post. Writing can be a disheartening road with all the rejection letters implying you're not good enough. I'm glad you didn't quit! Very encouraging story, Marcia. I can't wait to get my signed copy of your book.
Cheers!
Melissa

Vijaya said...

Oh, Marcia, thank you for sharing all the details, the lows and the highs, and that absolute gut feeling, that if not Pete, than who.

Congratulations!!! To you and to Peter. I am looking forward to news of a quick sale. God bless your work together.

Vijaya said...

ps: I'm glad Faith has PK on her radar.

Anonymous said...

What an AWESOME, AWESOME story, Marcia! I'm so happy for you. Congratulations!!!
Pam Beres

Kristi Holl said...

I know I said this already, but it bears repeating...congratulations and thank you for sharing the gritty perseverance required to get the agent of your dreams. I'm so glad you didn't give up!

Marcia said...

Faith -- I can totally see that. ;) Happy polishing!

Kim -- Thank you SO much. Here's hoping for the PERFECT fit for you and MULESKINNER.

Melissa -- Thank you so much! I know; it's SO hard. But now, so worth it. :)

Vijaya -- Yes, my GUT was so there, almost scarily early! And I agree about Faith. :)

Pam -- Thank you SO much!!!

Kristi -- Thank you! I'm SO glad too!

Llehn said...

Congrats, Marcia! I've had the pleasure of submitting to Peter and I have to say that he's one of the nicest agents I've liaised with. Good luck to the both of you!

Lee Ann Rubsam said...

Congrats, Marcia! I'm so happy for you! :-) ~ Lee Ann

Andrea Mack said...

This is such wonderful news, Marcia! I'm so thrilled for you!

Jaye Robin Brown said...

Oh Marcia!! This is fabulous! I remember the dystopian MG and how beautiful your writing was - I'm so glad you didn't quit and found Pete! This post has made my night!

Leandra Wallace said...

Yay, awesome, awesome news(I thought about writing awesome twelve times for you...=))

mrkohler1 said...

Congratulations Marcia! I'm so happy for you. Great story; thanks for being candid. I don't usually like to read stats, but the numbers stood out in showing the extent of your perseverance. May you and Peter have a long and fruitful partnership.

Janet said...

Congratulations, Marcia! Perseverance really pays off.

Marcia said...

Thank you all so much! We say it all the time, but yes, perseverance is what we need. The 85-queries story is so much more common! And I love the idea of writing awesome 12 times. :)

Dawn Malone said...

YAY, Marcia!!! I love happy endings (but really, it's just the beginning of more good things to come!). Thanks for sharing your marvelous story. I'm so happy for you!

Mirka Breen said...

This was the perfect post to wake up to. It made me happy for you, and happy, period. All your projects (a.k.a. novels) sound interesting. I hope Mr. Knapp winds up brining all of them to print.

Marcia said...

Thank you, Dawn and Mirka!

Katie L. Carroll said...

Congrats, Marcia! Sounds like you've met your literary agent match. :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Congrats, Marcia, on your dream catch of an agent. Good luck with submissions!

Marcia said...

Thanks so much, Katie and Stina!

KatieC said...

So so sooooo happy for you, Marcia!

Kelly Polark said...

Congratulations, Marcia! What an exciting time for you! Thanks for sharing. Hard work and perseverance pays off!
I hope to hear of Peter selling it soon! :)

Marcia said...

Thank you, Katie and Kelly!

Medeia Sharif said...

Congratulations. I'm thrilled for you. It does take time and persistence. What a fantastic outcome.

Laura Pauling said...

Congrats! Very happy for you! Here's to a quick book deal! :)

Christina Farley said...

This is so fascinating. I think the crux of all of this is you never gave up. Congrats!

Marcia said...

Thanks, Medeia, Laura, and Christina. :)

MaryWitzl said...

What a great post, and what terrific news, and how happy I am for you, Marcia! It is wonderful to finally meet someone who GETS your work in every way, especially after all the rejections and late night agonizing and soul-searching. Congratulations!

Marcia said...

Mary, yes, it is such a lift when they GET it. Really helps you deal with the "I should have been a dental hygienist" moments. :)

Ruth Schiffmann said...

I'm behind on my blogging lately, but I'm SO GLAD I didn't miss this post, Marcia! WooHoo! I had a silly grin on my face as I read your story. So very happy for you =D

Bish Denham said...

Oh wow! I am definitely jumping up and down and doing the happy dance with you! CONGRATULATIONS MARCIA!

Marcia said...

Thank you, Ruth and Bish!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

That is fabulous, Marcia! I am so pleased for you. :)

Marcia said...

Thanks, Sharon!

MollyMom103 said...

Brilliant, Marcia. Thrilled for you.

Marcia said...

Thanks, Molly!

Rena Jones said...

This is awesome! Congratulations, Marcia!

Sandy Brehl said...

Congratulations, Marcia. I have heard SUCH RAVES about Peter Knapp- you have me dripping with jealousy. Within the industry he seems to be respected from every POV- authors, fellow agents, editors, and on and on. Patience, persistence, and talent win in the end.

Serious congrats!

Marcia said...

Rena and Sandy -- Thank you so much.

I know -- I feel so incredibly blessed to have him. I'm still pinching myself and giving the random silly smile. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

This is such a fabulous post. Thanks for taking us on the journey with you, and congratulations!
(sorry this is so tardy. I haven't been online much of late)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Somehow I missed this glorious news! So thankful the wonderful Michele Tuton, our SCBWI-NM "e-lerter", chose to share your link.

I read Peter's WriteOnCon post about courage and was blown away. He is a class-act guy. So thrilled for you, Marcia.

When you sell that book, I'd love to feature you on my blog's Classroom Connections. :)

Marcia said...

Tricia -- Thank you for stopping in!

Caroline -- Wow, I'd be thrilled to do that. Thank you! Speaking of WOC posts, I also adored yours. :) Seriously, yours and Pete's were my two favorites.