Getting an agent

So, on the 3rd of January I queried a literary agent with my young adult space opera: Telepathic Twins in Space, aka The Book That Will Not End, aka The Secret Project, aka Linked.  I’ve queried agents before (with a different book) and with that experience in mind I was resigned to a long wait before I got a reply.

Imagine my surprise when I got a reply later that same day, asking for the full manuscript.  I sent the manuscript off the next morning, and again resigned myself for a long wait–quite possibly with a form rejection at the end of it.  Have I done this before?  Oh yes.

However, the next day (the next day!) the agent emailed me saying that she would like to work exclusively with me on some revisions.  At which point I wrote OMG OMG OMG on Twitter, and then had to field (perfectly understandable!) questions about what the heck I was OMGing about.

I said I would love to work exclusively with the agent on some revisions.  At that point I didn’t have a detailed picture of what those revisions were, but hello, the chance to work on my manuscript with an agent?  People enter contests and bid in charity auctions to get that sort of input on their work.

The next day I got the revision notes.  Five pages of revision notes for the first two-thirds of the book.  Five pages of incredibly detailed revisions notes that would mean extensive rewrites.  But reading through them, I could see exactly why the agent was asking for certain things.  And more importantly, I could see how her suggestions would make the story stronger, the plot tighter, the characters more interesting.  I was scared I couldn’t do it, but I was going to try!

The next three months were kind of fascinating.  I followed the agent’s suggestions, even when I wasn’t sure I could pull them off, and found, over and over again, not only that I could, but that by doing so I’d opened up new insights into the characters and the world.  I realised that, even if the agent eventually turned down this new revised manuscript, her suggestions had made it so much better than it had been.

I wrote nearly every morning before I started work, and when I didn’t make wordcount for the day I wrote in bed at night.  I took the laptop everywhere.  I sat in freezing cold McDonald’s restaurants while Sparkler went to her dance and drama club (three hours most Saturday mornings, and for a couple of months while she rehearsed as a backing dancer for Hairspray, three hours every Tuesday evening).

Life tried to interfere.  People got ill.  Other people visited.  There were parents’ evenings and youth group meetings and orthodontic and doctors’ appointments and half-term-holiday outings.  And my day job at Samhain, and the editing I’d picked up again.  And the constant necessity to feed my family and give them clean clothes to wear!  I bought a slow-cooker and hired, for the first time in my life, a weekly cleaner.

I could have rushed and got it done sooner, but this felt like a big chance for me, and I didn’t want to get it wrong.  I wrote and rewrote and cut out rewritten scenes, and found snippets of discarded scenes from the first draft that suddenly fitted back in.

Eventually, many writing hours, innumerable new scenes, and several new characters later, with the manuscript as good as I could get it by myself, I sent it off.

By this time I knew that this agent didn’t hang around, but I was still expecting to wait a week or so to hear back.

Instead, the next day (I know, I should have picked up the pattern by now!) she emailed to say she loved the revisions and wanted to talk on the phone.

We arranged a time for the next evening, UK time.  And at about twenty to nine Wednesday, the 6th of April 2011, I put down the phone an agented writer.

It’s not over yet, of course!  I’m working on the rest of the book now, and the agent is sending me line edits (eek) for the first part.  And even when that’s done, well, as every writer knows, agent representation is not a publishing contract.  But this is a massive step in my career, and right now I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, and the agent?  I’m now represented by (it’s going to be a while before I get tired of saying that!) Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Literary Agency.

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5 Responses to Getting an agent

  1. Cate Hart says:

    Oh I love your post. I think I might have to write up my own experience. I think that one of the most exciting things is having someone standing behind you cheering you and your characters on. Just when I thought, I have to move away from this world to the next one and try again, I found an agent (Mandy =}) who loved my story as much as I did the first time I wrote it. And the revisions, I think I love the revisions because, like you said, you see the things in a different light and many times so much better.

  2. Courtney says:

    Congrats! It’s a long harrowing road– but you stuck it out. Good for you. Can’t wait to see your book in print. 🙂

  3. First off, congrats! Second, I love this post. I’m about to start on revisions and it’s encouraging to see someone make it through and succeed. 🙂

  4. Heidi says:

    Whoohoo! Congrats! That’s great news and totally deserved!

  5. Thank you for the congratulations!

    Cate, I’d love to read your experience too. I’ve always enjoyed reading other people’s stories of how they got their agent or their first big deal, and now I’m finding I’m enjoying reading the agent stories from another perspective. The big deal stories, however, are still in the aspirational category. But give me time! 😉

    Courtney, oh you’re so right. I said smugly to my husband the other night how much I loved my job and he gave me this look and said, “Yeah, when you’re not terrified because you’re waiting to hear back from someone or thinking that what you’ve just written is rubbish or…”. But the highs totally make up for the lows!

    Brandy, good luck with your revisions!

    Heidi, thank you! Hugs. 🙂


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