How I Got My Book Deal and Agent

I know every new author has one of these blog posts, and I think they all say roughly the same three things:

  1. Knowledge: I fumbled around online, read blogs, and went to conferences.
  2. Timing: I talked to the right agent at the right time at the right conference or submitted to the right contest.
  3. Perseverance: I worked really hard, ignored the inbox of rejections, and edited my butt off.

And really, that’s my story too. But I’m going to tell it anyway, because you know what? We as new writers, surrounded by rejection and the continual chorus of “hang in there’s” and “it’ll happen’s,” we owe it to ourselves to write a post that says, “Hey, you know that dream I’ve always had? Well I made it happen. Here’s how.”

I think we all deserve a little pat-on-the back blog post, telling our past selves that all that time and effort was worth it in the end.

So here’s mine…

I started writing my first “real” book in college. Like most first novels for writers, it was a hot mess. But I learned. I went to a million different websites about queries, agents, and critique partners. I read author and agent blogs, twitter-stalked, and chatted online with fellow writers who later became dear, dear friends both in the virtual world and the real world.

Long story short regarding my first two books: they both generated interest and full requests but in the end no one loved them quite enough to take them to the next step. But that’s okay because I learned SO much from both of them.

Enter Book Three. Incidentally, my first Young Adult. The other two novels had both been Middle Grade, so I was a little out of my wheelhouse. I even remember calling one of my very good friends (and amazing editor/CP), Melissa Jackson, and telling her my plot:

Me: “Uh, so it’s about princesses with magic kisses, which they use to fight monsters.”

Melissa: “So…they’re just like…making out on the battlefield?”

Me: “Um…Kinda?”

Melissa: “…Girl.”

When she finally found words to voice how bizarre my idea was, she was very supportive. Thankfully.

After quite a few drafts and many wonderful critique partners, each helping to make the next draft better than the last, I found the courage to send it to Melissa. She ripped it to shreds as expected. But, man, it still hurt.

During that time, my second novel was still getting a lot of requests. But after seven months later of no agent phone call, I took out the YA Fantasy, dusted it off, and reviewed Melissa’s notes. They were brilliant to be sure, but I was in for a lot of work. So I set to it.

Once I started querying it and entering it in blog and twitter contests, requests flew in, as did rejections until…

Another #pitmad day came around. I’d always managed to score a few requests off twitter contests, so when a #pitmad tweet was “liked” it was met with my usual reaction: happiness but no great expectations. To my surprise, it wasn’t an agent, but Judi Lauren, editor’s assistant for Entangled Publishing.

I’d heard of Entangled. The fabulous Brenda Drake, creator of Pitch Wars, and other great online writer contests, published with them. A friend from my writer’s group, Season Vining, NA author, also recently got a two-book deal contract with them. They were legit, and doing very well in the YA market.

I still didn’t have an agent, but I didn’t let that stop me. I sent in the full manuscript, following the Entangled’s submission guidelines and waited…as usual.

Two days before I was supposed to leave for vacation, I received an email from Lydia Sharp, the editor from Entangled, requesting a three-page synopsis. I had a page and a half synopsis, so, on top of packing for a week-long trip, I had to add another page and a half to my synopsis and send it in.

I went to Seattle and Vancouver with my friend the next day and tried super hard not to think about what could be waiting in my inbox when I got home. The minute my plane touched down back home I checked my email and what do you know…Lydia wanted my book.

After deep breaths I read the rest of the email. She wanted my book with some things changed. I agreed to them since it didn’t affect the plot or the story in a way I didn’t agree with. The editorial department said yes, then they took it to acquisitions.

That’s right. This wasn’t a done deal yet. So, yay, more waiting.

In the mean time I let agents who had my full know about this new development. Most didn’t respond, but my CP, Vicki Weavil, told her agent about my manuscript and then BOOM—two days after sending my manuscript in to Emilie Kormienko at Literary Counsel, I had a phone call scheduled. She had literally read my MS in two days and fell in love with it. I signed with her the day after the phone call.

A week after that, Lydia emailed me that their acquisition meeting was next Tuesday.

Somehow, I went to work all Tuesday without checking my inbox. Somehow, I made it through grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s before checking my email. (This whole time knowing that the email of whether or not I was getting published was waiting for me.)

I got into my car, opened the email, and…there it was. I’m going to be an author.

And that’s my story. As I said at the beginning…I learned, I did the right twitter contest at the right time, and I persevered through the first two books that didn’t make it.

Like all our favorite stories, the elements are virtually the same but it’s our own twists that make it special.

And to recap the people I owe this success to…

Melissa Jackson (@MelissaWritesYA)
Vicki Weavil (@VickiLWeavil)
Judi Lauren (@Judi_Lauren)
Emilie Kormienko (@literarycounsel)
Lydia Sharp (@lydia_sharp)

You are all wonderful, talented ladies, and have my deepest affection and heartfelt gratitude.

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