Monday, August 15, 2011

From Zero to Agent in 30 Months; or How I Finally Got My Agent


When I began querying my first book, I had two serious disadvantages: 1) I had zero contacts in the industry; and 2) I had zero clue what I was doing. I’d just finished a book that I thought was pretty good so I found some reputable agents online and sent them my query letter and sample chapters, waited for their enthusiastic replies, then got ignored or rejected for the better part of a year. It was a serious wake-up call. I had no idea how competitive the publishing world was or how much work it was going to take to break in. My query letter had been adequate, but not nearly original or polished enough to catch a busy agent’s eye. But more important, I hadn’t earned my writing chops yet. I’d jumped into novel writing without having ever studied craft, plotting, pacing, or characterization. And I certainly hadn’t put in the requisite time revising and editing my manuscript to make it sing. This was long, long ago in the blissful world of “Before.”

That may sounds strange to hear that my pre-published days were blissful, but in a way, they were. It was very freeing to write a book just to see if I could and not to worry about expectations or sales figures or social networking demands. I was writing for the sheer pleasure of the process with dreams of publication hovering over me like little iridescent soap bubbles, ignorant to the fact that publishing was a business known for bursting a lot of bubbles. After getting scores of rejections from agents, though, I was beginning to catch on. 

So I used the lessons I’d learned to write a better book, then revised relentlessly and actually researched this time to find the best agents for my manuscript. Rinse, repeat, and more rejection. I was demoralized and frustrated. But I tried to remind myself why I’d started writing in the first place: because I love to write. If this was true, I would write a dozen novels even if not a single one ever saw the light of day. Despite this realization, I still knew that publication was a goal of mine, so I followed up with all the agents who hadn’t responded yet. After a few days, one of them wrote back to me and said, “Hey, we must have missed this the first time around, but we like what we see.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) That person ended up becoming my agent, the lovely and talented April Eberhardt from April Eberhardt Literary. From there, she and I worked to polish the manuscript, and April sold it in four weeks. Cue the cartwheels and caviar! 

So yes, ultimately, it took well over two years to get my agent. But if I’d given up after the first try, I never would have written the book that snagged her. And if I hadn't followed up with all those agents, April and I would have missed out on each other completely. The lessons here: 1) study your craft before querying; 2) be persistent throughout the process; but 3) don’t forget why you started writing in the first place. There’s a lot of pain and heartbreak down the road to publication, so first and foremost, you’ve got to love the writing!

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Eve Marie Mont is the author of A Breath of Eyre (Kensington/KTeen, March 2012), the first in a trilogy about a girl who gets lost, literally, in her favorite books. Please stop by her website for info, news, and updates.







3 comments:

  1. Sounds very, very familiar! ; ) I'd also add, figure out which genre best fits your voice, personality, and style. I started trying to write more adult, literary novels just because I thought that's what I was supposed to do. (Where I got that idea I will never know) and it felt so forced and unnatural I had little success. As soon as I started writing MG/YA, everything clicked.

    But the opposite may true for someone else!

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  2. Yes, Anne, the book that got me the agent was actually women's fiction, which I really enjoyed, but the switch to YA felt so right! Weird how we all toil away for so many years, making mistakes and learning. Those people who write one book and get an instant 6-figure deal? Bah!!!

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  3. Ah, I remember those blissful days of no deadlines! Haha! As I've often said, I think it can be a good thing to go through the rejection process...it makes the eventual success that much sweeter!

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