It seems to me that most people find an agent, then sell their book. For me, my agent story is a little bass-ackwards, but then again, since when have I ever been described as normal?
I just started querying my YA Steampunk dark fairytale Innocent Darkness at the end of January of 2010.. I had a bit of a bee in my bonnet about selling before RWA nationals in July of 2010. I knew that Flux wanted YA Steampunk, so on a lark I sent mine off in April 2010. A week later, I got an email from Brian Farrey saying he was halfway done and wanted to talk to me. A week after that it went to editorial review. A few days later, I got "the email" -- not only did they want Innocent Darkness , but they wanted a sequel as well!
Meanwhile, I'd been querying agents. It had been a bit of a slow process for me, because I was sending only to agents that I knew wanted Steampunk, which meant lots of research. In March of 2010, someone from the Los Angeles Romance Authors, the RWA chapter I belong to, emailed me that they heard agent Laura Bradford speak and she mentioned that she wanted Steampunk. My friend also told me that she thought Laura would be a good fit (always a good thing with an agent). So, after doing some research, I added her to my list and sent out the query. A few days before I got that first email from Brian at Flux, I'd gone to the PO box to find a hand-written note from Laura saying she loved the partial and to send her the full. After doing the happy dance in the middle of the post office, I sent it off. When I heard that Innocent Darkness was going to editorial review, I contacted her and everything went into hyperdrive. I feel so lucky to have signed with her.
I actually got "the call" from Laura while in McDonalds, celebrating my offer from Flux with Happy Meals with Missy. Laura and I chatted and I felt like we really clicked. It was also a very lengthy conversation, so long that Missy got bored with the playland and I had to bribe her with an ice cream and cookies. At the end of the conversation she offered me representation. I was so excited I nearly fell off my stool.
I've always wanted to be a writer, but I went though that period in my life, where, like a lot of girls, I stopped because of peer pressure. Even in college, I'd write stories but never finished them. A few years back, I noticed that I was approaching my ten year high school reunion, and said to myself, "Gee, I always thought I'd been published my now." Then I thought, "Why am I not?" The answer was "um, you've never finished anything."
So I did. My new years resolution for 2007 was to write a whole book. After two false starts, I sat down and wrote an entire book. Then I did again. I wrote and rewrote and embarked on the submission process. I entered contests and took online classes and joined the Romance Writers of America and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Online Writer's Workshop. I found critique partners. I continued to write, learn, and grow. Most importantly, I was consistent, and persistent. When one manuscript didn't work, I moved on. I kept writing and never gave up. (As one of my friend's jokes, we have to be Dorrie from Finding Nemo and "just keep swimming.")
Innocent Darkness was the *fourth* (yes, fourth) manuscript I shopped and the tenth one I'd written. (Though the first six were pretty bad. Apparently books need plots.) It's hard sending your baby out in to the world, but like finishing a book, it a vital step on the path to getting published.
I love having Laura as my agent. She's very hands on and has been really great about guiding me through the long and sometimes frustrating process. After I got my sale and agent I kept on working on the new things--especially since there's more than two years between when I sold in April of 2010 to when it actually releases in August of 2012. No matter what stage we're in, we just have to keep swimming.
Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens. Her debut novel, Innocent Darkness, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases from Flux in August of 2012.