So, last week I achieved yet another big career goal I’d set for myself many moons ago. I signed with an agent. Yay! I’m so, so, so thrilled to be working with Courtney Miller-Callihan from Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.
I’m excited for this for a lot of reasons. Having a business partner, so to speak. I’m so proud of the book that got Courtney’s attention. I feel like I’ve managed to unhook any limits I have control over from my career.
The first query I ever sent to an agent went out in April of 2011. It received a form rejection. I didn’t query any more agents with that project, but I did later sell it to The Wild Rose Press and it became my first published book.
The second query I ever sent was in May of 2011. A different project, but the same agent. I got a partial request! It later received a rejection with brief feedback. I retired this project after it was also rejected by a publisher. It’s one of the few manuscripts I’ve finished in the past three years that I decided to put away rather than continue to work on and eventually sell.
My next set of queries were for the manuscript that would become my third published book (FLIGHT RISK). I queried six agents, got one partial request and one full request. In the end, all responses were form rejections.
Kind of concurrent to querying that third project, I was querying SEVEN NIGHT STAND. Four agents, four form rejections, no requests. Then it sold to Entangled, after a few other publisher rejections.
At the end of 2012/beginning of 2013, I queried 14 agents with my Superromance. I received three full requests, but in the end all received rejections with no specific feedback.
In 2013 I queried All I’ve Got, my Harlequin Digital title, to five agents. 2 full requests and 1 partial. I did get feedback from one agent who called me despite not offering representation. This agent gave me feedback and advice and though I did not take all of her advice, I’ll always appreciate the time she spent in reaching out to me.
For the manuscript I got my offers of representation on, I sent out roughly 30 queries. I had quite a few partial and full requests and more than one offer of rep.
In the end, I learned a lot from the seeking-an-agent process.
1. Just because a manuscript is rejected does not make it unworthy of publication. All of the books rejected by agents I later sold on my own, and that’s not a “haha, those agents are dumb” response. I would never want to be with an agent not one hundred percent sure they loved my book. But just because you don’t find an agent who loves your book whether from query or partial or full, doesn’t mean you won’t find an editor who will. This is a very, very subjective business. If you believe in your book, keep trying.
2. An agent MAY call you and not offer you representation. It only happened to me once, but it did indeed happen. (Also, no matter how nicely your children are playing or napping, do not take said phone call with them around. Chances are the minute you start really talking they will start shrieking uncontrollably).
3. Feedback is never guaranteed. I used to think if I got as far as a full request I’d definitely get feedback if it was a pass. But, more often than not, the response was a form “this is not for me.” It’s frustrating because that can mean so many things, but agents have a heck of a lot of reading and feedback on their plates, and the best agents give the bulk of that attention to their clients.
4. Learning to write a good query is very different from writing a good book. I found that I got the most requests from queries that had a one to two line hook. These are so hard and I hated writing them, but both All I’ve Got and my current project started with two-sentence “hooks” and they got the most requests. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It took me a while to really “get” the point of he he query. To get beyond the mindset, “oh once they read the sample pages they’ll want to dive right in.” That query is a tool and whether or not you LIKE it, it’s the tool that gets your foot I the door. Put your best foot forward.
5. Know WHY you want an agent. Especially if you’re already published. By the time I signed with my agent, I had three books released and six more sold. What I heard from more than one agent was why did I want one if I could already sell (they wanted to know, not that they were questioning my choice). I had reasons, but it took that first agent asking me the question for me to truly understand why I wanted this. It wasn’t just to say I had one or because I thought my agent could make me a bestseller overnight. I think one of the best things you can do for yourself is know what you expect from an agent, what you want from an agent, and discuss those with any offering agent.
In the end, some people will get agents quickly, on their first try, on their first book. Some it will take multiple projects and years of trying (she says, from experience). Don’t let rejection shake your confidence or color what you want.
Know what you want. Work for what you want. Believe in your work, yourself, and keep striving to be better, understand more. Truly, that is the best advice.