I have an awesome announcement to make: last Friday, I accepted an offer of literary representation from Weronika Janczuk of D4EO Literary Agency! I’m excited, terrifically happy, and more than a little a little stunned.
As I hunted for agents, I read, eagerly and with a degree of honest envy, many writers’ stories about how they found their agents. Each story was helpful in its own way; I found hints at what worked, what didn’t, and what I could expect from the process. More importantly, I took heart from these tales that finding representation was possible, even for strange projects in a competitive environment. So, here’s my story, in hope that it’ll help others the way I’ve been helped.
I wrote the novel that caught Weronika’s eye a little over a year and a half ago, and queried extensively for about eight months before taking time off to finish another project (the second novel in the series, sort of). Back in November 2010, I joked with my friend Sam about how I’m never eligible for National Novel Writing Month, always being 2/3 of the way done writing a novel when November comes around. He suggested I treat December as a time for a different kind of writing-related discipline: Max’s Novel Submission Month.
Being a fan of such crazy projects, I polished my query letter, attacked my synopsis, made sure my weapons and my skills were sharp, and sallied forth into battle. I sent queries, entered competitions, and generally spent a lot of time on email.
In the midst of this chaos, I stumbled upon a “sum up your novel in one sentence” contest at Operation Awesome. What an interesting idea, I thought, and, because it was Max’s Novel Submission Month, I slammed out a cool one-sentence pitch and sent it off into the ether, expecting nothing.
I didn’t win, but my pitch interested Weronika, the judge, enough that she asked for a query and some pages, then for the full manuscript, and then…
Well, then she sent me a polite, very encouraging email back in January saying that she’d like me to consider revising and resubmitting the manuscript.
If you’ve ever known writers, you know that this is the point where, even if we know better, we tend to throw our hands to the sky, curse Crom, rip hair from our skulls, and so forth. Some of this occurred – I have a reputation to protect, after all. But Weronika’s email was very encouraging, and her notes resonated with a comment one of my beta readers had made about the book. I didn’t get halfway through the cursing Crom bit before I thought, huh, maybe she’s right.
So I dragged out the manuscript again.
The first thing I noticed was, I’ve become a much better writer in the last year and a half. Turns of phrase that seemed witty and sharp two years ago felt dull, awkward, rambling when revisited. That was enough to spur me to continue. And, when I reached a certain point in my edits, I realized that Weronika’s comments were dead on. Not in the “I must throw this book out and start again” sort of way, but in the “everything I need is here, but it’s hidden and I need to bring it to light” sort of way.
So I edited the manuscript. Then I edited it again. And again. Sent it to friends, got more comments, and then – more editing. On the subway. At a coffee shop. On the Amtrak from Penn Station to Boston. I drank absurd quantities of coffee, and equally absurd quantities of tea. Finally, I thought I was done. I held onto the manuscript for another couple days, uncertain. Sending it felt like ripping a scab off a wound.
The “let’s talk” email came the weekend after I sent the manuscript, and The Call on the following Wednesday. I had a bottle of Oban standing by in case of either victory or defeat. The call came on time, and with it, the magic words: “I’d like to offer you representation.” I whooped, grinned, chatted excitedly with Weronika for an hour about publishing, my book, my other books, and literature in general, then got off the phone and commenced with the dancing and celebrating.
I didn’t say yes immediately (though I wanted to). Due diligence followed – contacting other agents who had my manuscript, asking advice from authors I know, further conversations about the nature of the author-agent relationship, chats with some of her current clients (all of whom were wonderfully helpful), and so forth. Ten days later, I stepped out from a sushi lunch to type the email accepting her offer with trembling fingers, and, well, here we are.
There’s a lot to do, of course. More than ever. After three years of agent hunting, I’m excited to move on to the next stage of the process. I’ll let you all know how things go. For the moment, I remain: shoulders back, eyes front, smiling.