How I (finally) Got My Agent

I never thought I’d be able to write one of these posts.

Four years, three manuscripts, hundreds of rejections…and today I can finally announce to the world that I am now represented by Natalie Grazian of Martin Literary Management.

The road to this moment was long and twisty and not as much fun as I thought it would be when I decided I wanted to write a book. No, like really write a book. Not in an abstract “maybe I’ll do that someday” kind of throwaway thought like I’ve had since middle school. I mean from the moment I got serious about writing and actually put pen to paper (or, rather, fingers to keys) in April 2012.

That’s over six years ago, folks. Six ever-loving years.

I had just had a baby and had some time on my hands (which sounds crazy, but newborns sleep a LOT, guys). My husband and I had just moved back to the U.S. after a whirlwind five years abroad, and it finally felt like the right time. We were living in Las Vegas and, even with a new baby, the travel bug was still itching, so we ventured out into the nearby desert to visit a few ghost towns, which instantly consumed my imagination. Fueled by my inner journalist, I read everything I could get my hands on about Las Vegas history, the Gold Rush, and–subsequently–the Gold Bust.

From this, a nugget of a story was born. Because I had no clue what I was doing, it took me two years to write. And I’m far enough removed to admit the truth: it wasn’t all that good. But, after patting myself on the back for actually finishing what I set out to accomplish, I decided in the summer of 2014 (as we’re in the middle of yet another move, mind you, this time to southern New Mexico) that I was going to get me one of those agent things.

I thought for sure someone would scoop up sweet, lovable me and my amazing, 120k word manuscript (yes, 120k…for a debut…it was that bad). I did a cursory glance at Writer’s Market, sent it off to Superstar Agent A, and sat back to wait for my glory.

If I could go back in time to give that poor, naive girl a hug, I would in a heartbeat.

As you might have surmised, querying did not go as well–or as quickly–as I imagined it would. I got only a handful of full requests (which never panned out) and over a hundred rejections over the course of two years. I took a rest, hired a professional editor, and did some major re-writes before querying again. A year later, I still had nothing but a folder full of rejections.

A bitter cup of reality, for sure.

During this time, however, I’d begun working on another manuscript and joined Twitter (something I said I’d never do), which I’d heard was the place for writers. It was here I made a few writer friends and discovered the wonderful world of contests and pitch parties.

In the fall of 2016, I applied for a program called Author Mentor Match, which pairs un-agented, pre-published writers with a mentor who helps them edit their manuscript, gives advice on queries, and acts a guide through the sometimes overwhelming process of finding an agent.

I didn’t get in.

Later that year, I entered PitchWars. Same premise as Author Mentor Match, but on a much-larger scale.

I didn’t get into that either.

I’m not going to sugar coat the next few months. I was at one of the lowest points I’d ever been in. I was ready to quit. I questioned my drive, my ability, and my talent. I was tired of feeling depressed, rejected, and–most of all–like a failure. I enjoyed writing, but I was starting to think the whole “publishing thing” was a game I didn’t want to play anymore.

In April 2017, I took one last shot and entered Author Mentor Match again.

I got in.

My mentor was the first person to see something in me, the first one outside my family to validate my passion and tell me I had a real chance if I just kept going. She was a literal light in the darkness. Over the next few months, I worked with her to fine-tune my second manuscript, prepare a query letter, and finalize a list of agents. And, due in huge part to her encouragement, I began work on a third manuscript to keep my mind occupied during the painfully slow querying process.

I got more requests for my second manuscript and some great positive feedback. But it still did not land me an agent.

The high from being accepted into Author Mentor Match quickly began to fade, and I stopped working on my third manuscript for several months. What was the point, I thought, if nothing was ever going to come from all of the blood, sweat, and tears I poured into writing? This was my life, my time away from my kids (I’d had another one by this point) and my husband. Was it really worth it? For a few months, I honestly didn’t know anymore.

It wasn’t until my mentor began to nag me–in the nicest possible way–about seeing my new piece that I finally worked up the courage to start writing again. I didn’t want her to feel like she’d wasted her time mentoring a quitter. So I told myself I’d finish this piece. This one last piece. For her. Looking back now, I am even more overcome with gratitude for her support than I was after we finished edits for my second manuscript. She believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself, and I cannot emphasize enough the role she played in this journey.

I finished the first draft of IF IT RAINS in October 2017 and, after several rounds of revisions, sent it to my mentor for a first read. “This is the book,” she assured me. “This is the book.” And I wanted to believe her, I really did. This book felt different. The story had flowed from me in a way the other two hadn’t. I enjoyed writing it much more than I had the others. It was special to me, and I knew it was the best thing I had ever written, at least so far. The best I could do.

But what if it still wasn’t good enough?

Six years after I started writing my first book, I sent out the first batch of queries. Instantly the full requests started rolling in. Yes, I still got dozens of rejections, but nothing like the other two.

And, on July 3, just as I was preparing for our annual Forth of July celebration, I got a full request from Natalie Grazian at Martin Literary. A week later, she emailed to arrange a phone call. The passion I heard from her voice during that call nearly brought me to tears–it was the first time I’d heard enthusiasm for something I’d written that matched my own. She gave me two weeks to decide and close out other submissions, during which I received incredibly kind and supportive feedback from other agents, including another offer of representation. But, in the end, there was just something about the way Natalie spoke about IF IT RAINS that convinced me she was the best champion for my work.

Yesterday, July 23, 2018, I signed an agency agreement with her. I officially have a literary agent.

I still have a long way to go before I actually get to hold something I’ve written in my hands or see it in a store. But to finally have a champion, a partner, and someone who believes in my work is a huge part of a goal I set for myself all those years ago.

There were many, many times along this journey that I wanted to give up. A few times I did, actually. But despite all of the pain and heartache, I couldn’t walk away from it. Because writing was not just something I did; at the core, it is a part of who I am.

So, to all my friends in the querying trenches, if this is you, please don’t give up. I know it hurts. I know it’s hard. And it’s so much easier for me to say “hang in there” than it is for you to actually do it. But I am living proof of the results of persistence and fighting through the agony of doubt and rejection. One of these days, you’ll be writing your own “how I got my agent” post on your blog.

And I can’t wait to read it.

 

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