In 2009, I was a sophomore in college. I had this contemporary idea but no time to really write it out. I became friends wit Wendy Toliver, who was the one who told me all about the website Agent Query and took the time out of her day to answer my writerly questions. So I began lurking publishing websites, getting my fingers on every bit of knowledge I could find. But, really, a big thanks goes to her for helping me get started in the publishing world.
Here and there I'd add to this contemporary book, and when I thought it was good enough I began querying. Without editing, revising, or having anyone look at it. Yeah, don't do this.
I didn't query that many agents, but none were particularly interested. That was fine with me, though, because I was still focusing on school and still wanted to clean it up a bit more.
So in 2010 I graduated from my university (my junior and senior year were combined, in case you were wondering why I jumped a grade when 2010 rolled around). I moved and started this really terrible sales job that no one at 21 should ever have to do. It was so dull that I became interested in reading YA and writing again, so I tried my hardest to revise my contemporary again, having critique partners look at it and such.
Again, I queried. I thought I made it a lot better, but it still wasn't catching any agent's attention. I was a bit frustrated, but saw it as a challenge. I would NOT take no for an answer, and I wasn't going to give up.
So I wrote another book.
February of 2011, I ditched the contemporary to write a thrillerish-dystopian book. It started off with a question and blossomed into something big. My writing style changed dramatically as I wrote this one, and definitely for the better. As I finished writing it I started believing that this could be the one.
But I was going to go about this query a different way. I took my time, letting two critique partners use a really critical eye on it. I made dramatic changes, even rewriting my entire beginning. I polished my blurb until I thought it had the right type of intriguing hook to it. I spent countless hours scouring the web, reading author's To-Do and What Not To-Do advice when querying. I stalked and restalked publishing and agent websites. I filled my head with so much information because I wanted this round to be better than when I queried my first book.
Querying, Part II.
This time, I picked the agents I really wanted to query. My first round, I'd decided, was going to be small. I believe I only sent out between 10-20 emails, all to agents I'd thoroughly researched. Suzie Townsend happened to be one of them. 4 agents requested a full, including Suzie. I was shocked, especially when Suzie requested since she had a phenominal Publisher's Marketplace page. And yes, I did basically lurked everything I could find regarding Suzie as an agent beforehand, so I knew she was a talented agent. My fingers were crossed for her.
So Suzie wrote me this really nice email saying she's received my full, but it would probably take her up to 60 days to respond as she had other important tasks that came first. Which was totally fine with me. I thought it was actually very polite of her to even give me a sort of time frame.
The Waiting Begins.
A few days later, this showed up in my inbox.
I was floored.
Suzie responded to my reply 4 days after she'd emailed about taking around 60 days to read it. FOUR. DAYS. But anyway, she was just telling me in that email how she was almost finished, that she was liking it, and she wanted me to know.
A couple days after that email I received this:
Then she wanted to send me a bunch of revision notes, which I was totally down for. I knew my MS was in no way perfect and was pleased to see that I agreed with a ton of her notes. Then she also requested to speak with me.
After a series of phone conversations (that I now realize I was TERRIBLE at. I'd done so much research on querying that I had no idea what to ask during a phone call and ended up just asking about my book because I didn't know what else to say. But luckily Suzie filled me in on everything I should have asked because she's smart like that. Also, I'm really terrible on the phone in general, so.) she said she was interested. Since other agents still had my book and I hadn't heard anything from them, I decided to politely tell them that I had an offer.
Because Suzie told me she was going through a few major changes and asked me to wait to announce it until a certain time, which I think was two weeks after I'd signed my contract. This is because she was switching agencies to Nancy Coffey (and later would merge that into New Leaf Literary).
I hate keeping secrets, but I did. I wasn't even a big, fat internet tease, either. And, yeah, that's about it. I know now that I was actually really lucky that I didn't have to wait that long for a response. I'm terrible at waiting. It sucks.
Suzie has also been a phenomenal cheerleader as well as someone who can really pick apart certain elements in the story only to turn it around and make it better. She's extremely passionate about agenting and helping her clients reach their maximum potential, so I feel extremely lucky. Also, I was really, really pumped about how welcoming other authors of Nancy Coffey were, especially my lovely agent-mates. They're such an awesome support team. :)
This was a cold query, and I don't remember my exact stats on it. I did get rejections on top of requests, so don't think I'm too full of myself.
Remember, even if one of your books doesn't get a bite from an agent, it doesn't mean you suck as a writer. It took me writing an entirely different book with a completely different writing style to gain some attention. In the end, I ended up realizing I had so much more potential than I'd previously given myself credit for. It also took writing a whole new book for me to stretch outside my comfort zone and write something that I thought was 100% of my best work.
So, basically, don't be afraid to start from scratch. Like I've said before, this industry requires a backbone and lots of persistence.
So that's my story. And I'm super, super thankful<3