I got an agent! (Part Two)

Yesterday, I told you why I decided to seek an agent after so many years. Today, I’ll share a little bit about what it was like for me in the query trenches.

I’d hoped to start querying in September, 2018 but revisions of the book took me longer than expected. My next goal was “by Thanksgiving.” As it turned out, I wasn’t ready until early December. I considered waiting until after the new year but since so many agents on my list were open to queries and I was ready, I chose not to wait.

Over the course of the first week, I sent out about 25 queries. I worried this time around would be no different than when I’d queried my first book—no requests. But I got two requests for the full manuscript almost immediately. But then I got my first rejection on a full two days later. I received several partial requests within the first two weeks, followed by a rejection of one of them soon thereafter. It took three weeks for any of my queries to be rejected flat out but once the first came, many more followed. But then there were more full and partial requests to remove the sting. This time was VERY different than a decade ago and it was dizzying!

There was one person who knew everything as it happened, whether it was a form rejection, a pass on requested material, a partial/full request etc. I often apologized for sharing every little thing, but to me, they were all big things. But for the most part, I kept the process to myself. As excited as I’d get about a full request, I knew it didn’t guarantee an offer of rep. I didn’t want to get mine or anyone else’s hopes up.

Each rejection caused a wave of sadness, hopefulness, and fear. Whether it was because it “wasn’t right for their list,” “not what they were looking for at this time,” or they “didn’t connect to the [insert: characters, voice, story] as much as they’d hoped,” it stung. But I became very adept at talking myself off the ledge. (My friend helped too.) I understood that in order to offer representation, not only would the agent need to love my book, but she’d need to feel confident she could sell it, and she’d have to feel passionate enough about it to do the work without any guarantee of ever getting paid. Those are major hurdles to clear! Each agent who wasn’t intrigued by the premise or didn’t “get” the book allowed me the opportunity to find the one who did. I wanted the one who did! And you can only sign with one. Sometimes it takes a lot of time (and queries) to find the right match. The only thing that guarantees failure is giving up too soon!

I had some bad days. In one twelve-hour period, I received four form rejections. It made me question whether it was ever going to happen for me. But in the same week, I had my first phone call with an agent as well as a request for a call with a different agent who ultimately became my agent—Melissa Edwards from Stonesong Literary.

I found Melissa on Twitter when she’d tweeted that her #MSWL (Manuscript Wishlist) included high-concept approachable romantic comedies. I had one of those! Further research disclosed she’d sold a lot of books to Big Five and other major publishers. Ideally, this is where I wanted to land. I also liked her personality. Since I’d be working closely with her, a nice disposition was important.

I queried Melissa on December 6th. According to her website, she only responds to queries when she is interested in reading more material. I hadn’t heard from her by the time I left for my annual writer’s retreat to California on January 15th, but when I landed at San Francisco International Airport, there was an email from her requesting the full! My writing tribe cheered the request. I was thrilled. But during that vacation, I also received a form rejection from one agent and a rejection on a partial from another. Dizzying!

When I got home from my trip, I queried a few more agents. Then I decided to pause the process while awaiting feedback on the fulls/partials I already had out. I didn’t want to exhaust my full list of agents in case the consensus was that the manuscript needed extensive revisions.

Then, on Thursday, January 31st, Melissa sent me an email. She asked a few general questions but didn’t comment on my book. I assumed she wouldn’t have engaged me in conversation if she hated the manuscript or was even lukewarm about it. But what did it mean? I answered her questions and spent the next twenty-four hours analyzing what she must be thinking and waiting for her next move. She wrote again on Friday to tell me she’d love to have a call to discuss my book and was I available the following week? Um, YES, I WAS AVAILABLE! We scheduled a call for the following Tuesday at 10 a.m. (February 5th)

I knew that a request for a call didn’t necessarily mean she was going to offer representation. It was possible this was an R&R call—a revise and resubmit. I braced myself for either one, but I hoped so hard it was “The call!” In the meantime, I spent all weekend reading posts online and watching videos on Youtube about questions to ask so I’d be prepared.

Finally, Tuesday arrived. My hands were shaking, and I thought I might throw up, but by the time we ended the call, I had an offer of representation! Melissa loved the book and she shared my vision for it. With each question she answered, I became more and more excited about the prospect of signing with her. But I didn’t accept her offer that day. She knew there were other agents reading the book and she gave me two weeks to let them know I’d received an offer and give them a chance to either offer as well or step aside.
At this point, I had four other amazing agents reading the full. I also had three reading the partial and several other outstanding queries. After I did my happy dance and emailed my best friend to tell her the news, I notified the other agents of my offer and gave them until February 15th to get back to me. Everyone was so gracious. Those with the full promised they’d finish reading and get back to me quickly, many requested the full, and several politely stepped aside.

It was a great position to be in because I already had an offer from an agent I was excited about. But it didn’t mean the next set of rapid rejections didn’t sting or make me second guess myself or the marketability of the book. One of the agents with the full told me she’d been waffling over the manuscript because she really liked it, but she didn’t have the same level of enthusiasm as the offering agent. A few more complimented the story and my writing but said they didn’t feel the sufficient level of passion required to take me on. Some said they just didn’t connect. These passes hurt, but then I remembered that I already had what I wanted all along: a reputable agent who loved my book, felt confident she could sell it, and was passionate enough about the project to take it on without any guarantee of compensation.

I accepted Melissa’s offer on Friday, February 15th. Then I withdrew my manuscript from consideration from the few who hadn’t responded yet. Shortly after, one of those agents told me she loved the book and had been about to offer representation as well! I’m not gonna lie, having another agent want to rep me was validating and felt amazing. But I had no regrets about already accepting Melissa’s offer. I’d found my one and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I received an offer two months and two days from the date I sent out my first query letter. I’m aware that my journey wasn’t long relative to many others seeking agent representation. I consider myself fortunate. I tried to mentally prepare for a much longer process. I read blog posts and watched Youtube videos by authors who sent out 100s of queries over several years before getting an agent. These authors inspired me with their success stories and persistence and implored me to keep going after each rejection. Although the wait wasn’t long in duration, it felt interminable at times. I was an emotional wreck. My mood/state of mind vacillated daily depending on whether I’d get a request for a partial/full or a form rejection. I suffered from writer’s block even though I knew the best thing to do was to work on my next book.

I know that having an agent doesn’t guarantee my book will sell. I’m sure I will worry, sweat, and lose sleep over the submission process when the time comes. (I’ll be revising with Melissa before we go on sub.) But for now, my dream of signing with a literary agent has come true and I’m going to celebrate it!

My stats:
Total queries sent: 52
Form rejections: 19
Total rejections: 34
No response: 15
Referrals to colleague: 1
Partial requests: 6
Full requests before offer: 6
Full requests after offer (total): 10
Offers: 2

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I got an agent! (Part One)

I made a big announcement on social media yesterday: I signed with a literary agent!

Since I’ve already had seven books published, some of you might wonder if I’ve already published seven books without an agent, why get one now? Or maybe you assumed I already had an agent.

I tried to get an agent with my first novel about a decade ago. Even though I workshopped my query letter and had my book critiqued by a professional and several beta readers, I didn’t get a single request for a partial or a full after almost a year. Not deterred, I researched smaller publishers who took unagented submissions. I submitted to a few of them and got a contract. One contract led to many more over the course of eight years.

My desire for a literary agent and a major publishing deal waned as I released more books with small publishers and built my fanbase. I was having so much fun writing and connecting with the readers that I didn’t want to pause the journey to query agents. I also enjoyed the extra money! Traditional publishing moves very slow and I had too many books to write and too little patience to wait years!

A combination of factors contributed to me changing my mind: Spending more time with traditional authors and following their successes, watching my very good friends enter the query trenches and emerge with an agent they loved who believed in their talent, and my own career and fanbase not taking off/building as quickly as I wanted it to despite working so hard. I yearned for more marketing support, but mostly I wanted a partner/advocate (agent!) to help me navigate my career. I decided that after I fulfilled my contract with my current publisher, I was going to query my next novel. Unlike in the past, I wasn’t happy with the status quo. Timing is everything and I finally had the patience to wait.

I began researching agents even before I finished the first draft of the book. I used Query Tracker, Manuscript Wishlist, Publishers Marketplace, and Absolute Write to curate a list of agents who were open to queries and seeking submissions in romantic comedy, contemporary romance, or fun women’s fiction. I looked at each agent’s sales history. If they were a new agent, I looked at their agency in general. I created a list on Twitter of just agents to keep track of the types of books they were seeking and to get a general sense of their personality. I checked comments on Query Tracker for response rates. I stalked their reputations on Absolute Write. Although the pitch and bio parts of my query letter never changed, I tailored my first sentence to each agent, and I prepared the introductions ahead of time. If they’d tweeted about seeking more romantic comedies, I wrote that. If my book was similar in theme to one of their client’s, I mentioned it. I was very strategic in who I queried, and I wanted each agent to know there was a reason I chose them. Even though my manuscript wasn’t completed yet, I participated in Speed Pitch at RWA 2018 in Denver and met more than 10 agents and editors who invited me to send them material upon completion of the book. I knew this wouldn’t guarantee me an offer of representation but being able to put “RWA Speed Pitch” in the subject line of the query would at least get me noticed in the slush pile.

When the book was finished, I did what I always do—gave it to my beta readers. They knew I wanted brutal honesty and they gave it to me. My critique partner read it about four times—before and after the betas—and each time she pulled more and more out of me. I was exhausted. I hated her sometimes. But mostly, I was so grateful she helped me take the manuscript to a new level. Agents constantly implore writers not to query until there is nothing more we can do without their help. My support system helped me get there.

Now the book was ready, but I still had to nail the query letter and synopsis. And I thought I did. Many times. Only to be told by several people that they still weren’t good enough. The letter wasn’t “hooky” enough. The synopsis didn’t pull them in. I whimpered, I pulled on my hair until my scalp hurt, I screamed. I took my frustrations out on the friend who was helping me the most: “The book is about what the book is about! If it’s not a big enough hook, I might as well give up now!” This friend took it in stride, as true friends do. She assured me that the book had an amazing premise and hook and that I just needed a better pitch. Then she implored me to ask our other friend, one who works magic with marketing copy, to help. And she did! She read the entire manuscript and helped me tweak both my query letter and my synopsis so that everything she adored about the book shined through.

With a polished manuscript, a solid query letter, both a one-to-two-page and three-to-five-page synopsis, and a list of vetted agents in hand, I was finally ready to start querying! I was pumped!

I was also scared out of my freaking mind!

Spoiler alert: I got an agent! But come back tomorrow for part two and I’ll share how it happened.

Release days, free days, sale days: Oh My!

Today is a big day. Huge. COLOSSAL.

It’s the release day of my fifth novel, Novelista Girl. The standalone sequel to my fan favorite third novel, Blogger Girl.

Readers first met sassy Kimberly Long in Blogger Girl, and now the feisty New Yorker is back in a sequel packed with quick wit, friendship, heartache, and of course, romance.

Kim runs the most popular chick lit book blog on the web, loves playing house with her sexy lawyer boyfriend, Nicholas, and is finally pursuing her lifelong dream to become a published author. At first glance, her life is five-pink-champagne-flutes worthy.

But is there more to the story than meets the eye?

After hearing the phrase “chick lit is dead” more times than she’s read Bridget Jones’s Diary, Kim is driven to desperate measures, seeking advice from up-and-coming chick lit author, Hannah Marshak, her high school nemesis and resident “mean girl.” As if Kim doesn’t have enough on her plate balancing her secretarial duties with her blog Pastel Is The New Black, shrugging off the growing pile of agent rejections, and keeping her best friend from turning green over Kim’s budding friendship with Hannah, Nicholas is so blinded by his career ambitions, he doesn’t see that their home sweet home could use more than a dash of sugar.

This is the year when all of Kim’s dreams—professional and romantic—are supposed to come true, but will the story have a happily ever after, or will Kim end up unpublished and all alone.

This novel can be read as a sequel or as a standalone and is best accompanied by a cocktail, preferably a pink one.

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

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But wait, there’s more:

My fourth novel How Do You Know? is FREE on Amazon. Yes free! It is currently number #23 in the entire FREE Kindle store and #1 in Women’s Humorous Fiction AND Coming of Age!!

Life doesn’t happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age is just a number.

On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn’t look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding toward her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary “break” from her live-in boyfriend results in a “break-up,” Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0.

As Maggie reenters the New York City dating jungle, suitors present themselves quickly, but who is “The One?” Is he a sexy coworker, one of many bachelors at a speed-dating event, or is he the man she already set free? How do you know? Her fun-loving friends and supportive family, including meddlesome “no-filter” Aunt Helen, eagerly share their (often unsolicited) opinions, but Maggie is determined to find her own way, even if she falls on her face—repeatedly.

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And finally, my bestselling debut novel, Just Friends With Benefits, is only 99 cents!

When a friend urges Stephanie Cohen not to put all her eggs in one bastard, the advice falls on deaf ears. Stephanie’s college crush on Craig Hille has been awakened thirteen years later as if soaked in a can of Red Bull and she is determined not to let the guy who got away once, get away twice. Stephanie, a 32-year-old paralegal from Washington, D.C., is a 70’s and 80’s television trivia buff who can recite the starting lineup of the New York Yankees and go beer for beer with the guys. And despite her failure to get married and pro-create prior to entering her thirties, she has so far managed to keep her overbearing mother from sticking her head in the oven. Just Friends with Benefits is the humorous story of Stephanie’s pursuit of love, her adventures in friendship, and her journey to discover what really matters

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Three novels for only $3.98! It’s big, huge, COLOSSAL, but it will only last, well, a week! So grab your copies now!