Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Hop, Skip, and an Agent

Sometime in 2013, I had a conversation with the freelance editor I’d met serendipitously a couple years prior. Teresa and I had worked together over months and months, rewriting and editing my novel. Teresa, of, had been instrumental to my development as a serious writer. And now she was telling me something I wasn’t ready to hear.

“You really should try to get traditionally published.”

I’m no stranger to marketing, having built more than one business up to a respectable level. So, when I finished my book, I’d just kind of assumed I would self-publish my books. I’d keep more control, and I wouldn’t have to figure out the web-like intricacies of traditional publishing. Easy, peasy. Besides, the odds of even getting an agent? Low. I’d read about the hundreds of letters each agent gets each week, and the ridiculously low rate of response, let alone acceptance. Self-publishing seemed like the ticket.

But Teresa was persistent. She plied me compliments she insisted were warranted and a sweet melodic voice that had taught me many, many things which turned out to be true. Could this be true, too? Could traditional publishing actually be something I could do?

Then she went for the kill. “You’ll never know unless you try.”

Truer words. And I’m not someone to balk from a challenge. Over the next few weeks and months I began to read more, learn the market, learn the skills. Try to tackle query writing. Decide who would even be a good fit for me, as an author. It was exhausting and overwhelming. And I hadn’t even really started to ‘try’ yet.

After my research, I decided I would give myself a year. 2014. One year to try to get an agent. I went to several conferences, San Diego, New York, Madison and some local conferences, too. I learned something more each time. I pitched agents and editors. It was terrifying at first, pressing send on those queries, those face to face pitches. I bumbled and stumbled, even though I’d practiced. It was hard.

At the end of 2014 I didn’t have an agent. But surprisingly for a Type A, one thing I did have for my experimentation of the 2014 calendar year was hope. I won a place with a fabulous mentor, Kara Leigh Miller, through the #Pitchwars contest. I had queries out, even an editor at a big house who had requested my full manuscript at a conference. 2014 hadn’t been at all a wash. Even more interesting, all I learned helped me conclude self-publishing is just as difficult as traditional, in a different way. Now I was invested in the idea of traditional publishing. Even though my year was up, I wasn’t prepared to stop.

I attended the San Diego State University Writer’s Conference in January of 2015 and it was there I pitched to Sarah Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Sarah requested my full manuscript, and after some additional revisions I sent it to her.

In mid-March, I received an email that I had dared not hope hard to receive. Sarah wanted to talk.

Talk? Like, talk, talk? Turns out, well…yes. Sarah, this real-live literary agent in New York wanted to represent me. Not just any agent, either. One with a great track record and some very happy clients. I talked to them, so I can say that for sure. This is still a long way off from traditional publication, but there is no denying this is a huge step forward. Nay, a leap.

Now I’m hard at work (still) on more revisions for Sarah and I couldn’t be happier that she chose me. I’ve gotten support and the feedback I needed to take my book to the next level, and hopefully get it published. Traditionally.