Or, how I got an agent, part one.
Maybe I should back up: I have an agent! Recently, I accepted an offer of representation from the amazing Ammi-Joan Paquette at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I am ridiculously excited.
For the non-writers reading this: getting an agent is the first step on one possible path to publishing a novel. (Not the path–there are several ways to pursue publication, which could be a blog post in itself–but definitely the one I decided would work best for me.) Many large publishing houses won’t even consider a novel that isn’t represented by an agent… or if they do consider unagented manuscripts, their slush pile is scarily enormous. A reputable, skillful agent can connect a great manuscript with the editors who are most likely to champion it. In addition, in the event that a publisher does offer to buy the book, a good agent can negotiate the best deal for her client. Some agents also work with their clients to revise their manuscripts before sending them out into the world.
So, in January 2011, when I was reasonably happy with To Disturb the Universe (aka the protospace novel), I knew that I wanted to find an agent. I had a list of agents to query–that is, send a short letter describing the book and possibly some sample pages–so it was just a matter of psyching myself up to actually do it. At around this time, I stumbled across the blog Miss Snark’s First Victim, run by the anonymous (and wonderful!) Authoress, and saw that the blog’s monthly Secret Agent contest was about to begin. The contests work like this: entrants send the first 250 words of their manuscript to Authoress, who posts all the entries on the blog. Entries are open to critique from anyone, and every entry will definitely receive a critique from that month’s Secret Agent. After a few days, the agent reveals his identity and awards prizes to the entries he liked best (usually things like “send me your first 50 pages,” sometimes a critique of a longer portion of the manuscript).
I decided to enter… why not, right? It actually turned out to be pretty stressful. Once my entry went up on the blog, I refreshed the page so often that Google Chrome put it on my “most visited” list. Slowly, the comments from strangers rolled in. They were pretty evenly split between “this is awesome!” and “what in the world is going on?” Alas, the Secret Agent was in the latter category.
So, why am I telling this story? A couple of days after the contest started, Authoress made a post saying that more agents were reading the entries, and asking to be put in touch with some of the entries’ authors. “Well, that definitely won’t be me,” I thought. I had basically decided to chalk the whole thing up as an interesting learning experience and move forward with querying as originally planned.
But then I got an email from Authoress: Ammi-Joan Paquette wanted to see the first three chapters of my manuscript. Cue a lot of flailing on my part. Having looked Joan up and confirmed that, yes, it would be fairly awesome if she represented me, I sent off my chapters and crossed my fingers. Three weeks later, Joan emailed me to ask for the full manuscript. More flailing, full manuscript sent, fingers crossed again.
On March 4, 2011, I wrote the following in my journal: “In two weeks, I could have an agent.” Several months later, I looked back at this and burst out laughing. Oh, my sweet summer child.
To be continued…
ETA: Part 2 is up.
(title quote: “Don’t Let Your Feet Touch Ground,” Ash Koley)