Monday, March 4, 2013

How I Found My Agent


Happy Monday, everyone! We hope you all had fun meeting the team during our blog party. The winners of our giveaways have been chosen and will be revealed on the blog tomorrow!

And now, here’s my “How I Found My Agent” story (I hope you like it!):  

“How I Found My Agent” stories hold a special place in my heart. They sustained me through some of the more difficult moments, when the rejections felt like they were piling up, when I wondered if I was really meant to do this whole writing thing or if I should have just gone to law school like my dad wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE writing. If I go a day without writing, I get extremely cranky and my husband knows to steer clear. But we all have those moments full of self-doubt, when we just need to be reminded that it WILL happen for us, we just don’t know when.

I started writing seriously (with the intention of getting published) three years ago, during Spring Quarter of my senior year in college. My first two manuscripts were a paranormal romance followed by an urban fantasy. I queried, got a couple full requests, but ultimately didn’t get very far with them. After the second MS went through the query ringer, I realized what my problem was: I still hadn’t found my voice. My reading habits in high school consisted mostly of three authors: Sherrilyn Kenyon, Karen Marie Moning, and Nora Roberts [I didn’t actually discover YA (aside from Harry Potter) until my first year in college. Sounds weird, I know, but the only “bookstore” in my town at the time was Kmart, and they pretty much only sold paperback romances]. Needless to say, I loved all things paranormal/supernatural/fantastical, but instead of finding my own way to express those ideas, I was emulating these other amazing writers. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. All writing is practice, and practice makes perfect, but still, I knew if I was ever going to get published, I needed to take some time off, read WIDELY, and discover my voice.

Next I wrote a YA historical mystery set in the 1950s. It was better. It was closer to my voice. But it still wasn’t me. I realized this early on and the MS didn’t make it past the second draft. During this time, I discovered steampunk, and it was like a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me. I’ve always felt like I was born in the wrong era (though I am thankful for modern medicine, not going to lie), and I felt like steampunk as a genre was right up my alley.

So I decided to try my hand at a YA steampunk romance.

I wrote the first, very sloppy draft during NaNoWriMo 2011. After going through one major rewrite and several revisions, I started querying at the end of May. After my first couple rounds of querying, I ended up with 5 full requests and 12 rejections. Not too shabby. But then the full rejections started coming in. I felt a little deflated (as all writers do when this happens), but I kept querying.

Then the most amazing thing happened at the end of the summer: a REVISE-AND-RESUBMIT REQUEST!!! I was over-the-moon excited about this, I can’t even tell you. I’d never gotten an R&R before, and I felt like I was finally moving up the ladder toward landing an agent (even if it was just one, tiny rung). So I buckled down, dove into the revision cave, and didn’t resurface for a couple months.

It just so happened that I finished revisions at the same time as the call for submissions went out for MSFV's Baker’s Dozen contest. I figured it didn’t hurt to try, so I sent in my submission. And guys? I GOT IN. I was riding high again.

Then Brenda Drake announced her new contest, Pitch Wars, and it seemed like another great opportunity to get my manuscript out there, but also to meet some amazing writers and really join the online writing community (as opposed to just standing idly in the corner. Pitch Wars was my Patrick “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” Swayze, with less hip movement). I was floored when Sarah Nicolas chose me to be on her team. With Sarah’s advice, I revised again, sent in my pitch and first 250, and reminded myself not to get too excited. I felt like I’d already “won” by getting to meet so many talented writers, even if I didn’t get any requests.

In total, I received 5 requests from Baker’s Dozen and 8 from Pitch Wars. I sent my full requests from Pitch Wars on a Thursday, then told myself to stop thinking about it and focus on a new WIP (the best way to deal with anxiety). On Saturday, I got the Best. Email. Ever.

Peter Knapp loved my MS and wanted to talk.

!!!!! *hyperventilating* !!!!!

I was a bundle of nerves (literally shaking) in the hours leading up to The Call, but it turned out I had no reason to be nervous. Pete put me entirely at ease from the moment I answered the phone. We talked about what he really loved about my MS, what needed work, and he was SPOT ON. I felt like he really understood my voice and my manuscript, and as soon as I hung up the phone, I broke into a dance that had my dog running for the next room.

I contacted all of the other agents with requested material and gave them a deadline of one week to get back to me. I ended up with three offers (and a lot of congratulations, agents are seriously the nicest people I’ve ever met), but by then, the answer was kind of a no-brainer for me. Pete and I just clicked.

So, that’s the story of how I found my agent, Peter Knapp of The Park Literary Group.

If I had one piece of advice to give all writers out there, whether you’re just sitting down to write “Chapter One”, or thinking about writing “Chapter One”, or starting the querying process for the first time, or starting the querying process for what feels like the billionth time, it would be this: Don’t give up. I know it’s probably a cliché by now, but it’s true. Don’t stop writing if it’s what you really love. Don’t go to law school because that’s what your parents want if you don’t want it, too. My dream is to be published someday, but I also feel like just being able to write every day is a dream come true on its own. If you feel that way too, then you are a real writer, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

41 comments:

  1. I LOVE your agent story! Many, many congratulations to you and Pete!

    And BTW, I LOVE Pete - his blog and his tweets, I'm sure, don't do justice for conversing with him. You can tell he's passionate about great writing. So excited for you! =)

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    1. Pete's blog is simply fabulous. I love reading his insights.

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    2. Thank you!! He is extremely passionate about great writing, and really the nicest guy ever. He understood things about my MS that very few people picked up on, and that's why I felt like he really "got" me.

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  2. Awesome story, Chelsea! So happy for you. And don't worry, my dog gives me funny looks when I do happy dances, too (though you'd think they'd be used to it by now). :D

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    1. I don't get funny looks from my dog, but my family, now that's a different story!

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    2. Thanks Naomi! Sometimes she runs away, and sometimes she starts barking and jumping up and down too.

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  3. I am so thrilled and excited for you! What a fabulous story! I love Pete's blog, too.

    How lucky for you:)

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  4. Lori A. Goldstein (@_lagold)March 4, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Thank you for sharing your story. It's the definition of perseverance and hard work. Congrats!

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  5. Many congratulations. I hope it proves to be a long and successful partnership.

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    1. Hey Donna! How are you doing?

      This was such a great article, wasn't it!!

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    2. Thank you, Donna! I really appreciate that :)

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  6. I love this story! I'm so excited for you, Chelsea! And I love that you wrote not to go to law school just because your parents want you too!

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    1. I'm sure her parents are proud of her, and knowing how important writing is to her, I hope they cheer her from the sidelines!

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    2. They definitely cheer me on now, but it was a bit of a shock for them at first, I think, that I was making writing my actual job and not just a hobby. Stephanie understands the law school pressure, too!

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  7. So glad I finally got to hear your story! :)

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Melanie! And if was a great, GREAT story story, wasn't it!

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  8. Awesome story :) I love when you say to follow your dreams, regardless of what your parents say.

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    1. The theme of this blog is Follow Your Dreams, and Dream Big. So this was such an inspiring post. Makes me proud to be part of everything!

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    2. Thank you! It is very important to follow your dreams, regardless of what anyone says. My parents were always supportive, they just wondered at first why I didn't make writing a hobby, and I eventually just had to look them in the eyes and say, "This is what I'm meant to do. I know it is." They've been 100% supportive (no talk of law school, getting my masters, etc) since then.

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  9. Thank you for sharing such a great story! It does help to know that yes, it really *does happen*-- persistance is the key! And I agree--agents seem to be the nicest people. Almost all of them want the best for writers first, and it shows. Congratulations on landing your agent. And good luck with your books!

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  10. What a great story, thanks for sharing!

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  11. What a great story. CONGRATS!!! So proud of my blog buddy! It gives me hope to keep going. I'm so glad you found an agent you really click with.

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  12. Wooo congrats again! It IS so glad to know it really DOES happen. I'm glad you found such an awesome agent :)

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  13. Congrats and thanks for sharing your story, Chelsea. :)

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  14. Congrats to you! Your hard work paid off :)

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    1. Thanks, Renee! I can't wait for RELIC to come out!

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  15. What an inspiring read! Way to go :)

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  17. This was very inspiring to read! And congratulations on getting your agent! Hopefully, that time will come to me very soon!
    Oh, and that was AWESOME advice about not giving up xD

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  18. What an inspiring post! It's so encouraging, really. I've queried, revised, queried, revised and I'm not willing to give up on it!

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