I Wasn't Looking for an Agent
I started writing seriously way back in 2009. I had two ideas. I wrote and wrote and wrote. In 2010, I continued to write and finished multiple manuscripts. I even joined a critique group. In 2011, I went to my first SCBWI writing conference. I had been to two other conferences during college, and a writing workshop several years later. But an SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conference is in a league all its own.
But I was never really looking for an agent. It felt too scary. It was late 2012 before I ever sent a manuscript to an agent, and that's only because I heard him speak at the annual SCBWI conference. I decided I didn't feel like researching who would be the "perfect agent" for me and my work. I'd just submit to agents I've heard speak and had an "in" to submit to them, or to agents I'd actually met. In 2013, I submitted to 6 agents, one of which asked to see more of my work. Exciting! Yes. But ultimately, a no-go.
Even though I wasn't actively looking for a literary agent, I did happen to collect several possibilities along the way. I saved it for you, too! If you write for children, you might want to check out this list of 60 Agents Who Represent Children's Books. If you write for adults, my list won't help you, but my story can still inspire you!
My First Agent
Yes, I'm on my second agent. It happens. It's actually very common in the industry. In 2014, I went to a writing conference/retreat (it was kind of a hybrid) and I met a few agents. I even submitted to one of them earlier that year through the Gold level membership of 12x12 (it's for picture book writers), but never heard back. Yep. Crickets.
At this retreat, one particular agent's workshop resonated with me... a LOT! Because of the insight I received and the connection I felt, I revised my manuscript and several weeks later, I submitted to this agent. Less than a week later, I got a phone call about 9:00 PM. I had so many questions! We chatted about my book and some other manuscripts I had ready to go. A week later, I signed the contract. I had an agent!!! Woo-hoo.
But somehow, subconsciously, I got a little lazy as a writer. I was still active in my critique group and still attended conferences, but something was "off" with my mindset. About a year after I got my agent, we broke up. It just wasn't working for either of us. There were lots of factors. I was depressed for a bit, but my writing community helped me get through it.
After the Breakup
I still didn't feel like doing hard-core research to find "Mister Perfect." Yes, I was on the rebound, so I selectively submitted to two agents. We didn't court. In early 2016, I submitted to a handful of agents. Meanwhile, I participated in a Pitch War on Twitter. I didn't find my agent through a Twitter Pitch session, but I did become more aware of the hashtag #mswishlist. Yes, there's a whole website dedicated to what agents and editors are actually looking for!
I thought about my strongest manuscript, the one that got me my first agent. The story that had been submitted to only a few choice editors at this point. A manuscript I started in December 2011 and finished the first rough draft in January 2012, a manuscript that I continued to revise for 2 to 3 years. My agent-hunting manuscript. I went to MSwishlist.com and looked for a good fit. I saw a few posts of agents looking for a manuscript about the history of a thing. Perfect!!! I connected through Twitter and was invited to submit through the guidelines on the agency website. So I did.
Although I had never heard of this agent before, or met her, let alone heard her speak anywhere, I followed through. She emailed me and set up a date and time for a phone call. I had my questions ready. She patiently and happily answered every single one of them. She asked me about my other projects. I told her about 5 or 6 of my other polished mss. And she loved the idea for all of them! We hit it off right away. She offered representation at the end of the call, but specifically told me not to answer her right away, and to take my time and get back to her in a couple weeks.
So I contacted the other agents I had submissions out to, and in March, I signed with Stacey Graham of Red Sofa Literary. She's a perfect fit: professional, dedicated, conscientious, thoughtful, and my personal cheerleader. Thank you, Stacey! If you want to see what my books are about via some fun similarities, visit my Pinterest board: MY BOOKS.
Do you have a dream agent? Not necessarily a contract with your dream agent, but one you'd love to have? What's one question you asked your current agent or WILL ASK an agent, given the opportunity? Share in the comments!
Keep on keepin' on...
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