Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Full Scoop – My Agent Revealed!

The contract has been signed and everything is official, so I can announce it at last!

It was a long and hard road to get to this point, but where I’m at right now is proof that you should NEVER GIVE UP.

I started planning my YA novel, ROYAL ROSE, in the summer of 2006 (my third novel, nothing happened with the other two). I wrote the first chapter, then registered for the SCBWI NY conference the following February. This was the first year they were doing critiques, so I brought the first few pages of ROSE with me. It was still a first draft, with less than half of it finished, so I didn’t know all the details of how the story was going to get from the beginning to the end – I had a road map with major points to hit along the way, but I always let my characters decide how to get there.

Anyway, my first critique session was with an up and coming agent, and she really liked ROSE. She gave me some pointers, asked a bunch of questions, then asked if it was done yet. When I told her no, she said she’d love to read it when it was. I was thrilled! When I got home, I buckled down to write this story...but it didn’t go so well.

ROSE was so far out of my comfort zone that I had no idea what I was doing. I’m a plot person, but ROSE is definitely a character-driven story. I had to learn how to write from that angle. Plus, I was so emotionally invested in this story that I was mentally exhausted after each writing session. It sometimes took days to recover. As a result, it was a year before I had a completed draft. When I sent my query to the agent who’d critiqued it, she said she remembered me (!) and still liked the story. BUT she was swamped with YA, and didn’t have the time to take on anything new at that moment. So she referred me to a few other agents and wished me well.

*sigh*

I queried those agents, making sure to mention her referral, and got a partial request from one of them. I sent it, and she replied back with a revision request, saying the story was weak in certain areas of the craft of writing. I had no idea how to fix that, so I sat down to learn. It took months to figure it out, then I revised the manuscript and re-queried her. She asked for the whole thing this time, and my fingers were doubly crossed... Alas, she did not come back with an offer, but she did have another revision request. I did more research. More writing. LOTS of work. Then I ended up rewriting the whole thing in a different Voice.

I sent it back to her, over a year after I’d sent her that initial query, confident I’d done what she’d asked. And she said I had, BUT... She was more familiar with MG than YA. She didn’t feel confident that she could make my manuscript stand out with what she knew of the YA Contemporary market at that time, with that particular project. So she passed. On the one hand, I was devastated (I'd worked so hard!). But on the other, I admired that she knew her limits and didn’t take me on out of some weird obligation. I will say that I really enjoyed working with her, and anyone would be lucky to have her as an advocate.

Moving on...

Even though it felt like it at the time, I was not back at square one. I had a much stronger manuscript, and a much better understanding of craft. Plus, I’d proven to myself that I could work my tail off on my stories instead of give up on them. And I could definitely bring that to the negotiating table of other agents.

I started researching agents – for this I highly recommend both AgentQuery.com and QueryTracker.net – then sent off my query letters. I got a solid request rate, 40% to 50%, but no offers. The rejections rolled in, and as they piled up it was hard to keep going. Especially considering the number of complimentary rejections.
"There was much I admired here, but..."
"The premise is compelling and marketable, but..."
"I didn't want to let this go, but..."

It was really hard to hear so many people compliment me and my writing, but still pass up representation. I wondered if there was something really wrong with my story, and no one had either the time or the guts to tell me. Regardless, I wasn't going to give up. I loved ROSE too much to set it aside. So I took what feedback I got, researched more agents, sent off more queries, and still had that same request rate. I told myself that I would find someone who loved ROSE as much as I did.

And I did. Two, actually. :)

On August 18th, I got a phone call from fabulous Agent#1, saying she loved ROSE and wanted to talk about representation if I was willing to make some revisions. I was on my way out the door to take my kids to an amusement park when she called, so, in between hyperventilating, I had to ask her if I we could talk the next day. She said that was fine, and I floated out the front door.

A few hours later, I got an email from fabulous Agent#2, asking to schedule a phone call to talk about ROSE. I get email on my cell phone, so I read this while I was out with my kids, and my brain pretty much exploded. Poof. Gone. Little bits sticking to the inside of my skull. Apparently, I can handle only so much good news in one day. :) Fortunately, I was with another mom and her son, and she had driven us there. So I didn’t have to drive in my incapacitated state.

Over the next few days, I spoke with both agents on the phone, both offered me representation, and it was obvious that I’d be lucky to work with either one. I ended up going with fabulous Agent#2, also known as...

Andrea Cascardi at Transatlantic Literary Agency!!

Not only because of her years of experience in this industry (or how much I was drooling as she talked about edits) but also because we really hit it off on the phone. I can’t say enough how excited I am to be working with her, and already have my sleeves rolled up, anticipating the hard work to come. Which I wouldn’t miss for the world!

39 comments:

C.R. Evers said...

Wow! What a great success story! Congratulations!

Kelly said...

Wow! Your hard work paid off! I'm so excited for you, Tabitha!!!

Merc said...

What a great story, Tabitha, thanks for sharing! :D Very exciting. Congrats again! *throws flaming confetti*

Tabitha said...

Thanks!!!!

Writing this was almost like therapy. And boy does this feel good after putting in so much work! :)

FrecklesandDeb said...

Congratulations! I'm just finishing up a full revision and then will be beginning my own agent search. Thanks for the inspiration!

Angela said...

Huge congrats! I know Rose is a great story and that you'll find a home for it--especially now that you have a fabulous advocate in your corner!

karenbschwartz said...

HOORAY! Thanks for much for sharing the nitty gritty of your journey too, gives hope to those of us still in the middle of it all.

beth said...

Yay for you! And thank you for sharing your story. I love hearing how these stories started off.

And, judging from how much effort went into writing it, I'm really looking forward to reading it when it's published! (note: when, not if)

quixotic said...

Thanks for sharing that awesome success story!

Ron Smith said...

Tabitha, that is so awesome. I am so happy for you.

It shows what great determination you have and that one should never give up. You must be over the moon. Two agents vying for you!? On the same day?!

Wow.

You must be so psyched. Now you can finally update that profile to:
I am pleased to be represented by...

Much congrats, Tabs.

I hope the book finds a home soon.
:)

Jacqui said...

Congratulations! She's lucky to have you.

out of the wordwork said...

Fabulous story! Fabulous agent! And I'm sure you'll get a fabulous sale!!!
Congrats!
Nelsa

WindyA said...

Goes to show that perseverence pays off! Congrats!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Words of advice I heard awhile back said sucessful writers need tenacity. I'd say you have proven you've got that in abundance. Congratulations on your grit and talent and fabulous agent!

PJ Hoover said...

This is so fantastic! She's a fabulous agent!

H. Pinski said...

I am beyond overjoyed for you, Tabitha. You so, so, so deserve this!!

hilary

Carrie Harris said...

Yay yay yay! I'm so thrilled for you! Now when people say that hard work pays off, I'm pointing them to your post as evidence!

Christine M said...

Congratulations! And thanks so much for sharing your story. It's good to know that persistence pays off!

Rebecca Knight said...

I love reading about author's success stories--thank you so much for sharing yours! Best of luck with your submission process!

Casey McCormick said...

YAY! Congratulations, Tabitha! What an inspiring story. Perseverance and hard work really do pay off in this business.

I'll be looking forward to news of your sale!

Confetti and drinks all around! : )

Yunaleska said...

That's a beautiful story Tabitha! Perseverance (sp I'm tired) is the key. Yay! What a way to end your journey. The new one is just beginning.

I'll want a review copy of Rose :D

Hilary Wagner ~ Writer said...

Tabitha! Congrats! It took me 13 long rejected filled months to find an agent! So glad it happened for you!!

xoxo -- Hilary

Tabitha said...

Thanks so much everyone!!

Hard work really does pay off. If you want it badly enough, then NEVER GIVE UP!! :)

Crystal said...

Your story is so inspiring, Tabitha! Yes, it seems perseverance does pay off! Congratulations!

Lady Glamis said...

So super fantastic!!!! This is so excited how many people are getting agents! And you've landed a great one! CONGRATS!

tinatfakhrid said...

What a BEAUTIFUL and inspiring story, Tabitha! Thank you. You give me hope for the flowers...

Stacy Nyikos said...

That. Is. So. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

Deb said...

Congratulations!! And thanks so much for sharing your story!

Tabitha said...

Thanks so much, everyone!!

It's really very liberating to be able to share this story with you, and with a happy ending to boot. :) It gives me the strength I'm going to need on the next leg of the journey. :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

Congratulations! What a great story!

Kristin said...

Wowzers, Tabitha! Thanks so much for your honesty. Your relentless work paid off. Congrats. You must be on cloud 9. :)

Mary said...

Congratulations! I loved reading your story Tabitha. Very inspiring.
Did Andrea or any of the other agents you submitted to seem to care about simultaneous submissions?

Shelli said...

yay! congrads!

Christina Farley said...

Doing the dance, doing the dance! Yeah! So happy for you!

Robyn Campbell said...

WOOHOO! I'm so happy for you. You deserve it. Pop the cork and THEN roll up the sleeves and get to work. I hope to be joining you SOME DAY! :) Congrats!

Marina said...

That's so exciting! Congratulations. I'm thrilled for you, Tabitha!

C.K. said...

Congrats, Tabitha! I'm very happy for you :)

Penmad said...

That is so great. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm at the point where the rejections are nice but I wonder, like you did, if something is wrong or if I just haven't found the right person!

Mary Witzl said...

So glad to hear this, Tabitha. Fingers crossed for you; I know I will enjoy buying and reading your book!