I know some folks love and others hate these posts, but I’ve waited a long time for this, so I’m doing it.
The short version: After two mentorships, two years, and two manuscripts, I was bruised and battered and I poured all my heartbreak and stubborn optimism into a new manuscript which I began querying in mid-September. I received my first offer in early October and accepted an offer of representation earlier this week. Feel free to scroll to the bottom if you just want to know who I signed with!
The long version:
In late 2015 (don’t worry, this isn’t a day-by-day recounting) my mother challenged me to attempt NaNoWriMo and I discovered I could actually write a novel’s-worth of words by sitting down every day and chasing plot bunnies around. I was hooked.
In 2016, I signed up for a class at a local writing non-profit, expecting to be kicked out as a total imposter, but instead I found supportive teachers and classmates who took me under their wings and gave me a crash course in writing basics.
Later that year, I applied for the Author Mentor Match mentorship competition (twice) and wasn’t accepted (twice), but I did make friends in the AMM-hopefuls Facebook group and began swapping work with a few.
In 2017, I got a critique from a group called the InkWell council, and one of them, Megan Manzano, was intrigued enough by my opening to kindly volunteer to read the rest. She gave me my very first edit letter, along with a huge boost of confidence, and she’s been a great friend ever since.
Summer 2017, I submitted that manuscript to PitchWars. To my utter shock, I got multiple mentor requests and was eventually chosen by my mentor, Molly E. Lee.
PitchWars was incredible. I made friends, swapped work, got feedback from amazing writers, and as the agent showcase neared, I began to get excited about the possibilities ahead.
After, I queryied my Pitchwars book the old fashioned way and though I ended up with a respectable request rate and some close calls, I eventually trunked that manuscript.
In 2018, I wrote another manuscript, which I submitted to Author Mentor Match. This time I was chosen, by Jamie Krakover.
In early 2019, I was ready to query the new ms, and I decided to be more strategic this time. After watching friends and critique partners sign with agents who were not only objectively great, but also a great fit for them, I was determined to hold out for the same. I made a short list of agents, (about 30) and dove back in. Again, I had a decent request rate, but with such a short list of agents, it was only about six weeks before it was over. And again, I trunked a manuscript.
Cue February 2019.
I was frustrated, feeling defeated, and trying really hard not to give up hope. My friends and critique partners insisted I was a good writer, and they were sure I’d eventually succeed if I stayed the course. Agents had said they loved my writing, my voice, my stories, but still I’d stalled out.
I had an idea for a story that was strange, a bit dark, and in a different genre than my past work, but it allowed me to play with a character dynamic I’d wanted to explore for a long time. And though I had no idea if it would ever be marketable or even worth querying, the farther I got into my first draft, the more I loved it. When I first pitched it to critique partners, I could sense a bit of skepticism (they tried really hard to hide it!) but I wanted to write something for me, to remind myself that I loved writing. So I did.
I’m embarrassed to admit it was only recently that I realized how much of my own story was reflected on the page, that it was born of my own heartbreak and frustration, the bittersweet knowledge that while many believed in me, others knew me only as a writer who’d been given every chance to fly but kept crashing instead. And yet, both the story I was writing and my own story were also about hope, about persisting, and growing, and laughing through tears with loyal friends. Marketability and trends be damned, I wrote this book for me, and I filled it with everything I loved—apocalyptic, life-or-death stakes, ALL THE FEELINGS, witty banter and awkward flirtation, inappropriate humor, and a slow-burn romance between enemies. I set it on an island inspired by the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, with a main character who kept getting back up when the world knocked her down, who simply needed one person to believe in her.
My critique partners said it was my best work yet. They just knew this was THE BOOK. I was scared to hope.
I made a very short, very selective list of agents to query and tentatively sent out a few. I mean, like, two. Yes, my query buddies laughed at me, so I sent a few more.
My first response was a full request. I was excited, but I’d had requests from this agent before, and I knew a request did not mean an offer. Still, my request rate was briefly 100%, and I let myself revel for a bit.
I heard from a friend that an editor from a major publishing house was joining a top-notch agency as a new agent, and I headed to twitter to check out her #mswl tweets. As soon as I read through them, my gut said I had to query her, but she wasn’t open yet, so I put a reminder on my calendar.
Responses trickled in over the next week or so. A rejection, another request. Mostly silence. It was, after all, still early.
When that calendar reminder dinged on my phone, I may have been the first query to land in that editor-turned-agent’s inbox. I’m not sure. I’m not sure I want to know. I do know that they hadn’t had a chance to add her name to the auto-reply yet. Whoops!
Regardless, I got an enthusiastic request for the full manuscript the following day.
It was two weeks after I’d sent my first query, and I was already on pins and needles. My request rate was already looking better than ever before, but I had barely more than a dozen agents on my list, all of whom are incredible and sought-after. I knew how steep the odds were.
A week later I got an email that made me shout so loud I frightened my children. Sorry, kids. I handed my phone to my oldest so she could read it aloud, because I was too stunned. I laughed a bit too hard (I was, perhaps, a bit hysterical) when my child read a complimentary line about my book’s “sizzling” chemistry in her sweet little baby voice, but she let me off the hook and didn’t ask me to explain what it meant.
I’d been asked to set up a call for the following day.
It’s kind of a blur from there. I prepared a very long list of questions, my mother offered to wrangle my children so I could focus, and the following afternoon, I received an offer of representation. I was a bit in shock, but I knew the drill, and after a brief celebration, I hurried to notify all of the other agents who had material. A few more requested to read the full manuscript before my two-week deadline.
I didn’t know two weeks could take a thousand years.
The good thing about querying only your top-choice agents is that if you get an offer, it’s going to be a great one. The bad thing is…well, if you get more than one offer, it’s bound to be a hard decision, and any rejection you get is going to come from someone you really respect and admire. I knew I’d have to trust my gut no matter what happened.
In the end, I signed with the agent who’d made my original offer. The agent who requested my manuscript a day after I queried and offered six days after requesting. The agent who announced she was opening to queries the same week I began querying the book of my heart, whose MSWL tweets felt so spot on. After all that time, effort, and disappointment, my third voyage into the query trenches was a complete whirlwind. I think it’s safe to say we were both pretty shocked at how quickly we’d made a match, but somehow, the stars just aligned.
And after all that, I’m officially represented by Chelsea Eberly of The Greenhouse Literary Agency!
When I fast-balled that query into her inbox the day she opened, I already knew Chelsea had every professional qualification I could want in an agent. During her time as a Senior Editor at Penguin Random House, she worked with some of my all-time favorite authors (Leigh Bardugo! Marie Lu!) so she had an impressive editorial background and a strong footing in the industry. Add in the backing of an established, successful literary agency and the fact that she clearly knows what she likes and goes after it with confidence, and I was confident she could do the job. What I didn’t know, but soon found out, is that she’s also passionate and professional, whip-smart, easy to talk to, and she loves this book as much as I do. She was willing to fight for it, and I know she’ll fight just as hard to get my work out into the world.
If I’ve learned anything from all of this, it’s to trust my instincts and write what I love. I really didn’t know if a dark premise with a hefty dose of RomCom-style banter between a quirky girl with sly dark humor and a prickly creampuff of a reluctant bodyguard would be something agents wanted, but I knew it was what I wanted to write. I built a story with the broken pieces of myself, and somehow, those sharp corners and jagged edges fit together to create something I’m truly proud of.
I’m so excited to see where my journey goes from here, and I’m overwhelmingly thankful to have such a a great team by my side for the next phase of this adventure.