Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children of All Ages, I had The Call with a real, live agent
If you’ve ever wanted to publish or have a loved one who is an author with aspirations you know how important The Call is.
The Call, spoken with a hushed reverence, is the moment an agent offers to represent you and your novel.
It’s a moment I’d chased for almost 3 years through two different manuscripts. The first got a lot of attention, but in the end the market was saturated with empowering women’s fiction and the agents didn’t think they could sell it. Fair enough. So, I filed it away and started on a mystery novel I’d had banging around in my head for a while.
It took me 2 months to write the novel and then another 6 to edit it and polish it to a point when I wouldn’t die of embarrassment if someone else read it. The next step was to query agents.
Querying is a huge topic and deserves it’s own blog post. Story short: You get turned down a lot, it’s an emotional roller coaster, and everyone has to do it.
But after 3 months of sending my manuscript to eighty agents I got … a Rewrite and Resubmit.
A Rewrite and Resubmit (R&R) is an odd beast in the world of querying. An agent likes your novel, but isn’t quite sure they want to make the leap into sending it out to publishers. It takes a lot of time, effort, and faith on their part. They can’t just like it, the need to love it.
In an R&R, you’re asked to do another round of edits to work through areas that the agent didn’t love. Often, the agent will have very specific comments to address. This is like finding a pot of gold. Finally, you have feedback on your work that isn’t the general, “I didn’t connect to your hero like I wanted to, but remember publishing is subjective…”
It’s also nerve-wracking. Clearly, the agent knows what they want to see, but what if I don’t do it right? There are a hundred ways to screw up a revision, especially if you see this as your one and only shot at showing this agent what you’re capable of.
Well, I screwed it up. I didn’t go far enough. Or maybe I went too far in some places and not far enough in others. Or it wasn’t quite right.
She was sorry she didn’t love it. I was devastated I couldn’t fix it. I wrote back to her apologizing I didn’t get it right and I agreed those areas needed to be fixed.
“Okay. Do it.”
That’s right. I got a second chance.
Determined not to screw it up this time, I took the plunge and hired a writing coach. I went back and forth on this for a couple of weeks. Did I actually need one? Was it cheating? Could I afford to hire one? Could I afford not to?
I took the plunge and it’s the best thing I ever did. Not only did I get someone who would help guide me through what the agent actually wanted revised, I got someone who would help me work on the craft of writing, be a cheerleader for my work, and become a really good friend. I knew my coach, Dawn, was perfect for me within 10 minutes of meeting her on FaceTime. She’s still my coach. We met once a week and went through my book chapter by chapter to get it tightened up, tweaked, modified, and polished.
I will add, in the midst of all this I got another R&R from a different agent (so no problem there) and a request for my full manuscript from another agent. My coach was a lifesaver here. She told me to inform the agent I was in the midst of an R&R and ask her if she wanted my original manuscript or if she wanted to wait until my R&R was finished. The agent was excited to hear I was modifying the manuscript and wanted it as soon as I was done. Woohoo!
In the end, it took me 2 more months to finish this second R&R, bringing me to 6 months after I’d originally queried this agent, and began querying in general. This also brought me to the Christmas break. Saving my sanity and the holiday cheer, the agent said she would try to start reading it by mid-January. Then the nail-biting began.
And on February 22nd, I got The Call.
Two weeks later, after my deadline for courtesy notifications to the other agents had passed, I signed the contract. It’s official. I have an agent.
And she immediately put me to work doing some final tweaking on the book before we start submitting it to publishers. But that’s one of the things I like about her.