Something crazy happened to me this month, guys. And it’s certainly something that has never happened before. If you missed the news before, I am now represented by the amazing Sara Megibow of KT Literary!
The something crazy is that I started querying this month and ended up with seven offers of representation before signing with Sara, and I want to tell you about it, not because I feel like tooting my own horn, but because honestly, it was really effin’ scary and I want to demystify it a little in case you find yourself in that (enviable/freakishly terrifying/oh-my-dog-what-do-I-do-they-are-all-looking-at-me/*breathes into paper bag*/WHAT IS HAPPENING/HALP) situation in the future.
And those who are thinking, “Oh, pobrecita…*plays tiny violin*”….well. I hope this happens to you. I really do! Because A: finding the right fit agent is important, and B: because I want to sit back and eat popcorn while someone not me goes through it. #sadist
(My wonderful former agent, Jes Negrón, has left the business for personal reasons, and I’m going to make it 100% clear to all of you right now that there are no hard feelings and she is one of my best friends, so….any ill will toward her will be greeted with fisticuffs.)
Jes told me she was leaving in early January, and my manuscript of the epic I was working on was only half done. Needless to say, I hopped into my harness, fired up the jet pack, hit the warp drive, and finished that shit in two weeks. I wrote an atrocious number of words, guys. One weekend I wrote 45,000 of them. Why. Slap me with a carp the next time I try to carpe that particular diem.
I was super floored and flattered to almost immediately receive a preemptive offer of rep from a fabulous agent. She told me to query widely and take my time, which…I mean, wow.
Going into querying after two years of decidedly NOT thinking about that year I spent in the trenches was…unfun even knowing it would have a timestamp from the start, though. Querying makes me a madwoman. The idea of doing it again was less than appealing.
Scratch that. I was terrified. The book I was querying was the book of my soul. I’d written it HELLA fast. I loved that book and feared it, even though it got stamps of approval from my betas within days of them getting their paws on it. (It’s also a beast at 140K and around 700 pages.)
On February 4 when I sent out my entire batch of 37 queries in one night, I had about 150+ rejections to my name from the past three years. From face to face pitches to queries to submissions to editors, I’d heard the word no enough times to kind of get desensitized to it. Subjectivity, yadda yadda. And I didn’t REALLY expect this time around to be any different.
I fired off queries (Thanks — BIG THANKS — to feedback from Spike Cordiner, EC Myers, Lyra Selene, and Bosom Buffalo Kristin McFarland, I had one that I thought wasn’t too insane). I’d already queued them up in my drafts folder, researched and personalized and ready to go except for whatever additional material they needed — I had synopses of various lengths and the full manuscript open in Word on my computer as I worked) like a little….query submachine gun. (I’d much rather be on the receiving end of a query than a bullet, and I wouldn’t shoot bullets in the direction of people…why did I use that analogy?)
Imagine my shock-face when by the time I was halfway through sending those things, I had two full requests. I sent off the requested material and then kept sending queries. I got another full request. I blinked a bit, because I really wasn’t sure what was happening.
I woke up the next morning to another. Within a couple more hours, there were another two. By the end of February 5, I had 12 full requests, which was officially more than I’d gotten the entire six months I’d spent querying SHRIKE: THE MASKED SONGBIRD. I ended up getting eight more on top of that.
This was a very new experience.
And then the offers started. Within two weeks, I had five. The last week of February, I got two more. I was standing down in a ring with my book, hugging it to my chest, and suddenly people were chucking their hats at me.
And holy shit, was that terrifying.
For the past three years, I was used to the publishing world sort of looking at me and going, “You’re cute, but nah.” Jes was my sole champion on that side of the gate for a long time.
I’d gotten so used to knocking at the door that when suddenly it was flung wide open and there were people LOOKING AT ME with extreme interest, I wanted to run away and hide.
This is the unicorn queriers chase — this whole multiple offers thing. Lemme tell you something: IT IS FRAKKING NERVE WRACKING.
This was my diet for the entire month:
I was hardly sleeping. Way back in junior high when I was being bullied all the time and constantly anxious (especially during lunch times), my upper lip used to swell as a response to the stress. Yeah, it started back up this month.
I don’t drink, but BOY HOWDY DID I EAT. You don’t want to know how much McDonald’s I ate or how many bags I found in my car.
Fourteen. Fourteen McDonald’s bags. I also went to Taco Bell. I eat my stress, yo.
I also ate an entire carton of ice cream. And I think an entire box of wild berry Pop-Tarts over a weekend. And an entire Hawaiian pizza from Domino’s (extra extra extra pineapple) along with an order of buffalo chicken and some spinach feta cheesy bread. Over a WEEKEND.
I gained six pounds back. (I’m honestly amazed that’s all it was.)
This. Month. Was. Hard. People don’t talk about how hard this is. I think because yeah, it’s certainly wonderful to know that a bunch of really freaking amazing humans who are agents want to represent you. That IS wonderful. It’s also really scary because A: they’re wonderful, B: you aren’t allowed to be repped by all of them, C: you have to tell some of them no, and D: we all know it’s a business decision but agenting relationships can last decades and it’s a really huge deal. NO PRESSURE.
I found some blog posts about it, and basically, the moment I saw the one that said something about “not enough gin,” I wanted to wear it like a comfort blankie even though I hate gin and barely drink at all.
But it’s March now! And as I said at the beginning of this post, I signed with the fantabulous Sara Megibow. She is fantabulous. She was ecstatic about my book — and about me. She articulated a clear strategy for selling the book — and for developing my long term career. And she and I totally fangirled over my friend Max Gladstone’s books (hi, Max!), so that was also super fun.
The other agents who offered were ALL absolutely wonderful. Just…amazing people and great at their jobs and their clients all spoke glowingly of them. It’s really hard to tell people no. It sucked a lot. That was not wonderful or delicious. I also had a migraine that day, and I had just finished my last acting class. My face was frozen in this weird rictus that was a combination of absurd glee to be signing with Sara and this macabre grimace of WAH for having to write those emails to the others who I GENUINELY LIKE A LOT and wish many NYT bestsellers upon them. (I coped by eating donuts, a burrito, McDonald’s, bubble tea, and chicken tikka masala with roti and garlic naan and pakora. All in one day. Yep. That happened.)
And to anyone still playing a tiny violin at me right now…well…this is the worst thing I’d ever WISH on a friend. It was really, really stressful to go through…and that whole wishing it on friends thing is one part sadism (I will sit back and eat popcorn, then hand them some coping mechanism of choice) and one part real hope they find great representation.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Agents are pretty damn cool people. They really do want to love your book. They really, really do.
2. Communicate when you have offers. Some will want to know as more roll in. I nudged once when I got the second offer (they all knew going in that I had one on the table) and said something like, “I know agents tend to vary on how many updates they would like at this point, so if you would like to be kept apprised of any additional offers, I am happy to do so.”
3. Talk to clients. Read agency agreements. Hop on PM and look at sales. (It’s month to month, so you can buy a month and bail if necessary, but I’ve found it a worthwhile — and tax deductible — investment.)
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is a business arrangement, though a nuanced one that often becomes a friendship and CAN span years and even decades. One agent who offered sent me to talk to a client she’d been working with for fifteen years. They have an AMAZING partnership and are both phenomenal people. That’s the dream, folks — and you find it by asking questions to find out if their vision for representing you matches your vision of representation. One book? Whole career? Multiple genres? Hybrid? Trad only? Ask, ask, ask.
5. Reach out to other authors you know who have been through this. (That includes me. You can reach me here if you’re in this sitch — or even if you’re not and just need to talk about the biz.) And read….these….blogs. Seriously, as the hours ticked down and I was approaching Defcon 1 of EVERY POSSIBLE EMOTION EVER, those conversations and those blogs helped me realize that what I was feeling was totally normal. I could be simultaneously totally freaked out and totally grateful for the ability to find an agent who was really right for me. (I would have been honored to sign with any of the agents who offered. They were all top notch professionals in our interactions and all just really cool people.)
6. Be professional yourself. Be kind. Be gracious. Shit happens at all levels of life and this business — don’t burn bridges.
7. Breathe. A lot. Regularly. Don’t stop doing that.
8. Give yourself a break if you can.
9. Go with your gut AND your head. Seasoned or brand new, big agency or boutique, editorial or not, huge sales or just a few — there are plenty of reasons to ask lots of questions. Your mileage may vary, so find out what attributes are important to you and keep them close. Personality is often part of the gut aspect, so listen to it, but don’t let it overwhelm the rest. You might have offers from several people who fit what you’re looking for. That’s where these things come in handy.
10. It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling.
11. Remember to officially withdraw your query from anyone who hasn’t yet responded. If people with the full don’t respond, send a polite email thanking them for their interest in you and your work and letting them know that because you had promised a decision to X Agent by that day, you had to notify the other agents and make your decision. I had two people who got swamped and didn’t have time to finish/respond, and they replied with very nice emails congratulating me and wishing me well.
12. When it’s over, CELEBRATE.
Okay. Some more real talk, mmmkay? For those of you who are just tuning in and don’t know me from that weirdo angel in the trenchcoat above? HI, I AM EMMIE, AND THIS TYPE OF POST IS NOT NORMAL FOR ME.
Here’s the sitch from each of the times I queried:
Act I: First novel (hahaha, why)
Queries sent: 10
Act II: Third novel
Queries sent: around 90
Time spent: 5 months
Interlude: Submission Hell
Books subbed: 2
Rejections: 30-50…I lost count
Imprints closed: 1
Books orphaned: 3
Act III: Book 10 (Full novel 7)
Queries sent: 37
Fulls requested: 20
Offers of rep: 7
To be continued…
The point is…this crazy ring of hats is not without context. To anyone who might feel jealous of what happened for me this month, well, you’re allowed. I certainly felt that way when I saw it happen to others before me. But…remember it has context. I didn’t scribble one manuscript, waltz into the query trenches, and pirouette away with a bunch of offers, scampering into the sunset with a cushy seven figure book deal. Not even close. I thought I was done querying two years ago. I sold three books and had a contract on a fourth. Then all of that went away within three weeks. (Seriously, guys, October freaking sucked.)
This business is not easy. I’ve passed 200 rejections at this point. You hear no a LOT more than you hear yes. At this point, like…almost 100 times more. Sometimes even the yesses fall through for whatever reason. Just. Keep. Swimming.
I’ll be starting a little series soon called Emmie’s Vlog and Blog, in which I help you navigate the query trenches, because frankly, it’s a painful journey and I wanna help. Because after all this, if traditional publishing is where you want to be? I still think querying is a great way to find an agent. Slush works, guys.
Now. You’re all very cute, but I need to go feed my cats.
GO FORTH AND BE MAJESTIC.
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