Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How I Got My Literary Agent--Part II

In my previous post, I shared the part of my journey that led to receiving an offer of representation. Before I finish the story, let me first say—and I cannot stress this enough—take your cue from the Boy Scouts and BE PREPARED (figure out why you want an agent and what you’re looking for in an agent before you start submitting).
 
If you recall, I left off with three agents holding multiple manuscripts (Agents B and C, plus Tricia Lawrence). This made me become rather “OC” (obsessive-compulsive) about checking my email. So, around 6:00 one Friday morning, still blurry-eyed and half-asleep, I checked my phone for any news. There was a message from Agent C.
 
I slumped. “Darn it! I got my first rejection from one of the three agencies,” I said to my husband. He asked me what it said and I told him I didn’t know, that I hadn’t read it yet.
 
“Well, read it! Don’t assume the worst!” he said. 

But remember, I’d received 69 rejections prior to this so I’d gotten used to bad news. I was convinced it was a “No.” But of course, I opened it.  And I was stunned to see it was an offer of representation!

 Have you ever seen someone win at Wimbledon? You know, when the best tennis player in the world wins match point; then falls to her knees, face in her hands, sobbing uncontrollably? 


Yep, that was me! Words couldn’t express the overwhelming joy and relief I felt, that finally, FINALLY, someone made me an offer. That someone really liked my work. It truly was surreal.
 
Agent C wanted to talk! I wrote her back right away and then stressed all day waiting for a response. By late that afternoon, I was convinced it was a mistake and that she’d accidentally written to the wrong Terry; that she meant to write another Terry who had subbed work to her (I know that sounds neurotic but this business can seriously mess with your mind). Finally, that evening, she wrote me back and we set up a time to talk.
 
I spoke with her by phone two days later* and we hit it off well. I was excited about the prospects of working with the agency. Even though it was a new one, it sounded wonderful and I personally connected with them. And there were benefits to working with a new agency (eager to sell my work, being a showcase author). She wanted to email me a contract that day but I told her I had two other agencies that had requested my work and I needed to give them a chance to respond.  
* Note: Before the phone call, I did my homework and was prepared. AgentQuery.com has a fabulous article on what to do when an agent offers representation. Not only did I understand how to handle multiple offers, but for the phone call I had the prepared questions in front of me, two pens, water, and I dressed as if I was going to an in-person interview just to keep me on my “professional toes.”
 
As soon as I got off the phone with Agent C, I emailed Tricia and Agent B to let them know I had an offer. Agent B wrote back that afternoon with a pass but wished me well. The next morning, Tricia wrote me and thanked me for letting her know. She asked for a week to review my work. I let Agent C know this right away and thanked her for her patience as I considered this highly important career decision.
 
Five days later, Tricia emailed me that she loved what I’d sent her and wanted to talk (more tears, but since I was eating breakfast at a restaurant at the time, I managed to contain myself). Tricia and I spoke two days later and she was amazing too. I was so impressed with her professional yet personable and friendly manner. Best of all, she was so enthusiastic about my work! My work! Nobody had ever seemed that excited about my stories. It truly felt like a dream. But--she wanted me to think on it a while, since I had another offer, so I would be certain to make the right decision.

So there I was, spinning in circles in my office, about to burst! Never in my life did I EVER think I’d have to choose between two fabulous agencies with agents whom I’d connected with personally and professionally. Needless to say, I did not sleep well for two nights (you would be amazed at how many things can happen that prevent a contract from being signed—at least in my dreams!).

I knew what I wanted in an agent going into my search—someone who offered editorial input, gave career guidance, communicated regularly and was accessible, and someone with a track record. Both of these agents satisfied the first three criteria, but Agent C was new and didn’t have a track record. Also, Tricia’s agency, Erin Murphy Literary Agency, brought a lot to the table that I hadn’t anticipated (their own client forum and their own annual retreat—it sounded similar to the Vermont College community). In my heart, which I had now learned to trust, I knew Tricia would be a perfect fit for me. So, even though it was painfully saddening to have decline Agent C’s offer, I was elated to accept Tricia’s offer and sign on with her and the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Talk about the yin and yang of life!  
 

Now, I’m anticipating getting to work with Tricia. I love feeling that I have a partner in my career and I will do everything in my power not to disappoint her. Onward ho!

So that’s my journey to finding an agent, which was more like a trek across the Himalayas… 


For anyone who is looking for an agent, here are some of my favorite online resources: 
SCBWI’s “TheBook” (Agent Market) 
Verla Kay’s Blue Boards (now merged with SCBWI Blue Boards)
Publisher’sMarketplace ($25 per month membership or you can subscribe to the Publishers’ Lunch, a free daily newsletter sent by Publishers’ Marketplace  

7 comments:

Penny Klostermann said...

Very fun to read this, Terry! And even more fun to be agent-sisters!

Terry P. said...

Thanks, Penny! I agree about being agent-sisters :-).

Jake Carlsen said...

This is fantastic information. Thank you for sharing it. I have been contemplating taking the step of hunting for an agent and you have given me a very valuable glimpse into the process.

Joy Moore said...

Thank you for your encouraging post. I loved reading every bit of it.

And Congratulations!

Mirka Breen said...

You tell it like it is, Terry. You got a good agent who is lovely, too. Her agency is as good as they get. I am so happy for you.
Recently, a friend who has written a few kid-lit PB asked me how one gets an agent. I'm sending her your two-parter now!

Amber Hamilton said...

This is totally AWESOME! And...sobering. At the same time.

Thank you for sharing your story!

Terry P. said...

Thank you for sharing your comments, everyone. My hope was to help folks who are looking for agents gain a little more insight into the process. I'm glad so many people found it encouraging!