How I got my Agent....Again
Whew! First of all, can I just say how happy I am that I get to write one of these posts? Because HOLY CRAPKITTENS! The relief I feel is something I cannot put into words..... especially since this is not my first time at the rodeo.
BUT I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I?
As Julie Andrews said, "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start."
If we're meeting for the first time, Hi! My name is Kim, and I am an author who's trying her hardest to make it on this wild journey called Traditional Publishing. [insert Katniss salute here]
My publishing journey so far has been....interesting. Lol. Let me explain.
I decided that I wanted to pursue writing and publication back in 2008. I got my start in fanfiction (Dramione fans, where you at?) and it wasn't long before I realized I wanted to start writing my own original fiction. I got an idea for an original story and for the next almost ten years, I worked on that manuscript. Now, I know what you're thinking. TEN YEARS? Seriously? Yes, seriously. BUT I will say that during that time, I got my master's degree in education, starting teaching full time, and got pregnant and gave birth to twins. So, obviously, I was only working on that book every now and then whenever I had a free minute or two.
Fast forward to 2016. My manuscript was finally done and I took the plunge into the query trenches. I sent my first batch of queries, and I felt hopeful and excited. I got a number of requests, but I also got a ton of rejections. I remained hopeful though, and in March, I got a bit of good news. An agent I was interested in liked my book but thought it needed some work. So, instead of a rejection, she offered me an R&R. And after weeks of working nearly every day on the revisions, I re-submitted my manuscript to that agent in May. After several months of waiting, I finally heard back from the agent in September. It was an offer! YAY!
There were bumps along the way, but in January of 2018, my debut novel, KEEPER was published by Flux books. It was followed by its sequel, SEEKER, in September of 2019.
For a while, everything seemed to be going well. But then, the pandemic happened and it hit the publishing industry pretty hard.
It also hit me pretty hard. A book deal that I had with a great publisher for a new book fell through. I was devastated, and even more so when that book ended up dying on the submission floor.
And then, my agent let me know that we wouldn't be working together any longer. She was leaving the industry to pursue other endeavors.
I'm leaving out a ton of details to keep this as succinct as possible, but let's just say that in general, I felt pretty defeated on the writer front. I had no book, no agent, and no chance of getting another book published any time soon.
2021 was a hard year for me, but I did manage to write a new book. A book that made me laugh and cry, a book that I poured all of my energy in. A YA rom com that made my heart super happy. And in November 2021, I jumped BACK into the query trenches.
This time around, I felt confident. I was armed with more knowledge and experience than I had the first time around, and I had a much stronger manuscript that I felt was well-written and high concept enough to catch an agent's eye. Plus, having been previously published with a refutable traditional publisher and having been previously agented, I thought for sure that I would have a bit of an edge over other querying writers.
That proved to be entirely FALSE, my friends. (lol, bless my little naïve heart) And in fact, the query trenches proved to be a special kind of hell. If you've heard other querying writers talk about how rough the trenches are, let me tell you, they ARE NOT KIDDING. The trenches are AWFUL these days, and they're so different from when I was querying the first time around.
How are they different? Well, response times are incredibly slow. This is largely due to the mass exodus of industry professionals thanks to the pandemic and the lack of replacements--agents and editors are up to their eyeballs in manuscripts and without adequate compensation and employees, those left are barely keeping their heads above the water. Everyone is extremely overworked and overwhelmed. I could get into it more but that's a conversation for a different blog post. Just trust me when I say that response times are very slow despite agents doing their best.
Back in 2015, anywhere from 2-12 weeks was pretty standard for a query response. You also could expect actual responses. Sure, there were "closed, no response" agents out there, but the vast majority sent replies, even if they were just form rejections. You also could count on decent turnaround time on full requests, as well as personalized feedback of some sort.
Now, these old standards seem to not apply. Response times are glacial, and the number of agents who just didn't respond to my queries at all was astronomically high. And the responses I did get took quite a while to receive. Personalized feedback ceased to exist. Heck, feedback of any kind pretty much disappeared. (Again, this is largely due to how overworked agents are--something I completely understand. Not knocking them here, just sharing my experience). I did receive some feedback, but it was definitely the exception, not the norm.
In regards to full requests, I actually got quite a few of those! In fact nearly 30-35% of my responses were requests for fulls. However, it took quite a while to receive responses. AND I even had situations in which I was ghosted on a full. The requesting agents asked for the full manuscript and then I never heard from them again. Even after I sent follow-up emails. Literally no response. This was probably the most surprising thing to me about this querying experience.
As for my personal feedback, the bits that I got were overwhelmingly positive. Agents seemed to love my voice, my style, and the overall concept of my book. I never received a single piece of negative/constructive criticism...But I still wasn't getting offers. Lots of "I love this, but I'm just not sure about the market right now." (Who knew that YA rom coms were a tough sell these days? I certainly didn't!) It was frustrating to say the least.
I also had another disappointment to contend with. While I was querying the YA book, I submitted an adult romance novel to Hallmark publishing during one of their open submissions. I was overjoyed when I received word from their head editor that they wanted to publish my book! [cue the pterodactyl shrieking] However, TWO WEEKS later, it was announced that the imprint would be closing. Womp womp.... [And now insert sad violin music]
I was beyond discouraged and feeling a little hopeless, so while I continued querying my YA rom com, I started working on another book-- a Middle Grade contemporary novel and I loved it so much. I began querying that one in October of 2022.
By the time I started querying that second book, I had been in the trenches nearly a year. A YEAR. At that point, I had sorta given up on my rom com, and threw all of my focus at my MG. Two agents that I was really interested in working with already had my YA, so I reached out asking if they would like to see my MG as well. I was so excited when they responded back with a yes! I sent the new MS off and tried my best to wait patiently.
On November 23rd, 2022 right before Thanksgiving, I got the best NEWS EVER! The agents I had reached out to had read BOTH my YA and my MG books and they loved them! They offered me representation!
I immediately broke down into tears and called my best friend sobbing. For months, I had been feeling blue about my journey, and I was starting to believe that I wouldn't have a future in traditional publishing. I am so glad I was wrong about that! It was such a happy day!
I was even more surprised when I got ANOTHER offer about a week later. I went from having no offers, to two offers from really incredible agents. I still can't believe it honestly.
The decision was incredibly difficult (All the offering agents are AMAZING and it would have been an honor to work with any of them!), but I made my choice and on December 9th, 2022 (a year and a month past that very first query) I signed my contract.
I am now represented by Christa Heschke and Daniele Hunter and McIntosh & Otis! Ahhhh!
It was a WILD second trip into the query trenches, and I am just so so SO thankful it had a happy ending. Christa and Daniele are not only really amazing humans, but they also really understand and connect with my work. I feel like my books and I are in the very best of hands, and I could not be more excited about what the future holds. It may have taken a while and several books, but in my experience, the very best things in life are worth waiting for!
(Daniele and Christa, if you're reading this, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity! I am so very grateful for your willingness to take a chance on me! You're the best!)
For those of you still in the querying trenches, please take heart. I know the experience feels endless and unrelenting, but good things are still happening. It may take a while, but you'll get there, I promise!
Thanks for reading this and for coming along with me on this journey! If you have any questions, let me know!
Sending you all hugs and love!