How I Landed My Agent: A Cautionary Tale
byon July 11th, 2010 at 05:07 PM (1199 Views)
What can Savvy do for you? A lot, and I can prove it.
I started writing FLAWED, a story I originally outlined as a screenplay two years ago for school, in the middle of May. I'm not one of those overprotective my-story-is-my-baby kind of writers, but if I were, FLAWED would be at the top of my list of Stories Which Must Be Told. I knew it was going to be short (well, in comparison to my typical 90k novels) and would be the perfect boot camp book.
I was maybe 35 pages into the manuscript mid-May when a slew of awesome opportunities popped up here at Savvy. Unable to help myself, I made two very big FLAWED-specific mistakes---I submitted my query letter to Savvy's Ask an Intern column, and I pitched to Kathleen Ortiz when someone no-showed for their pitch appointment. Cassandra loved the query and Kathleen was super excited to read the manuscript. Like, repeatedly-clicking-refresh-on-her-inbox excited.
And then I had to tell her the book wasn't finished.
This, Savvy friends, is why we do not pitch books that aren't done. When Kathleen's excitement dissipated immediately, I felt like a loser for wasting her time. To make matters worse, I had also made a third mistake that same week---I pitched an adult romantic thriller that's been 2/3 done for a couple years to Angela James in Savvy's 3-line pitch contest. It was a great pitch (thank you, Lori Wilde!) but I didn't think I'd get picked, not with how many other awesome entries there were. The winners were announced the same day I pitched Kathleen.
I'm sure you see where this is going.
So here I am, 35 pages into FLAWED---which is getting a lot of attention all of a sudden---with a request for another unfinished book from uber editor Angela James. Can we say panic?
By the time boot camp started, despite epic levels of panic, everything started looking up---I had an excellent query letter, this strange literary flow that spilled onto the page whenever I sat down to write, and the Angst Army's excitement to feed off of. I figured I'd have the first draft done by the end of boot camp and edits done by the end of summer, and then I'd query the heck out of it.
Then I made another mistake. I submitted my query letter to agent Mandy Hubbard for her week-long query workshop. Mandy is fabulous---she already had me revising one of my other novels, IMPURE, and we have identical tastes in all things YA---so I knew I'd listen to whatever she had to say about improving the query. I was not expecting the hilarious email she sent accusing me of causing a drool-related incident and holding out on her. Once again, I had to tell an awesome agent my book wasn't done. Not exactly a pattern---or a reputation---I wanted.
But here's the thing---Mandy? She's one of the coolest YA agents out there. Maybe because she's an author too and really gets it. Anyway, she didn't yell or get disappointed or anything like that. She told me to write. Oh, and read FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC while I was at it. She also did some research and calmed me down when I freaked out about another book that sounded like mine which sold at auction (FORBIDDEN which, while fantastic, turned out not to be the same at all---crisis averted!). I owed her a big box of chocolate or something by that point, but went with offering her a one-week exclusive on the manuscript instead. If I ever finished the dang thing.
Boot camp was already in full swing and, lucky for me, I have the greatest writer peeps on the planet and write pretty fast. I finished FLAWED June 18th. The whole Angst Army read it on the 19th. I made the revisions they asked for the 20th, and sent it to Mandy that night. By June 21st, I had an agent.
So there's my don't-try-this-approach-because-it's-wrong "How I Got My Agent" cautionary tale. Mandy is on a plane to NY as we speak, where she'll meet with something like 23 editors this week. "FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC meets LIVING DEAD GIRL" is how she'll be pitching FLAWED. Needless to say, I'll be a jittery mess all week while I wait for news.
Talk about a wild ride. And to think, if it wasn't for Savvy, boot camp, and my beloved Angst Army, FLAWED probably still wouldn't be done.