You know what I love? I love agent stories. I love finding out when a writer starts to get her big break. It’s exciting to see the wave slowly start to roll in and everything wonderful wash over her, even if I’m just looking at blog archives and the writer is now a big author with a multi-book deal and movie rights and all that. It’s wonderful to see when someone recognized things were going to happen. I swore that if I ever got an agent, I would write one, too, because I love those stories so much.
But I didn’t, and I didn’t because of this one fear: well, nothing will come of it. I’ll probably be a big, fat failure, and what? I want you to know nothing came of it and I somehow convinced a great literary agent to work with me and even SHE couldn’t help the big fat mess that I am? So I kind of quietly announced the news. I went out for Thai food with one of my critique partners. I think maybe Gregg and I drank a beer together. It was exciting, but it was also…not exciting? Because I was waiting for things to fall apart. I didn’t want it to be a big deal, in case it would come back to haunt me in embarrassing detail later.
So, this is to say: eff you, horrible, depressive thinking. I reasoned out that this was very much like not telling people about pregnancy, “in case” something bad happens, which of course focuses you on the badness happening. As if there is a window of a time where bad things can happen and then, poof, you’re safe. You know and I know that life doesn’t work like that. We can got 14 weeks, or 20 weeks, or 40 weeks of pregnancy, and THEN the bad thing can happen. We can go years having kids, and THEN the bad thing can happen. Are we not supposed to share in happiness until then? Are we not supposed to hope for the best?
This is me, hoping for the best. This is me, trying for self-confidence. This is me, telling you my long-rambly agent story.
I should start back in 2011. Yeah, 2011. I wrote a book, and it was maybe the funniest thing I’d ever written. It was HILARIOUS. It was so hilarious that I thought, “This book ain’t bad.” So I wrote a query letter and sent it out to 15 agents, and I waited. I’d sent out a query letter for a book before, to disastrous, depressing results. Meaning: lots and lots of rejection. I realize NOW it was because 1) my query was terrible and 2) my book was worse. I totally deserved to get rejected. I expected nothing more from this query letter, as people who get agents are pie-in-the-sky lucky and talented, and since I am neither of those things, well! It wasn’t going to happen.
Instead, what happened was that a lot of agents asked to read my book. 5 of the 15. Huh. And 2 of the others said, “I like this excerpt you sent me, but I think you should rewrite it and then resubmit to me.” Huh.
It turned out that the 5 who requested the book all turned it down, but I was still flabbergasted. I was pretty sure all of those agents were big deals. Huh.
So, I rewrote 50 pages of the book for one of the agents who requested it, and sent it to her. She said, “It’s cute and funny and it’s never going to sell. No editors are buying anything like this.”
So, I got a little bit sad. Then I decided that I quit everything. And then, a few weeks later, I wrote another book. It wasn’t very good. I went back to the funny one that was never, ever going to sell. I rewrote it. Why? I have no idea. I was signed up for a writing conference, and a query workshop there. We had to submit query letters to be critiqued by the agent, so I wrote one up quick-like and submitted it for the workshop, for the book I was rewriting. It didn’t really matter, since it wasn’t a “real” query letter. It was just for critique!
Well, she emailed me and said, “Let me read your book. Please.” Huh.
So, I told her very politely, “Ha HA, I’m rewriting it. Please wait.” And then I rewrote like mad. I went to the conference but was too scaredy-pants to introduce myself to the agent who requested my book. The conference depressed me, because there were a lot of older ladies in ill-fitting slacks who said they wrote a book ONCE and if that wasn’t enough, they didn’t know WHAT they were going to do. There were a lot of professional dilettantes there, in the form of writers. Was that me? It was awful.
I sent my book out to the agent who requested it when I was finished, and that other agent from 2011 who said I should resubmit, that I hadn’t been in contact with, in May of 2012. I also sent out the query letter to 16 other agents.
I got a lot of requests for my book. Like, A LOT. Huh. (You wanna know how many? 7.)
A few of the agents got back to me with a “thanks but no thanks.” A few said they liked my characters but the plot needed work. (It had no plot, FYI. NONE.) (I’m just saying this to give the agents credit. They are smart people.)
You know who I didn’t hear from? That agent from the conference. Or the agent from 2011. Neither of them. Not a peep.
I kind of gave up on my book at this point. It was super fun and I loved it, and I was writing the Office Crush blog, and, well, I kind of decided, “Fuck this, if I want to write, I’m gonna write. I don’t need permission.” Because, you know, I don’t. It didn’t matter if I never made it a career. I really liked it, and I am a damn good librarian. I don’t need to write for money.
So. I was at BlogHer, the night before I was going to speak at the conference, and I get this email from the agent. The agent from 2011. She says, basically, “send me your book.” Huh.
I sent it to her when I got back to Seattle. A few weeks later, I get an email that made my heart speed up. She said, “I like your book, but I have concerns about the plot.” (Let me remind you: NO PLOT*.) “Let’s talk on the phone.” I shouldn’t use quotes. That’s not what she actually wrote, but it’s similar. Paraphrasing. That’s what people call it!
So, we set up a time to call, me thinking: she is going to give me helpful suggestions! This is good! It’s not going to go anywhere but I really need constructive feedback from a professional, so who cares! And then she called and the first thing she said was that she loved my book, and the second thing she said was that it was really funny (swoooon), and the third thing she said was that she was offering me representation. I am so glad she lives on the other coast of America, because any closer and the sweat puddles under me would have been visible.
We talked for a long while, mostly about my book (weird, so, so weird) (it’s still weird), and then she asked me if any other agents had my book, and also other things, but I must admit I was too shocked to say much. I am a fool at my best, so I’m not sure I made a very good first impression. I told her yes, other agents had it. In fact, 3 others did. She helped me figure out what to write to them, and I told her I’d get back to her within a week.
And then, right away, I had agents pinging my email box. SO WEIRD. Huh. It ended up that the agent from the conference said she really liked my book, but didn’t love it (I was kind of hoping she’d turn it down because I really wanted to work with the agent I talked with on the phone and am a terrible decision-maker). I was kind of overjoyed to receive her rejection. I will tell you that another agent never got back to me, and the third agent I knew I didn’t want to work with already. She was very sweet and kind and I’d talked with her and I felt like we had different senses of humor, which is kind of sort of REALLY IMPORTANT when you are trying to be a professional humorist. So, my decision was made, and I somehow ended up with a great agent who knew my book was decent way back in 2011, who has a great (and by that I mean, matching mine) sense of humor, who is also a lover of food (I know this shouldn’t have mattered in my decision-making, but it totally did), and who, most importantly? Can totally sell books. (Hopefully, soon, mine?)
*It had a plot, but now it has MORE of a plot, because my agent and critique partners were very good at helping me with that.