Finally, I can announce that I’ve accepted representation from Denise Barone of the Barone Literary Agency! This morning I had a mini-freak out moment when I emailed to tell her I accepted and my email bounced (OMG). At first, I thought the Friday the 13th curse had struck (and I wasn’t even wearing ridiculous high heels or being chased by an axe wielding maniac).
Luckily, after a few attempts, I got it to go through. So SQUEEEEEEEE…this all seems SO SO SO surreal. And I can actually say: I’VE GOT AN AGENT. MY AGENT. LET ME GET WITH MY AGENT (hehehehe).
But seriously, this has been a loooong journey. 7 years, 8 manuscripts in the making. So take it from me when I say perseverance pays off. Yes, I was found in the slush pile. I have NO connections (unless you count my crushes on various celebrities—LOL).
The thing is the first story I ever sent out I got requests for partials and fulls on. So I thought: “Hey, this will be a piece of cake.” Well, it wasn’t. I got rejections (back when everyone wanted them sent by snail mail). I continued to write other stories, research agents/publishers online, and try to hone my craft. The next story I sent out garnered more requests, and ultimately rejections. Same for the next three stories.
Then two years ago, I decided to do the mentor program through Romance Divas. I got paired up with Lee Bross, who helped me significantly. I learned where some of my weak points were and for three months she helped me strengthen my writing.
The story I wrote after taking part in the program really seemed to sit well with the agents. I got actual “feedback”. This helped me to pinpoint what I was doing wrong. And to get personalized rejections from agents is HUGE (and rare—LOL).
Then a critique group asked if I’d like to fill in for the summer because one of their members would be out. I agreed. Let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions I made. They were hardcore, but I learned a TON from them. At the end of the summer we parted ways, but I knew they’d taught be a lot about my writing.
This brings us to last year, when I joined YAFF (Ya Ficition Fanatics) a by-application-only critique group. Here, I got a chance to meet ten other fabulous ladies who became not only my best friends but “writing buddies” as well. These gals helped to shape my writing. Both old members and new. They provided me with great feedback as well as support and encouragement. And they were/are brutally honest. If something isn’t working, they’ll let you know. But at the same time if they love aspects of the story, they point that out too.
The point is they prepared me for this moment. They didn’t let me get lazy with my writing. Trust me, these girls let me know if they thought I wasn’t being true to a character or if I tried to give quick/easy descriptions/plot twists when I was capable of something bigger. Here’s the thing, all of this took time.
And I admit, I didn’t stick to the traditional route. In November, I decided (while working on TFGF) that I wanted my stories read. So I subbed some of my stuff out to e-pubs/small publishers. In December, I signed my first book contract with Astraea Press. I still wanted to pursue an agent, but I also knew I wanted people to read my stories. Even if I never make it big, this has always been my main goal. To share my stories with others.
At the end of March I started querying TFGF. It got requests (yay), but I tried not to get my hopes up. I sent my letters out in batches. If I got a request, I sent out another query. If I got a rejection, I sent out another query.
Then I came across a newer agent. I verified she was legit (on Preditors and Editors) and sent out a query. The best decision I’d ever made. Denise got back to me within 24 hours requesting a full MS. Then five or six hours later she emailed me again to offer rep. She included extensive notes about revisions etc. At that moment, I had other partials/fulls out so I emailed all the agents involved and let them know about the offer. And I waited (which is way harder than it sounds).
And the rest, as they say, is history.
This WASN’T an overnight thing. I spent 7 years working my tail off. I read articles on writing. I followed agent/author/publisher blogs. I joined Query Tracker and Agent Query. Whenever I had the chance, I entered contests in order to get feedback. I joined a crit group (which was one of my most instrumental choices I’ve ever made). But most importantly, I KEPT WRITING! The only way to get better is to practice.
So, if you’re in the querying trenches, hang in there. And remember, anything worth having is worth fighting for. You want to get an agent or be published? Then work hard for it.
Looking back, I’m glad it’s taken me this long to get an agent. Because let’s face it, the harder we have to work for something, the more we’ll appreciate it!