January 20, 2012
How I Cleared The First Major Hurdle: Getting A Literary Agent
I met Lucienne for the first time not long after I started writing. I had started a novel group since I couldn't find one close by and she happened to attend with a friend who had been coming. She came as another writer since she is also an author (check out her newest release, Fangtastic, the third book in her series about a teenage fashionista turned vampire. I haven't been able to read the last one just yet, but I have ordered it. I have read the first two already and loved them.) So originally we met as writing peers although I did know she was an agent and that she did represent YA. The thing that struck me most about Lucienne was how generous she was about sharing what she knew about the business. She gave the group lots of helpful hints and her critiques were spot on. I went home that night excited to make changes in my WIP based on her thoughts.
I thanked Lucienne for coming to our group and left an open invitation for her to return if ever she was able (she is pretty busy so I knew that making group regularly would be difficult, still I wanted her to know how much we appreciated her coming and I wanted to thank her for helping me.). She emailed me back and said she might stop by again when she could. Months went by and I began to follow Lucienne's blog which was as helpful as her comments had been in group.
Lots of time went by(almost a year). I continued writing and finally finished my first manuscript. I liked a lot of the prose, but I knew that something wasn't exactly right with it, maybe a lot of things, although I wasn't at a place where I could recognize them all yet. I got online critique partners who very generously helped pinpoint what was wrong in a way that didn't crush me. And during that time Lucienne came to group again. Once again she gave me some kind pointers on how to make my WIP better and once again her comments were spot on and helped me stretch and grow as a writer.
I took her suggestions to heart and made changes. I emailed her again to thank her and she answered. Over time, our emails turned into a regular correspondence. Eventually we even began swapping work here and there for critique. It made me nervous, critiquing an agent. I was afraid that I didn't have enough expertise, but I found that the great thing about reading her work and others and trying to figure out what to say to help them make their work even better strengthened my own work as well. I'm very grateful that Lucienne was so open to swapping because as much as I hope I helped her, she helped me ten times more. I could practically feel myself growing now.
I did query my first manuscript, but not to a lot of agents and only for a few weeks. Deep down I knew it wasn't ready, but I still wanted to at least go through the process. Around this time Lucienne asked me to join her for coffee so we could chat and exchange some work for critique. I had asked her to critique my first manuscript not long before this and when we met she told me in the nicest way possible that while she thought I had potential, this first manuscript was not ready for publication, confirming for me what I had come to realize on my own. She was very encouraging and told me most writers don't get their first work published, but that just writing it had most definitely helped me grow and then she asked if I was working on anything new. I had in fact, just started working on an idea that I was pretty excited about, one that felt more like my own idea than the first one which felt more like me trying to write what I thought might be popular. I told her about it and she was interested-so interested that she told me that when it was done, that she would like to consider it. Well I almost fell out of my chair. Then I got really, really freaked out because this meant that the idea was a good one--if it didn't work out it would be because I didn't have the chops to take it on yet. But I swallowed my nerves and got busy.
Lucienne and I continued to keep in touch, even meeting to write together sometimes. She offered to critique my new WIP several times, but I found that once I got going I wasn't ready for her to yet. I wanted her to see it when it wasn't as rough, after I'd polished it some. I was doing a lot of growing and learning and the WIP was changing so drastically from month to month that I didn't want her to take time away to read it until it was more polished and I wasn't making such big changes. This way I didn't waste her critique on something that I might've tinkered with while she was critiquing. So I used my online partners instead and then, when I'd polished my work enough (which was in late November), I sent it on to Lucienne.
I was ready to query, but since Lucienne had asked to consider it and had offered to critique it even if she didn't take it on, I knew that I wanted to wait to give it to anyone else. Lucienne had taken time out of her busy schedule for several years at this point to hang out with me and had helped me grow so much in that time, that I was one hundred percent certain that if she was at all interested in representing me, I would sign with her. Although, admittedly I was sure it was a long shot. She had just taken on another author the month before and I knew that agents usually only take on one or two new authors a year. Plus between being an author and an agent for more than forty authors total, she has to be choosy about who she takes on so she can you know, hang out with her family on occasion! I was excited to see what she thought but realistic about my chances of her asking to represent me.
Then I got an email from her saying that she had started reading and loved what I'd done so far. She promised to say more when she was done. And I freaked out and twitter stalked her over the next few hours to see if she mentioned anything about what she was reading there. She did and I freaked out some more. Fast forward to the next afternoon and she emailed me to say she wanted to talk to me about representation and that she would be happy to meet me asap, despite the fact that she was sick. I was over the moon! We met the next day and firmed things up. And I am now incredibly excited to be working with her.
Now I feel like the luckiest writer in the world because I was able to meet my agent in person and develop a relationship with her long before we started working together officially. It has made the process so much less scary. I know how wonderful she is and how hard she works as an agent. And I know that she is interested in helping to develop my career for the long haul because she took the time to help me even when there was absolutely no reason for her to do so.
And that's my story. Longest blog post ever, right?