As part of a continuing series on our blog, HOW I FOUND MY AGENT, here is a guest post by Ami Allen-Vath about her querying experience and how she came to be represented by our agency. I’m so thrilled to have her as a client and am looking forward to what I know will be a very successful relationship. You can find out more about Ami at her blog: www.amiallenvath.wordpress.com. — Victoria
In March of 2013, I began querying my YA Contemporary novel. It was my first completed manuscript. My first query trench visit. Which, for me, meant every rejection, especially in the beginning, was a cause to go absolute bananas for alarm. Should I re-write my beginning, maybe tweak the ending? Or just burn it? Come on, which one? It took me a while to really get what subjectivity meant.
I started reading “How I got my Agent Stories” like nobody’s business. Looking for inspiration and well, just to know “what to expect when you’re expecting to get an agent offer.” It was the same kind of deal when I was trying to get pregnant a few years back. Reading everything I could read, looking for secret handshakes and averages and overall, hope.
Six months after my query journey began, I received an offer. From a publisher. Wait, what? I thought you’re not supposed to submit to publishers and agents simultaneously? Well, at the time, I didn’t know there was any controversy about that. But, I think as long as you’re informed about all the reasons to and not to, (please do your research) then ultimately, it’s your choice. But you should only query and submit to those you’d seriously consider if they make an offer. Don’t send your query off to someone you know you’d never say yes to.
One of the agents who already had my full manuscript was Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency. TBA was at the tippy tippy-top of my list and had been since the beginning of querying. As soon as I read an interview with Victoria on Michelle Hauck’s blog, I put her on my list of agents to research. From there, I was impressed with her experience, aspirations, and the fact that she’d been learning and working alongside the professional, personable, and incredibly successful Jenny Bent. Her wish list also seemed to be very much in line with my novel. When Victoria requested my full manuscript, I was equally nauseous and excited to get it into her hands. Also, since she specializes in digital-first, she was the very first agent I thought of when I received my publication offer. I had a strong feeling that if she were “the one,” I’d be in good hands.
Aside from the full requests already out there, my “OFFER RECEIVED” email to recently queried agents got me two more requests. My inbox oozed of congratulatory, subjectively seeming, and gracious emails, but let’s not sugarcoat it. It was rejection week. One agent said no, but “we encourage you to accept the other offer.” One said no, but with regrets and felt confident it’d be okay since I had another agent offer along with the publisher. Try telling any querying writer not to overthink those emails. I had to explain it to my husband in layman’s terms. “No dude, they’re not being jerks. It’s like a girl dates you and thinks you’re hot but kind of boring. Or she loves hanging out with you but just can’t see herself bringing you home for a lifetime of shenanigans.” Sigh. “It all has to click.”
I tried to act cool, but I was really nervous it wouldn’t click for Victoria or the other agents with my manuscript. I didn’t have one dream agent per se, but I’ll admit this: I’d previously ranked the final agents with my manuscript as number ones on my QueryTracker chart. I was feeling that whole “just an honor to be nominated” kind of thing. Yeah but still: pick me PICK MEEEE! I was honored that my manuscript was in their hands, but also panic attacky as hell. One agent bowed out at the end of the week because even if given another week, it wasn’t enough time for her to get to my manuscript. Which proves that having an offer doesn’t mean that all agents will go nuts to read your book overnight. Agents are really busy so a time crunch is also another reason to say no. (Cue: Queen’s Under Pressure).
The more I thought about my initial offer, I really, really wanted an agent to help me out on this decision. Okay, let me be honest, I needed an agent’s guidance like nobody’s business. Because, once I read over the offer and started doing more research…SURPRISE! I didn’t know anything about rights and royalties and percentages and negotiating additional book options. Turns out I didn’t feel qualified and didn’t really want to take twenty-four crash courses in publishing contracts and hire a lawyer.
There was a lot of soul searching over the week. And a lot of ice cream eating. After an agonizing weekend, Monday morning came and an email from Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency popped up on my screen. She was requesting a call. Wait? Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency? Ack! THIS WAS IT! Is this THE CALL that all querying writers dream of? Yep. I didn’t even have to read the email over a million times or send it to a friend to help me psychoanalyze. After saying she’d love to schedule a call, it literally said “(hint: I’d like to offer representation.)” And there was a smiley face! Whaaaaaat? As many times as I dreamed about seeing this email, it was a total shock. It was clean and clear, and…so positive. There was no “But I just didn’t connect” or “I’m sure another agent will see it differently.”
EEEEEEK. I squealed the news to my toddler and texted my husband at work. Then, I scheduled the call like a pro–after my son got home from school and during my daughter’s nap.
I’d like to say the call was calm and cool while I asked the twenty some questions from the list I made months ago. Not even close. The first time I called, it went right to voicemail. On the second call, I heard every third word until I asked Victoria to call me back because of a bad connection. Listening to “loved—au—erp–representation” when you’ve been dying to hear an agent offer is brutal. When we finally talked for real, my throat was tight, and my voice was all shaky like it was tenth grade again and I was talking to my crush *Jason Murphy. (*pseudo name) It went by fast and I wasn’t in the moment although I wanted to be. I couldn’t think or speak or remember any of my questions even though they were on my lap. I have a theatre background and have led numerous business meetings and client presentations for my past sales job, so I don’t know where this came from. Oh wait, I do. When ever had I been thissuperclose to the start of making the first dream I’ve ever had come true? Never. I can’t even.
Victoria said she loved my book, thought it was funny, authentic and most importantly, she wanted to rep me and my career—not just the one book. And that alone is a dream come true. I accepted Victoria’s offer the next day. Since THE CALL, I’ve had more questions answered (with a less shaky voice), a very lovely welcoming email from the head of the agency, and a phone call that had me high fiving myself afterwards for having such a thoughtful, sharp, and on it agent. The faith and work Victoria has already shown and put into my book has been amazing and humbling. I’m excited for the journey ahead and am confident that this partnership will lead to great successes.