As some of you may have noticed on Twitter, I keep referring to this “exciting news” I’m going to reveal.
And the news is…
I HAVE AN AGENT!
I’ve accepted an offer of representation on JENNIFER STRANGE from Carrie Howland of Donadio and Olson.
She represents such books as:
- Night Swim by Jessica Keener
- Youth in Revolt by C. D. Payne, which is also a movie staring Michael Cera
- High as the Horses’ Bridles by Scott Chesire, which is coming out later this year with Henry Holt (MacMillain imprint)
- Sam by Koa Beck, as seen on Good Morning America and Anderson Live, is the Editor-in-Chief of Mommyish.com
- She’s even helped work with the estate and illustrations of Edward Gorey, a beautiful and macabre artist after my own heart
To find out more about Carrie, check out this awesome interview with her from Crossroads Writers Conference!
Donadio and Olson is an agency with a 40-year-old history and one you might have heard of, at least in passing, whenever you enter a bookstore. They’re best know for representing both:
Needless to say, I’m speechless. As a writer, that is an admirable feat to make me speechless. I’m grateful on levels I’m still comprehending. On receiving this news, I was so shocked, I didn’t know how to react. I seriously just stared at my screen with copious amounts of butterflies. But more on that as follows…
Without further ado, my “How I Got My Agent” story…
So, I have to take this story back. Way back to 2009, when I was first writing my YA Horror, Jennifer Strange. I was in screenwriting class, the senior thesis “Write a TV Pilot” course, with just one problem…
I didn’t watch TV shows. I watched movies. I had no idea how I was going to write a television pilot.
The teacher, Terry Curtis Fox, was a writer from Brooklyn that had worked on shows like Hill Street Blues, Stargate, and JAG. After taking his intro class, he believed in my writing so much, he recommended I skip to his course with all of his advanced writing students in the television program. I was the only English major.
The day of our pitches came and, very nervous, I said I wanted to “write a pilot about supernatural mysteries that needed to be solved by a teen boy believer and a girl skeptic.”
Terry looked at me, questioning. “Have you ever watched ‘the X Files?’”
He sent me home with a mission to watch several episodes. Needless to say, I found out why he was confused.
(Later, my last name changed to Scully when I married my husband, Michael. Irony…)
From there, I had to come up with a completely different story. After a night filled with too much Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman reading, I came up with the concept for JENNIFER STRANGE.
The semester came and went. I graduated with a 60 page pilot and a notion that this story needed to be out in the world. I was sure it was my mission to tell it.
Flash forward to fall 2011.
I was at my first writing conference, tapping my heel in an attempt to calm my nerves. I was waiting my turn to do my very first pitch. In person. With the agent that repp’d work that was so similar to my story, I was sure it was meant to be.
After a lovely chat, she provided me with notes that required I change the entirety of my manuscript because I wrote in dual POV with an adult and a teen. She inquired if I would be willing to rewrite it from the perspective of two teens. That sounded like a fantastic idea to me, and thus, my bad-boy Marcus’s point of view was born. I can’t imagine the story without him now.
I resolved to spend the next year researching as much horror as possible before rewriting.
Flash forward to summer 2012.
I had just given birth to my son, which was a very difficult because of my enormous fear of birth. Afterwards, I felt amazing. Like I could do anything. I spent the next several weeks on maternity leave with my son, sure I needed to stop being afraid of rewriting and querying.
Despite my husband losing his job while I was on maternity leave, I decided to go for it.
Using Camp Nanowrimo in August, with the help of my husband and patience of my tiny son, I rewrote the entirety of JENNIFER STRANGE. By the end of September and after some revisions, I began querying. I was determined to succeed, even though many blogs I read advised on waiting several months before querying. I felt I had been through my book three times over the course of four years. It was time.
I set out to rediscover Twitter, where I found the best help I could have asked for. Here, I found CPs, blogs, agents, and editors – all with the determination to educate and inform each other of the rather laboring process of publishing. I wouldn’t have been the same without every damn one of these folks, writers and agents alike. I firmly believe in the power of twitter to help you get published.
From there, I participated in contest after contest. I got rejections, but pressed on.
From all the contests, revisions to my query and first page, my day job as a Brand Manager, plus my tiny son keeping me up all hours of the night, I was EXHAUSTED.
One day, in September, while googling writers conferences to attend, I stumbled on Crossroads Writers Conference in Macon. I looked at the price tag. With one job between my husband and I, I knew that there was no way I could afford to go.
Then, by happenstance, I stumbled on something amazing. A scholarship. On a whim, I applied.
A week later, I got news there wasn’t enough money for all the applicants to go. They would have to pick the top cases of need applicants. I was sure there was someone more needy than me, so I resolved that I wouldn’t be picked.
The next day I got the email from Chris Horne saying I was chosen! I was floored! I was so humbled and grateful that people would donate hard-earned money to me so I could go… I was in tears.
I resolved to make the people that donated proud by doing my absolute best to make this conference one for the ages. I made my business cards and woke up at 4 am to drive down from north Atlanta to Macon.
I had no idea that this twist of luck would lead me to meeting my agent.
Once there, I tried to attend every panel I thought would be helpful to my goal of traditional publishing. I was completely dead-set on attending all the publishing panels in the afternoon. It was a blast! I got to meet Meaghan (my critique partner and Twitter friend from Savannah), Chuck Wendig (in the flesh!), and fulfill a five-year-long Nanowrimo dream of meeting Chris Baty. I was so pleased to get to thank him for helping me with finishing JENNIFER STRANGE that year. I was over the moon.
That afternoon, I walked upstairs and saw walking behind me a woman with long black hair, black heels, and a cute dress in a style I’d actually been going gaga for whenever I saw it online. She was rolling a small case behind her. I was surprised when I saw her come into this crowded room behind me and sat in the front with the rest of the panelists. This was Carrie.
I listened to the panel, noting most of the later questions were geared toward the self-publishing or querying editor market. I watched Carrie listen and answer fewer questions than the Editor or the self-published author. I wasn’t sure why everyone was so fascinated with self-pub and resolved to talk to Carrie or ask a question. During that first panel, we ran out of time for me to raise my hand. On my way out, I saw a few people approach afterwards and ask Carrie questions.
“Good,” I thought. “I’m sure she flew a long way to get here. At least someone is asking her questions.” I headed to the next panel.
At the next one, luckily, there was a speaker that was guiding the questions between all three, so Carrie got a chance to speak. I heard her talk about the AAR and how the first draft is rarely the one that is chosen by an agent. She told the story of how Chuck Palahniuk didn’t sell his first book, but his second Fight Club. I was completely impressed by her manner of speaking, passion, knowledge, and familiarity with everything in publishing.
During the panel, I quickly looked up what she was looking for. I tried several sites and the only information they returned was that she took “YA,” but not what kind. I decided I would talk to her at least to see if she took horror.
I walked up to her and she told me she loved my black biker jacket that I was wearing. I blushed at the compliment. I asked her what she liked in YA, and she did indeed take horror. We exchanged business cards and parted ways so I could drive back to my home the same day.
I went home and queried her. I thought it best to follow up to make sure she received my submission and she hadn’t! It had somehow winded up in her SPAM box! I was so nervous when she replied with “I remember you telling me about your book and I’d love to read it. Would you mind emailing it to me as an attachment? Thanks so much; looking forward to reading!”
I was confused.
So far, I had never had an agent go straight to full, though several agents had my full book. Thinking she only wanted to see a portion first like the rest, I asked “I originally sent my synopsis and first three chapters – would you like to see the three chapter portion or the full manuscript? Please let me know and I’d be happy to send either.”
She responded with “Do send the full manuscript and I’ll send it right on to my kindle.”
I was in shock.
After hearing her talk and knowing her agency repp’d Fight Club, I was sure that my query was a shot in the dark. I was so nervous I didn’t email back right away. I rushed home after work and went back through my book one more time. Bad, I know, but I was so nervous! I sent it the next day and waited.
During the next several weeks, we’d occasionally talk on Twitter. Mostly about horror movies and animal rescue (she actually runs an animal rescue for dogs, while I was part of a rabbit rescue society). It was then I learned how much of horror and American Horror Story fan she was, like myself. We talked almost weekly about each new episode. I was beginning to wonder if my work might just be a fit for her.
By January, I was wrapping up several RRs with a few agents that I was working closely with to fix the book from first to third person. I checked my email history and, with the helpful advice of my CPs, decided to nudge Carrie and ask if she had a chance to read it. I knew she worked office hours, was busy and might not respond right away.
She wrote me the next morning asking if was open to revisions. Having the attitude of someone who is always open to revisions and new ideas, I said “of course!”
She shared with me her initial thoughts, all of which were fantastic. I felt like she got what I was going for, both with my initial book and my third person revision.
She asked me if I’d like to chat. My heart stopped.
Chat? As in, THE CALL, chat?
I wasn’t sure. From her wording, it could be an RR or an offer. My heart told me offer. We picked a time and decided to talk.
At first, we talked revisions. How comfortable I was with the ideas, how to proceed, ect. I felt on board with everything. She kept referring to what her process was with “her other clients” and I was confused, but also thrilled. Did she mean I was one of them? The more we talked about revisions, I wondered.
Then she asked how my submissions were going, inquiring after my RRs. Then, I knew. This was an offer! AN ACTUAL OFFER!
And it was. She offered me representation.
I was floored. I had no idea what to say. I was so ecstatic, all I could manage was a “Thank you! I’m beyond excited!”
I let the other agents with the RR know of my offer and debated. I talked with them on the phone and thus proceeded the hardest week I’ve ever experienced. Both other agents were lovely and a fantastic fit for my book. It was a hard call. I spent several days asking questions of all three offers before deciding.
In the end, I knew it was Carrie. I felt like she was a match in both my writing style, goals, and a perfect match for my “never say die workaholic” writing style.
Most of my CPs and friends know this about me. I’m a workaholic. I never rest. I never give up.
I know this is said a lot in the world of blogs, queries, agents, editors, and publishing… but it’s the truth. The damn truth.
No one can tell you this. You just have to know it:
Never Ever Ever Give Up.
So there is the end of my tale. As seems to be customary, I’m including querying stats below:
- Time queried: 5 months
- Contests: 10
- Requests for Partial: 6
- Requests for Full: 3
- Rejections: 14
- Revise and Resubmit on Full: 3
- Offers: 3