How I Got My Agent ( + My Experience in the Query Trenches )
It’s jarring to me that I get to write one of these posts. When I was querying, I would spend hours upon hours pouring over these stories, and successfully heeded every single piece of their advice—I waited patiently, worried little, with a heart constantly brimming with the hope and knowledge that soon, the little ping of my inbox would signify the beginning of my one true dream: my characters filling up a real, gloriously physical book.
I am joking.
I waited patiently. I would consistently abuse the inbox refresh button. I worried little. I was a nervous wreck in the query trenches. I legitimately got back into the habit of biting my nails. A heart constantly brimming with hope? Maybe in the first week? For some reason, as the rejections came rolling in, my insecurities about my writing evolved into something akin to panic—maybe it was because I had no idea what I was going to do with my life if this didn’t pan out! None! Nada!
This was actually my second time querying; the first had been about six months prior with another manuscript I’d written. It got a total of ONE partial request—but I am, honestly and truly, grateful for past Zoe for being brave enough to put her work out there for the first time, because she had zero idea what she was doing at the start, but a fairly good idea by the end. Because of this, when I wrote another novel that I fell in love with (much, much harder than I did the last), I knew what to expect with the query process. This book did a lot better, numbers-wise: 14 partial requests and 7 fulls (over about 6 months).
The funny thing is, I actually missed the notification for one of these full requests via QueryManager. The agent, Weronika Janczuk, was kind enough to email me personally to say she was concerned that I had not seen her request (I hadn’t), and restated that she was, in fact, interested in seeing the full manuscript—keep in mind that not all agents would take the time to resend their request!
And then, THREE DAYS after submitting the full, I got an email back. And because it was only THREE DAYS later, I squinted at the email’s subject (Gearbreakers: Requested Material), and was SO sure that it was another rejection that I left it alone for a bit to make myself a cup of tea.
Then I actually opened it, twenty-five minutes later, and oddly enough, found no rejection. Instead, Weronika wanted to know when I would be free for a call.
When would I be free for a call? When would I be free for a call? She could ring at three in the AM for all I cared!!! I could be getting open heart surgery and still pick up the phone!!! This I did not tell her. I gave her some times to choose from and The Call was scheduled for sometime in the following week.
Of course, I had also read up on ‘The Call,’ enough to know that a call wasn’t always The Call, that sometimes agents will ring for reasons other than offering representation, so I tried my hardest not to get my hopes up. But one minute after picking up the phone, Weronika said that she was, in fact, offering representation, to which all the things I’d planned to say completely slipped from my mind. I have no doubt my voice shook for the rest of our talk.
From this experience, I have become a complete advocate for cold querying (of course, being in the process felt like the whole thing was a sham)—but it really does work. You don’t need literary connections; you need to be passionate about your work, and then you need to need to charge forward. Maybe you don’t even need patience, maybe just a steel stubbornness that keeps you fighting for your characters.
( + I’ll post my query letter soon, as I know I liked looking over these as well! )