HOW I GOT MY AGENT
It’s been a few weeks since I signed with my Dream Agent and I’ve sat down to write this a couple dozen times. I’ve waited so long, read hundreds of these posts, and I hoped this one would capture everything I wanted to say. Looking back on all the many, many, many How I Got My Agent posts I’ve binge-read, I think my favorite ones were the honest ones. So, sitting down to write this again, I’m just going to do that; be honest.
(Side note: I’m including my query stats at the bottom - I know some people like to scroll to that so, of course, feel free to do so! I’ll mark them in bold for you <3)
My journey to this moment started with a deal made over the kitchen table at twelve years old (so about 6.5 years ago).
Prior to this, I learned about agents at eleven, and I’d been writing picture books and short stories and research projects for as long as I can remember, reading every book I could get my hands on. I had a rip-off-Percy-Jackson I called my first book to my name (no one’s eyes should ever be subjected to it). I remember I got up and did this happy dance every time I hit a new 10,000 word point.
There were a lot of 20,000 word docs and it wasn’t until this conversation that I really got serious. I was sitting with my mum (check out her amazing rom com here). She’d been to writing conferences before, pitched her books to literary professionals. Completely introverted eighteen-year-old me doesn’t know where twelve-year-old Kalie’s confidence went, but I wanted to go with my mum to a conference. So my mum told me that if I wrote a book (ie not semi-glorified fanfic of Rick Riordan) I could come to one with her.
I brought out a notebook (I still have it) and I spent months writing in it. I filled 152 pages and typed it up. It was 51,000 words, a middle-grade fantasy, and the longest thing I’d written to date. My mum’s CP read it and true to her word, always, (I love you, Mum), my mum took me to the 2015 SIWC Conference with her.
A starry-eyed twelve-year-old with my notebook clutched under my arm, I got to go to workshops, talk to authors, and even sit down and pitch my book to a lovely agent. I got my first partial request at that conference. I did not shut up the entire ride home despite telling my mum at the end of the ride I was speechless to which she burst out laughing and said I most definitely was not.
Later that night, the agent tweeted about my pitch (I wasn’t on Twitter at the time, so my mum excitedly showed me). That was the first time I felt like I had a place in the writing world and didn’t have to wait until I was “older” like I’d often be told by those outside my core support group.
I sent off that one query to this agent. 11 weeks later, a couple weeks after my thirteenth birthday, I had my first rejection. The agent was sweet and supportive, praising my voice and that I finished a book and pitched it to her.
From there, I kept writing. A lot. I wrote more half-books and then a new idea came. I’m an underwriter and drafted this book (another MG fantasy) at 29,000 words. With some editing and expanding, though, I ended up with a 60k word finished manuscript.
My first ever cold querying attempt was with this book at fourteen-years-old. I sent off my first batch July 8, 2017. Four days later, I got another partial request from one of my favorite agents. I screamed so much I scared my dad who was working in our garage. She asked for 50 pages, and that summer became quickly encompassed by the excitement of her reading.
Everyone else passed, but I loved this agent and ten days later, she told me she wanted the full. It was my first full request, and I eagerly sent it off. Every morning I checked my email, until the day a reply came… and it was a kind, encouraging full rejection.
So, I revised this book, fixed it up, and in early 2018 at fifteen-years-old I heard about a mentorship program from my mum’s wonderful CP (the same one who read that first MG book). It was called TeenPit and was solely for young writers to have two week guidance from experienced mentors. I applied, I met my first CP ever during the waiting period, and I found out during Spring Break that year I’d been chosen to work with Rosiee Thor and K. Kazul Wolf!
For two wonderful weeks, I worked with them. At the end of this time, they submitted my material to the TeenPit showcase (not an agent showcase but instead a group of author judges who placed the entries), and I came second place!
I queried again, but after a few months with two requests that were both rejected, I shelved this book. I wrote another book at fifteen, went to another conference alongside my mum (I wasn’t an attendee this time but I stayed with her and my dad and my sister in the hotel where it was taking place). Every time I went into the lobby, it was crowded with authors and editors and agents, so pretty much the only crowd I’d find a daydream instead of a nightmare.
And that agent who was my first full? I got to meet her. One of the highlights of my life was her letting me help her set up for the workshop and telling me I could stay to watch. I told her about a new book I was working on, a MG space opera, and she said her door’s always open.
Months later, I saved up and found myself back at SIWC with my mum, the 2018 conference. This time, I pitched to a HarperTeen editor who requested the full and said I had a great pitch. I was ecstatic and emailed the agent I’d met to ask if she’d be interested in seeing it. She said to send it along and I did!
This was the closest I’d come to date. The agent read it twice before passing and the editor sent me a lovely rejection. I did PitMad and got one request that quickly became a rejection. Then I shelved it.
I almost sent more queries but I lost my focus for a while. In tenth grade, still fifteen, Life got in the way. I got into a toxic relationship and I was really, really sick. Three months of illness were bridged by fighting to maintain my GPA and experimenting with something new. My first ever contemporary.
Three things happened next: I got my heart broken, I got better, and I learned about Author Mentor Match.
Entering Author Mentor Match Round 6 was hands down the best decision I ever made. Weeks of waiting went by. I started something new but just didn’t love it the same way. I checked Twitter nonstop. I was on a family vacation for my mum to go to a mystery writer conference. We’d met with one of her friends for lunch, and she offered to check the results for me because I’d left my phone at the hotel. I yelled NO (sorry Mum!) because I wanted to keep hoping a little longer. When I got back to the hotel room I had this feeling. I opened Twitter and had eleven notifications. I clicked to see, and I was in.
AMM gave me something I’d never had before. A community. Built-in CPs, friends who were there for the highs and lows, people in my corner through the trenches and beyond. I met so many people who took me in, taught me so much, and kept me going. I exchanged books, did three complete overhauls of my AMM manuscript, and January 1 of 2020, I began to query it.
The world quickly shut down with COVID, rejections and requests alike poured in, I had one so, so close. And then I shelved it. Honest part? I couldn’t write for six months. I felt like I’d put everything I had into my AMM book. My heart and soul and a lot of pain that’d gone into drafting it. One of the agents who’d had my full and ultimately rejected, though, asked me to apply for a mentorship program. I had a couple half drafts but didn’t love them, and I had this 3,000 word document of a book that was calling me. But in order to apply I had to draft 20,000 words in five days. I did pretty much nothing else. In between the online schooling of COVID-19, I drafted and drafted and drafted until I had enough to apply. I sent it to some readers, my AMM mentor read over all my material and helped me make it so much better, and I ended up doing a rewrite right before sending, turning it in with 2 minutes to spare.
I waited, waited, waited. And I didn’t get in.
This was a real low for me, the closest I’d ever been. The agent said she’d be happy to see the full when it was finished but felt it was too polished to benefit from mentorship. So, I finished it. My first CP read my 98,000 word monster first draft and sent me the best edit letter ever. So, I did a complete overhaul and in October of 2020 I began querying a new book and shelved my AMM book for real.
I only sent 5 queries for that first round. One of them was to my now-agent who I’d had a full with for my Author Mentor Match book and had sent me the kindest, most supportive rejection I’d ever received. She’d skyrocketed to the top of my Pipe Dream Agents list, and so I tried her again. At the end of the weekend, I woke up to a full request from her.
And something happened with this book, what I now call Queer Mamma Mia Book. It got request after request after request. I sent more and for those first few months had an 80% request rate.
I got a lot of supportive: this is it, you’re so close, any day now. I did PitMad with this manuscript and… it blew up:
Something in me felt like this is it this is it this is it.
And then 2021 hit.
I know 2020 was a nightmare year for all but the first 5 months of 2021 was the worst time of my life. I was hospitalized in January, couldn’t walk, and was teaching myself Calculus between IV therapy appointments and couch rest. I didn’t write a word in January.
Weeks passed, I got better again, and I got six almost-offers. One saying I’d be the one that got away but it wasn’t enough. Alongside that?
I got an email I’d always, always dreamed of. Since I was eleven-years-old and first learned what the term literary agent meant. One asking for a phone call. From my Dream Agent. She saw something in my story, and even though she wasn’t ready to offer rep she said she wanted to talk notes and vision for an R&R.
I walked around in a daze all day, counted down to the call. It couldn’t be happening. But it did.
I have really intense social anxiety. Talking on the phone makes me sick. But the second I got on the call with this agent her voice put me at ease and made me feel safe. Her words made me feel seen, like my story mattered, like I had something to say. She was lovely and funny and her notes were brilliant. I couldn’t wait to dive in. And I knew she was The One. All I had to do was get this revision right.
I worked for four months, stopped querying, got really in my head about whether I had it in me to do this. My writing group kept me sane. My AMM friends supported me.
And I finished. I finished my revision.
The fear hit hard. Was it enough? The thing about R&Rs, as incredibly wonderful as they are, is it’s like you’re this close. And from here it either happens or it doesn’t. It’s a terrifying feeling. But I was so lucky to have one with an agent who believed in me and kept open contact, who was there along the way.
The week I was preparing to send out, I did PitMad one last time. I convinced myself I was a one hit wonder. But I woke up in the morning and it’d blown up again. Even bigger than the first time. People saw something in this book.
The day after, that Friday, I sent to the R&R agent. I told her about PitMad and the agent and editor interest. I sent around dinner PST, but around 9pm where she was. My nerves were high and I decided to research and send off the rest of my PitMad requests the next morning, so excited to get back into the trenches for what I so hoped would be the final time.
At midnight EST I got an email. The R&R agent was 50 pages into my revision and said she couldn’t put it down. I was shaking with excitement. I went to bed, not trusting myself to professionally reply when my brain was screaming emojis and keyboard slams. My mum and I sat down and talked. Everyone thought this was it. But the amount of close calls I’d had, I wasn’t so sure.
Still, my mum asked me to wait until Monday to send PitMad queries. She knew that this R&R agent was everything I wanted, my #1 Dream Agent and the person who got me and my story. Still not believing it would actually happen, I listened. That weekend I made myself sick with nerves and distracted myself the best I could.
Monday morning came. I woke up and my email was empty. I was ridiculously tired (I’d woken up way too early) so I grabbed my puppy (AKA the absolute love of my life), cuddled up with her, and fell back asleep for another hour.
I woke up again, ready to get started, to research PitMad queries and get myself on track.
There was an email from the R&R agent in my inbox. This was… it. This email would decide everything.
I opened it.
She wanted to discuss representation.
I pretty much instantly called one of my best friends and I read her the email. I started sobbing after the first line. After which she asked me to send her what it said because she didn’t understand a word I said. I updated the rest of my favorite people and best friends and my mum in a screaming phone call.
The Call was the next day.
The Call happened and… it was perfect. She was perfect. We video chatted this time and she answered every question I asked, brought the most insightful notes, and loved my book. She made me feel at ease again, and I just knew she was all I wanted. When she found out the speed at which things happened with this revision, and she said I could send out more since she was the only one who read it.
People say it only takes one for a reason. She was the one. I said I only wanted her, and we signed that day. I made an incredibly goofy video half-crying as I posted my announcement and that was it. I was agented. By my Dream Agent.
I truly never believed it would. And this is to the writers who have been querying years and years, lived and breathed drafts and the trenches, convinced themselves it’s not possible for them and they’ll forever watch it happening around them but never to themselves.
If you keep going, keep writing, you’ll find your person. You will. You are talented and your perseverance speaks in as great a volume as your words. I believe in you.
Today, I’m thrilled to write again that I am now represented by the incomparable Alex Rice of Creative Artists Agency. I couldn’t have possibly found a better advocate for me and my work.
NOW THE STATS I PROMISED:
Queried Book 1
Queries Sent: 1
Query Rejections: 0
Partial Requests: 1
Full Requests: 0
Offer of Rep: 0
Queried Book 2:
Queries Sent: 30
Query Rejections: 29
Partial Requests: 1
Full Requests: 1
Offer of Rep: 0
Queried Book 3 (Rewrite of Book 2):
Queries Sent: 20
Query Rejections: 18
Partial Requests: 1
Full Requests: 1
Offer of Rep: 0
Queried Book 4
Queries Sent: 3
Query Rejections: 1
Partial Requests: 0
Full Requests: 2
Offer of Rep: 0
Queried Book 5 (AMM Book)
Queries Sent: 84
Query Rejections: 61
Partial Requests: 5
Full Requests: 18
Offer of Rep: 0
Queried Book 6 (Mamma Mia Book)
Queries Sent: 40
Partial Requests: 1
Full Requests: 15
Offer of Rep: 1
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