From Book Idea to Agent! Crazy how fast time flies!

From Book Idea to Agent…
Many people lately have been asking about this process, so I thought I’d repost…  Enjoy!

Many people have been asking about how I got my agent, and this post is for them.  Although I could simply talk about the querying process, I wanted to go back a little bit further and write about the process from the novel idea (no pun intended!) to the agent.   
 
The short version:  For me, it took plotting and completing a manuscript, revising that manuscript, joining a professional writing organization (SCBWI), researching the heck out of agencies, writing a kick-arse query (actually, after reading my agent’s pitch to editors, I see that I could have made my query even better), getting rejections, revising, swallowing pride and a lot of crossing of the fingers.   

The long version:   

June/July 2011: Sitting in traffic waiting for the light to turn green and wondering what day of the week it is (I am a teacher, and tend to lose track of the days over the summer).  Idea for middle-grade novel pops in my head.  Speed…ehr…drive the speed limit home and begin plotting on laptop.  I let the plot sit for a while and continue noting ideas for the next month.   

August 2011: Write the first and rough version of Poppy (not giving away full title yet).  It is in August that I also join SCBWI and notice that the eastern PA chapter is having a first pages critique session set for the second week of September.  I then make sure my first five pages and synopsis are ready to go because I would be meeting with an agent, editor and author at the conference.  

September 2011: Polish those first five pages and synopsis and then send off to the SCBWI Critique Fest organizers.  Four days before the Critique Fest there is a major flood in Harrisburg (REALLY MAJOR!!!) In fact, so major that my brother and his wife’s house had to be completely renovated.  Did I mention it was 9 days before their wedding?!).  I decide that I will not be attending the Critique fest because of the floods.  After conversations with my hubby and friend Martha about the road conditions, I decide to attend the conference.  SOOO glad that I did.   

Critique Fest, September 9 and 10: Extremely nervous about the critiques.  Not sure if I am as talented of a writer as I think that I am.  Although I wrote a YA manuscript a few years ago (in proverbial writer’s drawer) and write for a variety of magazines, this is my first MG manuscript.  What if the agent/editor/author tears Poppy apart?  Will I ever write again?  (Okay..being a little melodramatic.) First critique is with author.  She says that POPPY was one of her favorite first 5 pages and wishes me tons of luck.  I happy dance a bit.  Editor likes the commercial concept and feels the writing is strong.  Happy dance 2.  Agent really likes Poppy and asks me to submit the whole manuscript.  Humungo happy dance!  I also meet some amazingly talented writers (two of whom I keep in contact with- hi Chrissa and Bernadette- at the conference!  So glad I decided to go because the kind remarks of everyone reinvigorated confidence in my writing.  

October and November 2011: Finish revising manuscript and send it to agent who requested it and three other agents who attended the SCBWI critique fest.  Research tons of agents.  Send out my first batch of queries to my top agencies (My now-agency happened to be one of them).  Responses trickle in.  Some flat out form rejections right off the bat.  0 partials.  4-5 full requests.  Happy dancing all over the place!  I send fulls.  Responses to fulls trickle in.  All reject the manuscript.  Not so happy dance.  However, a few are helpful and ask me to resubmit if I choose to revise.  My now-agent being one of them!   

December 2011: I choose to revise.  And this was a huge and career-altering decision.  After reading the feedback from agents, there were a few obvious weaknesses in my manuscript.  I address them, the largest being the tense.  I take the advice of agents and change the entire manuscript from present tense to past tense.  Although it is a huge undertaking…what a difference it makes!!!  Piece of advice:  if you are in agreement with changes suggested-especially if coming from multiple sources- take the advice of agents…they know what they’re talking about!!!   
January 2012: Complete the revisions over my school’s Christmas break.  Send off a few queries and send the revised manuscript to the agents who asked to see it if I chose to revise.  Get an email from (my)agent three days after sending revised manuscript asking what other ideas, manuscripts, etc. I have.  Send ideas.  Hear back in a week, and she wants to speak over the phone!  I am jump up and down!!!  She calls and we talk.  She not only sounds like an awesome person and amazing agent, but someone who I would be honored to be represented by!  We chat for a while and then…she offers me representation!  SQUEEE!!!  BUT… I have to let her know that I will get back to her.  I knew we completely clicked, and I loved and agreed with everything she had to say about Poppy, but I had to let the other agents who had my manuscript know that I was offered rep.   

January 30- two days after call: Say YES!  Sign my agency agreement.  Officially represented by Quinlan Lee at Adams Literary!!!  Hubby takes me to dinner to celebrate!   

Next Step: Wait to hear from editors.
 
Thanks for reading!
 
🙂  Jennie K. Brown

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