Finding a Literary Agent
I started querying my novel in March of 2019. Sporadically, mind you. When I look back through the query history, I tended to cluster submissions together. A handful in April, one or two in May, half a dozen in June. I took breaks here and there, usually when I got a bit discouraged after another rejection and needed to just focus on something else for a little while. Granted, the rejections said kind things and let me down gently and I appreciate each and every agent who had the time to let me know they were going to pass on it and wished me luck. But sometimes breaks were needed.
I tried to tailor each query to the agent. What kind of genres did they like, who did they represent, how did they talk about their work? I followed the typical anatomy of a query letter, with a few tweaks and adjustments, hoping I could find the magical arrangement of words that would hook them into the story and leave them wanting to read more. At the end of the day, I reminded myself of how very subjective the entire process is. Literary agents are people, and above that, they are readers. They have preferences, just like anyone else.
I kept at it. I knew in my bones that I would find someone who wanted to read more after the tease enclosed in the query; who would believe in it as much as I did. I sent out 36 queries over a year and a half. 30 of them were formal rejections.
One was a yes.
She requested the full at the beginning of the summer. I had high hopes, but cautiously so, since that’s how I roll, and then I tried to forget about it while she read, which was fairly easy to do in this Year Of Our Dumpster Fire 2020.
And then she emailed me back in August. She didn’t just love the novel, she understood it. Would I be open to some revisions? The third act, it seemed, had some weak spots, and she saw opportunities to strengthen the denouement and keep the stakes raised until the finish. Hell yes I’m open to revisions. She was right; the novel started to lose steam at the top of the final third of the manuscript, and her suggestions to fix that were thoughtful and demonstrated an engagement with the story and a strong grasp of who my characters were and what this journey meant for them.
This is it, I thought. This is what I’ve been looking for in an agent.
We had a Zoom chat to discuss the revisions a few weeks later. Before she even saw them, she offered me representation.
I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t know how to act; my face froze and all the thoughts flew out of my head. All I could do was thank her and give her an emphatic yes as my chest went supernova. When we ended the call, I called my parents first. My mom knows how badly I’ve wanted this. I’ve been writing stories since I was twelve. She made a reader out of me from an exceptionally young age. We didn’t have much when I was little, before she met Dad; we lived with my grandparents and shared a room together, so there wasn’t much space or income to accumulate a whole lot, much less a ton of books. So I lived at the Bourbonnais Public Library, just a few streets down from our apartment. We visited every week, and I was never without at least 4-6 books at any given time. When I told my mom I have a literary agent, I cried.
I have a literary agent.
Her name is Devon Halliday, and she is with Transatlantic Agency. She is simply wonderful, and I can already see my novel shaping up into something beautiful. I can see the final form of this sculpture I’ve been chipping away at for three years, and it looks like something to be proud of.
It has been a long road here, and to other authors who are putting their work out there and querying endlessly: Don’t give up. And don’t be so hard on yourself. It truly is a subjective process, and you will find an audience for your work. An agent will be the first member of that audience.
I know this is but one step on the road to publication. I have no idea if or when my novel will find a home. Hell, it may not do well at all. But this was a big hurdle to jump, and I will take my victories where I can get them. I am playing it really cool in this post, but internal me is bursting at the seams with joy. It will be enough to hold that book in my hand, and know that it’s out there in the world for others to enjoy.
I can’t wait for you all to read it one day.