How I Landed My Literary Agent
|George Jreije||Dec 16, 2020|
Alright friends, I’ve had my literary agent for a little while now so a post like this is a tad overdue. About (*checks watch*) eight months overdue…but hey, better late than never, right?
Now, I can assure you there will be nothing wacky about this journey. Nothing that makes you stop and say, “this kid has got it”. I’m your average writer, and I hope you see a bit of yourself in my story. After all, you can certainly get to where I am, if not farther.
It all started when, in my junior year of college, I happened upon the YA sci-fi novel Red Rising by Pierce Brown. At the time, I’d just devoured all five of the existing books in The Game of Thrones series after being an on-and-off reader. Red Rising cemented my love of science fiction and fantasy. I was struggling with a personal health issue and it reminded me the joy that storytelling could bring.
But then I finished the novel and thought, “What now?”
Well, I began to scratch my head and wonder what Pierce Brown had that I didn’t. What was the secret sauce that allowed him to be so great at crafting this story which so enamored me? Without an answer, I decided the best course of action was to attempt a novel of my own. Thus my writing journey begun at the cusp of my 20th birthday.
Immediately, I got to writing 2000 words per day, as I liked to set goals for myself and had the time. It was something that I did for fun. That I did during breaks at work or in class where I rarely paid attention on my way to a political science and business double major. Sure enough, by the end of that summer, I’d finished the novel!
…and it was garbage.
So, after hearing one of my favorite authors at the time, Brandon Sanderson, say he wrote five novels before he completing the one, I decided to write another novel. I’m not going into details about these particular early works as they were trash and not worth the time. Still, no matter what I wrote, I always learned.
A year or so passed and, by the time I hit 22 and graduated with my master’s degree, I’d written four novels in just over two years. All were Young Adult Fantasy, and it was that fourth which got me into a little mentorship program called WriteMentor. The feedback from that program was great, and I grew more as a writer in one summer than I’d done in the past two years. At that point, as a fun side project, I began a little middle grade that I so adored. And, at the conclusion of WriteMentor, I had a few requests. They got nowhere.
So, with a suitcase full of rejections, I packed my things and did what every writer must learn to do. I moved on…
On to middle grade, where I fell in love with the voice, the hope, the innocence of being goofy without worry of what others might think. The words flowing like honey (I think that’s an expression, right?), I entered my first DVpit for my middle grade about a boy and his djinn, and…well, it kicked butt! Full requests, agent questions, I’m talking the whole shawarma.
And then nothing. I saw the finish line, the agents seemed wide eyed and excited, but it didn’t materialize into an offer of representation, as is often the case. Was it heartbreaking? Kinda. So, what do you think I did?
Yup, you guessed it. I wrote a whole new middle grade, all while working full time and traveling the world. I hit El Salvador, Lebanon, and applied for another small mentoring competition while booking my Thailand trip. Turning 24 marked my fourth year as a writer, and I was as motivated as ever. My corporate day job kept me busy while I looked forward to my travels, but all the while, I continued to write 500 words a day. It remained my morning ritual for months, right after yoga. Sometimes, if I was extra motivated, it became an evening ritual too.
My best friend and I flew across the globe and began exploring Bangkok’s night markets and Phuket’s hidden beaches. We hung out with monkeys and got food poisoning, all staples of a good trip. And, while recovering from yet another Thai adventure one night, I entered my second DVpit and crushed it! More agent requests, lots more attention. People seemed interested in my newest MG.
Two of the people interested, in fact, were authors from that second small mentoring competition I mentioned. You know, Pitch Wars. And soon after DVpit, I received an extremely kind email inviting me to be a part of the Pitch Wars’ Class of 2019!
Now, my Pitch Wars experience is a whole post unto itself, so I’m going to gloss over it. Long story short, I survived. Come time for the agent showcase, I was ready to roll. I don’t recall the exact stats, but it was on the higher end of requests. That was when the agent trickiness came into play…
So, recall I did DVpit for the novel that got me into Pitch Wars? Well, for all those DVpit requests, I emailed the agents and kindly asked they hold off until the agent showcase. So, taking all those agent requests I already had, I emailed the agents who had also requested from DVpit. Of those, many became fulls and, within two weeks, I had my first offer!
The call was wonderful, the agent even more amazing. They really understood my novel and I trusted them. However, as is sometimes the case, other agents offer representation as well, and I had two more offers within a few days. Now, after that initial call, you have two weeks to make a decision out of respect for the agent, so I scrambled with the requests I had and the subsequent offers of rep. Some agents got back with rejections, a couple with conditional offers (which required me to first do revisions), and the vast majority told me they simply wouldn’t be able to read my novel within those two weeks.
The time came for a choice to be made. I was worried, after all these were wonderful options. Agents who represented BIG authors or came from amazing agencies. So, ultimately, I did what I always did and went with my gut. The agent I chose was Jennifer Azantian. What won me over, in truth, was that she shared much of the cultural upbringing I had, and knew a ton of the food references. We connected on that deeper level, and I loved her feedback.
Note, Jen did not offer during the Pitch Wars showcase. I queried her the old-fashioned way and, friends, all I shall say is that the choice was a good one. A very good one…
To make a long story even shorter (as you’ll all do while writing a synopsis if you haven’t already), this process didn’t happen over one night, or even one year. After almost five years and many novels, I’m here to say that you don’t need to be in a mentorship program, or get pitch contest requests. The key to landing your agent is the following:
Find your people: I could NOT have gotten here without critique partners
Write often: note that I didn’t say to write every day, but try to write whenever you can. The more you do, the better the result!
Stay in the game: don’t quit. Ever. You can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS!
Hopefully you found a little nugget of wisdom amidst my ramblings. And, maybe, I’ll have more good news for you all soon. Until then, keep writing and don’t be a stranger. Say hello on Twitter or through my contact form 🙂