How I Signed With My Agent: Third Time Isn’t Always the Charm
When I first queried, finding an agent seemed as impossible as catching a unicorn. I queried about 100 agents, ended up with zero requests, and cried countless tears. Thankfully, I knew my writing could be better. So I tried again.
The second book I queried garnered around twelve requests. After not having received any interest in the first book, I thought this was it! I believed I’d get an agent and a book deal for sure.
Instead I received detailed rejections, along with an offer to revise and resubmit. I was tempted to take this R&R offer, but the amount of work it would require was almost equivalent to writing a new book. So, I wrote another novel.
When I queried this third manuscript my request ratio was fifty percent. This had to be it! Sadly, every agent who requested quickly passed. Something was still wrong.
Then a writing contest called Pitch Wars happened. I was chosen by a mentor, she helped me see exactly what was wrong with my work, and finally I signed with an agent.
Sadly, although my writing had finally gained the attention of an agent, my story still wasn’t strong enough for a publisher. So, I spent a year doing everything I could to improve my craft. I read every book, attended conferences and book signings, and when I wrote I poured everything I had into each sentence.
On the last day of December 2014 I finished writing my sixth book, CARAVAL (for those of you keeping track, I wrote two books which I didn’t query). Then, a week later my agent informed me she was leaving the business.
It was a crushing time. I’m pretty sure most people thought I was delusional by then. But I was determined to give querying one final shot. Only this time, my mentality was that I didn’t just want an agent, I wanted to query a book that was good enough to sell to an editor. So, I rewrote my query about 100 times (yes, really, I did), I had multiple people critique my manuscript, and I sent my first fifty pages to a freelance editor, just to make sure I was doing everything I could.
My request ratio was over fifty percent this time. But although people were requesting no one seemed to be reading. I won’t share how long I waited—I think it feels like forever, no matter how long the wait. Then, after an imaginary eternity, an email asking for a phone call came. An agent had read my book, loved it and wanted to represent it. I was thrilled, so I could hardly believe it when a second agent offered, followed by a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, a seventh and an eighth.
My current agent, Jenny Bent, was among the agents who offered. I’d heard her speak at an SCBWI conference years before. At the time she was way out of my league; she was the unicorn I never thought I could catch. But I now believe catching unicorns isn’t as impossible as I’d once thought, it just requires more work than I realized.
When Stephanie Garber is not writing young adult fantasy, she teaches creative writing at a private college in northern California. She’s also a blogger on Pub(lishing) Crawl. Her debut novel, CARAVAL, will be published by Flatiron Books/Macmillan (US) and Hodder & Stoughton (UK) January 2017. CARAVAL has sold in twenty-five different territories and the movie rights were pre-empted by Twentieth Century Fox. Find more about her at stephaniegarberauthor.com
An original world. A legendary competition. A mesmerizing romance. An unbreakable bond between two sisters.
Welcome to Caraval—the first book in a spell-casting fantasy series that’s perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series and The Night Circus.
Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .
If you have an agent and would like to share how all that wonderfulness happened, please send your story (300-600 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org.