After finishing my first young adult manuscript, like many writers, I set out to see it published. At that time, I hadn’t yet made the wise decision to join SCBWI—I didn’t even know other writers! But I’d always been goal oriented, so I started by making a list of goals for my writing career. I soon realized the only way to accomplish those lofty goals was with a literary agent on my side. The first time I fired off a query letter, I was full of hope, so sure the agent would connect with the work, offer me representation, and sell my book in a career-making deal. I know I’m not alone in beginning the query process with those feelings, and I’m also not alone in the disappointment that followed.
By my third novel, I was discouraged but still hopeful, and a few months into querying that book, I received that exciting I’d-like-to-schedule-a-phone-call email. I was literally jumping up and down, and for a long time, I regarded the day I signed with my agent as the happiest day of my writing career. Even though that agent sold one of my books, it soon became obvious that our union wasn’t working.
Writers love to discuss signing with agents, but what they don’t often talk about is when that relationship isn’t working, when that agent you’ve signed with isn’t the agent for you. In reality, most writers have more than one agent over the course of their career, and that means many of us go through the disheartening experience of saying goodbye to an agent. As I’ve watched my friends go down this road, I’ve seen many of them consider compromising their goals. There’s nothing wrong with publishing without an agent, but in my case, I had promised myself I would stick to my original plan.
In September of 2015, I jumped back into the query trenches and did a lot more research on who would be a great match for me. This time, I selected only ten agents. A couple weeks later, I had an offer of representation from a fabulous agent. At this point, I hadn’t heard back from the other agents, so I emailed everyone to let them know I had an offer. My next offer came from Melissa Sarver White at Folio Literary Management. While she wanted the most extensive revisions, her ideas strongly resonated with me and my vision for the book; I knew she was the agent for me. A few months later, Melissa sold my contemporary YA, A Map for Lost Girls, in a fabulous two-book deal she negotiated with Dial/Penguin. By staying true to my plan, and by acknowledging the fact that my first agent and I were not a good match, I’d met many of my goals. Now I couldn’t be more excited to bring A Map for Lost Girls into the world with Melissa by my side.
Jessica is also the author of Wandering Wild (Sky Pony Press).
Sixteen-year-old Tal is a Wanderer—a grifter whose life is built around the sound of wheels on the road, the customs of her camp, and the artful scams that keep her fed. Then in a sleepy Southern town, the queen of cons meets Spencer Sway—the clean-cut Socially Secured boy who ends up hustling her instead of the other way around. As her obligations to the camp begin to feel like a prison sentence, the pull to leave tradition behind has never been so strong. But the Wanderers live by signs, and all signs say that Tal and Spencer will end in heartache and disaster. Is a chance at freedom worth almost certain destruction?
Jessica adores sleepy southern settings, unrequited love, and characters who sneak out late at night. After graduating from law school, she realized she’d rather write her own stories than read dusty law books. She lives in Northern California with a sweet-yet-spoiled dog and several teetering towers of books. Visit her online at jessicataylorwrites.com or on Twitter @JessicaTaylorYA.
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.