One of my 2011 goals was to get an agent. Now this isn’t something I can actually control, but I can control my query and submission activity. Being a Golden Heart finalist seems to give a writer a leg up on agents requesting manuscripts. At a panel discussion, Laura Bradford likened Golden Heart finalists to chum and the agents were the sharks circling round us. They wanted to make sure the big one didn’t get away.
Unfortunately, Savannah Sighs, the manuscript that finaled in the 2011 Golden Heart, was in need of deep revisions. Between vacation and tax returns, I didn’t finish those revisions until May. When it was finally in shape to query, I began scouring agents that represented both category romance and single title. Then I started querying.
I had pitched to one of my dream agents at WisRWA and she suggested I send ten pages to her partner and copy her on the email. To my surprise, the agent requested the first fifty pages within the hour. (On a Saturday evening.) On Monday morning, I had my first phone call rejection with suggestions on how to revise the manuscript and a willingness to see to the revisions.
I was stoked. By this time, I had a couple of different manuscripts out to editors. It feels good when an editor requests your work after seeing it in a contest.
To my delight, an agent requested a full manuscript from one of my first queries. She also requested a one week excusive. The exclusive request was a first for me, but since no one had the manuscript at the time, I agreed. The week came and went with no additional contact from the agent. With no rejection or additional correspondence, I assumed she just didn’t fall in love with the story. (Sometimes I wonder who the first agent was that put that in a rejection letter. Did they know that other agent would use the phrase?)
I quickly submitted more queries, hoping to get a few more requests before RWA at the end of June. But by allowing the one week exclusive, I knew the agents would also be getting ready for the national convention. I could only hope that they would be checking email periodically during their week in NYC.
A chapter mate convinced me to come to the Harlequin Pajama party on Wednesday night. I dined with the Starcatchers, the 2011 Golden Heart finalists, and then caught up with the lovely author, Cat Schield and her roommate, December Gephart. (I refused to put on PJs, thank goodness.) Low and behold, the agent who requested the exclusive was standing near the bar. I quickly introduced myself, hoping I hadn’t had too much wine.
The agent actually looked pleased to see me and said she had planned to find me during the Golden Heart Award ceremony. We started talking, finally moving out to the hall to be able to be heard. I am so glad I had practiced pitches for all of my completed manuscripts, because we talked about them all. She requested blurbs and where each manuscript had been and my excitement grew. She talked about possible issues with the manuscript, and I loved everything she was saying about my writing and my career. When she said she wanted to send me a contract after the conference was over, I was ecstatic. I had just received my first offer of representation. Only one comment made me uneasy. She said she assumed there were all sorts of agents snapping at my heels and she would be cheering for me for the award ceremony.
I danced back into the room, the agent’s business card in hand. Cat insisted on taking a picture of the agent and I. I ran upstairs and called my family and then went looking for more chaptermates. I now had a dilemma. I had an agent appointment on Thursday. What should I do?
I decided to keep the agent appointment and received a full request. Then on Friday I had an Editor appointment with the lovely Victoria Curran of Harlequin. There’s where I made my first mistake. I did not pitch my Golden Heart book, but talked with Victoria about the premise to make sure it would fit the SuperRomance line and talked about another book that she had requested a partial through a contest.
Even though I didn’t win my category, I received another agent request in the bar. I’m so glad I was having a drink that night, even though the place was packed.
On my flight home Saturday, I prepped my query letters to the agents who had requested fulls. MyI emailed all the requests and an additional one that had come in during the week and then headed to the lake for a much needed break. My thought was that when I received the contract, I would contact any agent who had my material and see if they were interested.
It took me a few more days, and then I sent off the blurbs and a recap to the agent who’d offered representation at the conference. I also sent a note to one of my chaptermates who was represented by her and who loves her. Then I waited. And waited.
Mid-July I finally heard from the agent. Instead of a contract, she sent me an email saying she had finally finished Savannah Sighs, (she hadn’t read the full manuscript before offering to send me a contract?) and that the premise kept her from falling in love with the story. I felt like my legs had been knocked out from under me. Although she offered to talk, she hasn’t returned my last phone call.
When I finally licked my wounds enough to be able to tell people, I also asked both the 2010 and 2011 Golden Heart finalists if they had ever heard of this happening before. Apparently I am unique. And this time it doesn’t feel wonderful.
So I am back on the hunt for an agent. I have had some positive rejections (boy is that the perfect writer oxymoron?) on Savannah Sighs and I have started revising based on the comments of the agent who actually called and rejected me.
Wish me luck for an agent in 2012!