I’m trying to avoid the clichéd ‘How I Got My Literary Agent‘ post here because, firstly, I’m still having trouble believing it, and secondly, I honestly have no idea how it happened, exactly. But I’m absolutely thrilled to say I now have a lit agent from New York City representing me, as mind bogglingly amazing as that is!
I’m still in a total state of shock, and I won’t lie, I’m also frequently spacing out into mental moments where I’m pretty much like this:
But really, can you blame me? I know I’ve done things a little backwards, since it’s much more normal for traditionally published authors to have an agent before they end up with a publishing deal, whereas I’ve somehow managed to do it in reverse order (my mother always said I was special). But regardless of that, it’s always been a dream of mine to have an agent interested in working with me. And when I say that, I mean, for years I tried to get representation for first Akarnae and then later Dreamscape. (Though, my publishers offered me a contract for Akarnae just after I’d started querying for Dreamscape, so I quit pitching really quickly when they said they were interested in both series…)
I have to admit, I actually really loved the querying process and, surprisingly, the years of rejection that came with it. (See an earlier post on rejection here). I think it really shaped me as a writer, and it made me question why I was doing what I was doing. After three years of hearing ‘no’, it would have been so easy to give up and think, “Oh, well, clearly I must suck at this.” But instead, I kept writing new work, I kept querying, and eventually I ended up with my book deal—and that was without an agent.
But then I wrote a new first-of-a-series book earlier this year, and after completing it in May, I sent it off to my publishers in early June to see what they thought. After a few months passed, I presumed they weren’t interested in it (because, believe me, it’s rather different from anything I’ve written before; sort of like Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series mixed with Maria V. Synder’s Poison Study series and Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, to give you an idea), and I decided to try my hand at pitching it to agents at the end of September.
Now, it should be noted here again that I’d queried for years with Akarnae (and for a couple of weeks/months(?) with Dreamscape) so I knew—I knew—the odds weren’t in my favour. I had a 99.999999% confidence in absolutely nothing coming of it. And I was perfectly content in knowing that, because I also had the hope that I might get some kind of constructive feedback with the rejections I was certain would come. That’s what happened with Akarnae, after all, since some of the agent-given criticism I received with that helped me re-write it into the novel that is now in bookshops all across Australia. So that’s what I was hoping for again with this new manuscript—constructive feedback on the odd occasion that the rejection wouldn’t be a form response.
Given all that, I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when, within a couple of short weeks, I had I think five full requests to see my manuscript (and I can’t remember, but I’m pretty sure I only sent off about ten queries, so I was understandably confused and wondered if I’d accidentally signed my name as J.K. Rowling instead of Lynette Noni).
A few more weeks went by and, regardless of the full requests, I was still adamant about my 99.999999% rejection likelihood. And that was because in my years of querying previously, I’d been asked for full (and partial) manuscript requests—again, for both Akarnae and Dreamscape. Sure, it was exciting to think that my query letter must have been half decent, or better yet, the story I pitched was intriguing enough for the agents to want to read more. But as far as I was concerned, any full request I received simply meant I might be given more in-depth constructive criticism when the inevitable “Thanks, but no thanks” response came back to me. And I was totally cool with that. In fact, I was actually really excited to hear about everything wrong with my story so that I could jump in to re-writing it with improvements. (I’m a bit of a weirdo, okay? As stressful as editing can be, I seriously love it because the results are usually awesome!)
The total shocker for me came when an agent from an extremely successful agency in New York got back to me and said they were interested in my manuscript and then ended up offering representation. I’m not kidding, I thought it was a prank. But then I realised that it was a legit offer and, well, this may have happened:
I was understandably stunned, amazed, and over the moon with excitement, but I also knew at that time I had three fulls still out with other agents, so despite the fact that everything in me was like, “OMIGOSH, TAKE THE OFFER!!!!” I somehow managed to calm myself enough to be professional about it and say I needed some time to consider and also check in with the other agents.
The surprises kept coming when, almost immediately, two of those agents (a second one in New York and one in California) asked for a few days so they could properly consider my manuscript and get back to me. Needless to say, I was in a state of absolute bafflement crossed with amazement. And, no joke, I actually had tears spring to my eyes when the literary assistant of the second New York agent said something along the lines of that she wasn’t surprised I was offered representation, because what she’d read of my manuscript was “really phenomenal”. I have no words for all the emotion I felt in that moment, since I think that was when it really hit me that something big was happening, something more incredible than I had ever thought possible.
So, cutting to the chase, the second NY agent read my manuscript within, like, a day (!!) and got back to me (this is the one whose assistant brought me to overwhelmed/happy tears) and she organised a Skype call with me for later that day. Well, it was later that day for me, since I received her email in the morning and we scheduled it for that night, which was really her next morning (gotta love the USA to AUS time difference).
We ended up Skyping for something like two hours and during that time she offered representation too, which both blew my mind and scared the stuffing out of me. I mean, I was so excited by the amazingness of the first offer that to be given a second offer—which meant I then had to actually choose who I wanted—was beyond incredible but also hive-inducingly terrifying. But to be honest, I knew during that Skype call that there was something just… right, about the second offer. Not just because she seemed ridiculously awesome, but also because I got the sense that she would really challenge me to be a better writer, and more than that, she would also champion me through the complicated—and at times, daunting—side of the publishing industry. It also helped that she just knew what she was talking about. Having had over twenty years in the industry, with most of that time spent as an editor (which means she’s an editorial agent, which seriously rocks), I was just filled with so much confidence as I listened to what she had to say. She was also wonderful at answering my questions, of which there were a lot. I’m like the most annoying person in the world when it comes to questions. I question everything. But not once did she seem annoyed, frustrated or impatient. She answered everything in fantastic detail, never making me feel like I was wasting her time or asking ridiculous questions. So, she definitely earned a stack of points for that!
Anyway, fast forwarding onwards, I still had to wait to hear back from the third agent and despite my inner happy dancing mixed with rocking in the corner moments, I remained calm enough to tell everyone that I would have my decision made by the end of the month, which gave me just over a week. There were a few hiccups along the way, which actually ended up with me having another massively long Skype conversation with the second agent to discuss said hiccups, something to which I have no words for how amazingly she handled that situation—and me in that situation. By that stage she’d given up hours (and hours) of her time with no guarantee that I was going to choose her in the end. I still can’t believe it, actually. Every second I expected her to say, “Jeez, you are way too high maintenance. This is so not worth the effort.” But, amazingly, she stuck with me. More than that, she told me exactly what I needed to hear—that everything would be okay.
Now, despite her comforting words, I know that may not actually end up being the case. I’m an optimist, but I’m also a realist. (Fine, I’m more of an idealist, but I still know that sometimes I have to take my head out of the clouds and see things for what they really are.) That means I know that it’s possible that things won’t all turn out okay. But in that moment when everything was really difficult, I needed to hear that it would all work out, and that’s what she told me. Kinda like when you’re a kid and your mother tells you, “Don’t worry, sweetheart. Everything will be okay.” And because she’s your mother, even if you’ve, like, just accidentally chopped your finger off, you still believe her. And that’s because you trust her and you know that even if things don’t actually turn out okay, she’ll still do whatever she can to make sure things eventually end up being as okay as they can possibly be.
It was because of all that that there ended up being absolutely no question about which agent I would choose. Which is why I am now beyond thrilled to say that everything is official with me being represented by the incredible Victoria Wells Arms of Wells Arms Literary.
I really can’t emphasise enough how wonderful Victoria has been to me over the last couple of weeks, as well as her amazing literary assistant I mentioned earlier, Brigette, who is absolutely delightful. They’ve both been so welcoming and just… well, more than I could have ever hoped for. If you follow me on any of my other social media (Instagram, Twitter or Facebook), you would have seen the flowers that they sent me last weekend, but if you missed it, they’re so beautiful that I have to share again here:
So, yes! That’s my story. Not so much a ‘How I Got My Literary Agent‘ because as I mentioned earlier, I’m still not certain how it happened, and I’m still in a state of shock about it all. But I will tell you that it’s amazing and I am so, so, soooooo excited to see where it all may lead!
On a final note, given that I did the querying thing for years, I was always fascinated by reading the dates and status updates of other authors who were offered representation, so for anyone interested, here are mine (in regards to signing on with Victoria):
Sent query letter: September 24, 2015
Full request: September 29, 2015
Nudged after first offer of representation: October 22nd, 2015
Skype chat and offer of representation from Victoria: October 23rd, 2015
Everything signed and officially confirmed: October 31st, 2015.
Call me crazy, but that’s insanely quick, right? It doesn’t feel like it since so much happened in all that time, but I literally ended up with an agent within, like, a month of sending off the query! And given my earlier mention that I went through years of rejections on previous manuscripts, you can see why I’m in a dazed state of shock, right? I think to finish this post, all I need to do is offer this last image:
Victoria (and Brigette), if you’re reading this, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. That’s also from the top of my heart. And from every other part of my heart. Just thank you! I absolutely can’t wait to see what the future holds!!!