It’s been way over a year since I’ve signed the contract with my agent, but I haven’t written the obligatory “how I got my agent” post yet because, I guess, to me this is still kind of hallowed ground. As though if I say it out loud, it might all go away. But that’s silly! He sold my book for goodness sake! It’s not going away! I guess for some reason (maybe I’m afraid he’ll find out my deepest secrets) I haven’t told the blogosphere how I came to be represented by the most excellent Uwe Stender of TriadaUS.
Well, secrets or no, here we go:
To make a long story short, my first book was a book I loved that never attracted an agent’s attention. It was a YA medical sci-fi about a girl who bleeds acid (and it still kind of rocks my socks off). I pitched it for almost a year and accumulated 2 requests for fulls and about 40 or 45 rejections.
So I wrote another book.
My second book (the book that became Yellow Bike) was a YA contemporary romance about folk music and deaf culture, set in my tiny hometown. About as different from acid blood as you can get.
After having attended a pretty awesome conference in NYC for my first book (RIP Backspace Conference), I was thrilled to find a writers’ conference here in Pittsburgh! The Pennwriters conference gave me a LOT of bang for my buck. A lot of the “extras” at the NYC conference were included in the cost of Pennwriters… including a pitch session with an agent. So although my YA contemporary wasn’t in perfect shape (great draft but only half-polished), I decided, “What the heck? What are the chances the agent will want it right away? If he wants it, I can take a couple of weeks to polish it.”
I researched all of the agents that would be in attendance and chose Uwe because of his success with Elizabeth Laban’s The Tragedy Paper, which I loved. Also, his office was located approximately 25 minutes from my house. Very nice, as I was five months pregnant with my first kid and didn’t see myself visiting NYC in the near future.
How shocked was I when I saw that my pitch session was Uwe’s VERY FIRST pitch session on the VERY FIRST day? Very shocked. I had time to attend about twenty minutes of the first seminar, “How to pitch your book in person,” which I realized I’d never actually thought about. Not joking. I guess I thought it was the same as querying, which, by the way, it’s not. During the twenty minutes I was there, I scribbled down a few one-sentence pitches then headed out the door.
After arriving RIDICULOUSLY EARLY for my pitch session (like, helping set up rooms and tables early), I stepped into the room to meet with Uwe. He smiled and shook my hand and was generally quite friendly as we sat across the table from each other and made small talk.
Finally (pleasantries can be hard for me to navigate so it seemed a lot longer than it was), he said, “So what is your book about?”
“It’s about a girl who wants a boyfriend that loves music as much as she does, but the boy she falls in love with is deaf!” I blurted out.
He smiled and said, “That’s perfect. I want to read it right now,” (or something like that).
I was not prepared for this response. In any sense of the word. “Um, it’s also about… it’s set in my hometown and she’s a diner waitress and he’s a big city rich kid and it’s told in alternating first person present.”
He smiled again. “That is perfect. I want to read it right now.”
“Um… I… I don’t have it printed out or anything.” I held up my flash drive meagerly, sweating and praying to God that he didn’t have a computer so I wouldn’t have to tell him it wasn’t perfect. NEVER PITCH UNLESS IT’S PERFECT reverberated through my skull.
His face fell. “My laptop is in my room.”
“Oh!” I was so happy, I didn’t think at all about the next words that came out of my mouth. “I can email it to you tonight if you want.” What?! Tonight?! That only gave me a few hours to fix half the novel’s spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, etc, etc….
“That’d be great,” he said. “So tell me more.”
I told him all about the story and he was so excited. He kept saying, “I hope you can write. I just hope you can write. This is a great story. I just hope you can write.”
And after a while I found myself thinking, “I hope I can write too! Oh gosh, what if I can’t write?!”
I blew off the afternoon and early evening seminars to finish polishing my book in a Panera down the road. I emailed it to him before the last event of the day.
A few weeks later, I got a text from him: “Hi Laura. I’d like to talk to you about your book. You want to meet at Starbucks?”
“Oh no, I can’t write,” I thought. But I went to meet him at Starbucks anyway.
He was great. He told me he really liked the book but he didn’t love it and he gave me specific reasons why. He said that, the way it was, I could probably find another agent if I wanted to. But if I decided to do a small rewrite with his feedback in mind, he’d like to have the first crack at it.
I liked his feedback and I agreed that it made my book stronger, so over the next few months (as I got closer and closer to having the baby), I revised the book. I did want him to have the first shot at it- I’d been really impressed with our interactions up to that point- so I sent it about a month before my due date.
Exactly one week after I had my baby, I was a physical and emotional wreck. I was lying in bed trying to sleep, per the doctor’s instructions. My phone beeped. It was a text from Uwe: “I love your book. It is sooooo romantic. I would love to represent you. Give me a call.”
I stood at the top of my stairs (stairs were a big no-no) with tears streaming down my face. “I have an agent!” I yelled down to my husband and mother and brand new baby. “An agent and a baby all in one week!”
(Blah blah blah that’s where the story should end, we all know it. But if you must know, I called him and asked him all the questions I was supposed to ask. Specifically, I’m glad I asked, “What will you do if the book doesn’t sell?” because it looked like that might be the case for a little while. I liked his answers and signed on the dotted line a week later. And boy I’m glad I did. Some day I need to write a post on how awesome he is.)