How I Got My Agent

It all started more than 5 years ago when I told Mr. Right: “I want to quit my day job and write books.”

Okay, okay, I’ll fast forward to my thrilling news. You guys! This is the big one!

I HAVE AN AGENT!

Meet literary agent Carrie Howland of Donadio & Olson. Yes, her name is Carrie. She lives in New York City. Isn’t she pretty? And smart-looking? Don’t you just want to jump up and down and dance around like crazy with me??

Wait … an agent? Is that like getting a book published?

No, not yet, but it is a huge step toward that goal.

Most big publishing houses only accept book submissions from authors who have an agent. Carrie will help me polish my manuscript and send it out to editors on my behalf. And because she’s an agent, the editors will actually read my submission, instead of throwing it in the trash.

I should mention that not all agents are equal. Carrie won’t get paid unless I do. A literary agent should never expect you to pay them before they sell your book (and if they do, RUN). Carrie is the real deal.

Now, the long version of this story.

I was 9 years old when I knew I wanted to be a writer. The books I wrote throughout my childhood were therapeutic and helped me understand a little more about the world. As a teen, I queried my work to a number of publishers, but was met with form rejections. They were actually mailed on paper back then.

I grew up. I moved out of my parents’ house and got a “real job” and did something I really regret: I stopped writing stories for a while.

Sometimes our dreams have an awkward way of reminding us they exist. Newly married with two step-kids, a full-time job in the newspaper industry and a very busy household, I couldn’t stop thinking about the work I really wanted to do. I wanted my stories back. I wanted to slow down and try. I really did tell Mr. Right: “I want to quit my day job and write books.”

In the 2 years that followed, we paid off $42,000 in debt, started a savings, and I started to write.

In 2010, I completed The Channels, a YA paranormal mystery, during NaNoWriMo,

Turns out, writing a novel in a month without an outline will result in a rather painful revision process. I revised and revised and sweat and crumpled paper until I thought it was ready for submissions. In September 2012, I officially sent The Channels into the world.

While I waited for agents to beat down my door, I jumped right into a new project. This time, I had a plan and outline in place. Sadly, rejections for my first book began to roll in, but I knew my dreams were nothing unless I kept writing. Three months later, the first draft of ARROWS was done.

I learned about patience.

Older and wiser, I realized my first novel hadn’t been ready to submit, and I wasn’t going to make that same mistake with ARROWS.

While I revised, I dabbled in a few contests and sent a few queries, but my focus was my book. I’d quit my day job three years earlier. Yes, I had two completed YA novels, and lots of projects I was proud of, but still no agent. Still no publisher. Patience helped me write a better book, despite all that.

Luckily, I wasn’t too patient. Last Thursday, I participated in #PitMad, a Twitter pitch party organized by the fabulous Brenda Drake. My extremely helpful Pitch Madness mentor Sharon Johnston wrote my pitches.

Here’s what happened:

Carrie favorited my pitch! I smiled, sent her the (requested) first 50 pages of ARROWS and continued on with my day.

Within hours, she requested the full manuscript. This got my attention. She was excited about my book. I allowed myself to wonder if this was it. I Google-stalked Carrie and found out she worked for the agency that represented the authors of Fight Club and The Godfather. I pinched myself and proceeded to psycho-refresh my inbox the rest of the weekend.

On Monday, I forced myself to do something productive before checking my email. But when I logged on, I braced myself.

There it was.

An email from Carrie.

I knew from experience that my hopes could come crashing down, so I read it fast, skimming the paragraphs for words like unfortunately, despite and I couldn’t connect. Hm. Nothing.

I started over and proceeded to make a loud outburst.

A scream/choke/flailing type thing.

She loved my book!

She asked to represent ARROWS as well as my career as a writer. Then, she called me

20130920-114734.jpg

and we chatted for more than an hour about her ideas for revisions and submissions and lots of exciting future things. Today, I have officially accepted her offer of representation. I’m so thrilled to take this next step in my career with her. I’m glad my life got too busy five years ago. I have my stories back, and I’ve never felt luckier. I am ready to get to work.

Here are the stats for ARROWS:

  • Queries: 10
  • Contests: 3
  • Partials: 5
  • Fulls: 5
  • Rejections: 14 (6 no response)
  • Offers: 1
  • Time span: 3 months

I wouldn’t be writing this post without the incredible support I’ve received along the way. To my family, friends, the SCBWI, beta readers and those who work to make contests like #PitMad happen — thank you! YOU helped me write a better book.

To my husband, who said yes to my crazy proposal to quit my day job — look. You’re helping my dreams come true. Thank you for your comment when I told you about Carrie’s offer: “I always knew this day would come.” That kind of support kept me going through all the rejections and self-doubt. I love the life we’ve built together and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Cheers, everyone.

Photo by djwtwo

Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.

{ 21 comments }

1 Keely Hutton September 23, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Congratulations Melissa and Carrie!!! This is wonderful news. I remember your pitch for Arrows from PitMad and loved it! I can’t wait to read your book someday…hopefully soon. 🙂

2 Melissa September 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Thank you, Keely! Contests are such a fun way to meet writers, too. Stay tuned for future news. 🙂

3 Christie September 23, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Congratulations! Ms. Howland seems like a dream agent. Best of luck (:

4 Melissa September 24, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Thank you!

5 Brenda Drake (@brendadrake) September 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Congratulations – and what an exciting story! Yay!!!

6 Melissa September 24, 2013 at 9:14 pm

I wouldn’t be telling it without your contest. Thanks again!

7 Marcia September 23, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Melissa, I am so excited for you! You know what — I knew this day would come, too. Huge congrats to you both.

8 Melissa September 24, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Thanks for the vote of confidence. 🙂

9 Sharon Verbeten September 23, 2013 at 7:05 pm

LOVE your blog post! It’s a great open letter to writers who think writing, revising and submitting is quick and easy! The path to publication is tough, but worth it as we know. I’m very proud to be your friend and writing colleague! Can’t wait to introduce your book to tween audiences at the library!

10 Melissa September 24, 2013 at 9:15 pm

It’s so tough! And I’ve only just found the road. Thanks for the advice and help through the years. Hope to see you soon!

11 Miranda Paul September 24, 2013 at 10:52 am

Never a doubt. Go get em, girl.

12 Melissa September 24, 2013 at 9:16 pm

🙂

13 Amy Hermann September 24, 2013 at 11:17 am

You have always been successful in my eyes, but this is big! Congrats, I know how much you deserve it! Can’t wait to see your name on books everywhere!

14 Melissa September 24, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Aw, thank you, Amy! I hope everything is great for you!

15 Davonne Burns September 24, 2013 at 11:49 am

This is wonderful! Your pitch was one of my favorites and I cannot wait until I’m holding your book in my hands!!! Congratulations!

16 Melissa September 24, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Thank you, Davonne!

17 Deborah Holt Williams September 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Wonderful news!! So good to hear a story can get rejected 14 times and still attract an agent. Gives me hope!

18 Melissa September 24, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Never give up! The author of The Help was rejected more than 60 times I believe. Every writer experiences rejection. Thanks for stopping by!

19 Nadine September 24, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Congratulations! What a great story.
My NaNo novel is a total mess and my second has been untouched for a few months. You’ve inspired me to get back to the keyboard.
Can’t wait to read ARROWS!

20 Melissa September 24, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Yay! A writer should write. Good luck with your novels. I think they all start out a total mess.

21 Theresa Milstein September 26, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Amazing! Congratulations!

I’m still waiting to hear on my PitchMadness and PitMad request. It’s heartening to know it can actually happen.

I hope this is a first step on the road to more success.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: