Thursday, July 12, 2012

God Gave Me An Agent: Exceedingly Abundantly More Than I Could Ask Or Think

I sent my first query in November 2009, years before I was ready. After a polite form rejection ("not what I'm looking for at this time"), I kept rewriting. In June 2010, I attended my first writing conference, Write To Publish in Illinois. Overflowing with artistic zeal, I queried again in July. This rejection wasn't a form. I was told I had good "story approach" but needed to work on my craft "in order to stand out."

So I did. I attended a My Book Therapy craft retreat. I rewrote and revised. At ACFW 2011, I met three amazing ladies (Charity, Erynn, and Jess) whose stories I love and whose hearts I connected with. We're now the Best Crit Group Ever (trademark pending). ACFW's agent appointments provided me with invaluable feedback on my first chapter. I continued revising and rewriting. I queried three more agents and received two non-response rejections and one very helpful, personalized rejection.

(End backstory deluge. Don't worry, I don't do this in my fiction.)

Along the way, I was given an adamant (and sensible) piece of industry advice from some reputable people. "Don't write the second book in your series. Not until you sell the first one."

Instead, I was told, write something new. Something unrelated to the storyworld. Create some new characters and let these ones "go to sleep" for awhile. You can wake them back up and finish Haven Seekers (my current series) when you sell the first book.

I didn't want to be stubborn or unteachable, didn't want to hijack my writing career with my artistic ego. I decided to follow the advice of these people I respected, and I asked for God's help to do so. If we're using the sleeping metaphor, my female lead took the tranq needle, injected herself, and glared at me until her eyes closed. My male lead ... well, I would've had to hit him in the head with a brick, and he's a big guy. We called a hostile ceasefire.

I started a new, unrelated WIP. New cast. New speculative storyworld. Kind of cool plot, even. But my protagonist wasn't my Haven Seekers lead, so I didn't like him. My plot wasn't Haven Seekers Book Two, so I didn't care what happened next.

Another writer friend, Michelle, asked me a wise question. "Well, do you want you to be published? Or do you want Haven Seekers to be published?"

I'd never thought of it in those terms. After a minute or so, I said, "I want Haven Seekers to be published."

So ... I did something I can't advise any other writer to do. I ignored conventional wisdom. And I wrote Book Two.

I finished it in March this year. And I knew. The next step, the step I was finally ready for, was querying.

In the last two years, I'd learned a lot about this industry. Relationships matter. As it should be. Yet, as an introvert, that's my place of struggle. If I reach out to people because they would be a good industry contact, am I not being disingenuous, task-oriented rather than people-oriented? And how do I make myself likable to strangers (as opposed to silent and nervous)? And if I can't do that, will I ever rise above the slush pile of cold queries?

My friend and crit partner Erynn is one of the warmest people I know. She cares. She connects with people. She even Facebook-stalks published authors, but she's so non-creepy and Erynn about it, before long, she's made a real friend.

Right around the time I found out I had double semi-finaled in the 2012 Genesis Contest, Erynn and I were discussing her non-creepy stalker side, and I told her, "I need to learn how to do that ... except it's not something a person can learn."

A week later, the craziest thing to happen to me thus far in my life ... happened.

I was contacted by an agent. She'd seen my name twice on the Genesis semi-finals list. She wanted to know if I had procured representation yet.

I. Freaked. Out.

This couldn't be real. There had to be a catch (because, you know, God couldn't possibly be behind it ...). She couldn't possibly be a real, live agent who had searched the internet to find contact info for me.

I researched her and her agency. Jessica Kirkland. The Blythe Daniel Agency. They were real, and they were professional, and they had a lot of clients.

I responded. She responded. We talked on the phone.

When she asked about my two contest entries, I pitched Haven Seekers Book One. She liked the premise, asked about my other entry. I took a deep breath--This might be the end of her interest, I can't pitch anything else. My tone was probably apologetic. "It's the second book in the series. I just finished it."

"Oh!" Jessica said. "You have a series, that's great!"

Whoa. Hey, God, maybe You are behind this?

She asked for the full. The last week of April, she offered me representation. On May 4, I signed the contract.

Now I have an agent. Despite the fact that, if you actually read my two paragraphs of backstory, you'll count a total of only five query rejections. Despite the fact that I disobeyed logical advice from savvy writers in the Christian publishing industry. Despite the fact that approaching a group of people I don't know and saying, "Hi, could I join your conversation?" makes me short of breath.

God gave me this gift, though I don't in any way deserve it. I praise and thank His wondrous plan. While I was focusing on my less-than-ideal personality, God was saying, "Get over yourself, I've got this. You don't have to become an extrovert. I'm sending someone to you. In fact, I'm sending her next week."

I love Jessica already. I'm beyond excited to work with her. I know God has a great plan for both of us. He knows all the details. He knows the timing. He knows the plans He has for us.

So I can only close with this:

Now unto the King
the only wise God
be honour and glory
for ever and ever.

I Timothy 1:17 (KJV)


  1. I love this story. I too wrote series books. Two series. And I was offered representation. Amazing what God can and will do! Congratulations! Many blessings on your work. :)

  2. How exciting, and what a great story! Congratulations!

  3. Yay! I love this story--especially the part where you met us, and we were awesome.
    And I was so sad about you putting Marcus and Lee to sleep. But could SO picture both of them reacting just that way. Except, I could NOT picture you hitting Marcus over the head with a brick. Don't do that again.
    I'm so thankful that Jessica saw your amazing brilliance and that Jesus loves us enough to give us more than our dreams.

  4. Thanks, ladies! :)

    To clarify for Erynn--note I said I *would have* had to hit him with a brick. I never did. ;)

  5. Amanda, thank you for sharing so excited to see how God has Blessed you with agent so you can continue to use your talents to Bless others with your writings.

  6. I never knew you attended Write to Publish in 2010!?! We missed each other by one year. Write to Publish 2011 was my first conference ever. I'm so glad God let us find each other (because I get lightheaded just considering walking up to a group I don't know) at ACFW last year. You're a true blessing in my life. Can't wait to hold your books in print.

  7. So cool to find your blog via twitter! I love spec fic--just reviewed THE TELLING by Mike Duran over on my blog. In fact, I've written a spec fic myself, but it's my early book, tucked away for now. I know what you mean. I recently realized that although I want to be published, I REALLY want my Viking novel (out on submission now) to be published. I'm at the point where, if it gets rejected by every pub out there, I might just have to self-pub. Because it's a good book. And I've already started the sequel, like you did! Grin. All the best to you.

  8. A--thanks for commenting. :)

    J--Ditto to all you said.

    H--Good to "meet" you! There was a point in time where I asked myself all those questions, too. Will you self-pub this if you have to? Will you wait for publication if this book takes awhile to find a home? Are you attached to this story enough that you *can't* set it in a drawer but will instead rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it, until it's no longer recognizable as that old, badly crafted version? I think it's vital for every writer to be deliberate with their career, to ask these questions. And there aren't right or wrong answers. Everybody's unique.