The short version: good, old-fashioned querying.
The long version? Well, that’s a little more detailed.
First we have to go back a little. The book that my agent signed was the second I queried (though far from the second I completed). I’d previously queried another novel, though not very widely.
When I queried my first manuscript, I studied querying hard. See, I can get a wee bit research-obsessed when I start a new task. So at the beginning of my query journey, I did some heavy googling. I read through the entire QueryShark archive. (Yes, all of it). I looked up every agent interview I could find on queries, including a few articles that posted the full text of successful query letters. I wrote, rewrote, and revised my query, then wrote it again. And I started sending.
I’ll admit, I got discouraged pretty quickly with that book, stopping after about 20-ish queries. It’s a rough ride. I took a breather, analyzed the market and that particular story, and decided it would be a better fit for indie publication rather than traditional. I spent a year on that process, and Cambiare was released in September of 2019.
Then I wrote another book, one I called “Project Autumn” for it’s fall theme. And from the get-go, I just knew this one was special. When it was all revised and beta-read and polished up, I wondered if this one would be a better fit for traditional publication. I decided to give querying another shot, to try for a career as a hybrid author.
So, back into the trenches! I refreshed my query studies, wrote a letter I thought was solid, workshopped it with critique partners, let it rest a bit, and then revised it again.
I polished up those first pages with my writing group until they gleamed. (And the rest of the manuscript, of course, but especially those first chapters).
Then I was ready. I started to do my research on agents that might be a good fit, which I typically located in one of a few ways:
- Looking up similar authors and finding out who their agents were, then seeing if those agents were open to queries
- Searching under “Fantasy” on ManuscriptWishlist and scouring through the results to find matching MSWLs
- And the one that did the trick: Searching Twitter for “#MSWL” and various keywords, including similar or fave authors. Which is where this tweet cropped up:
Jacqueline Carey? Robin Hobb? Naomi Novik? Two of those were already listed as comps in my query, and the third is one of my absolute favorite authors, whose work has been a huge influence. The tweet was older, but since these were more stylistic preferences rather than a specific trend, I knew I had to query Amanda.
So I sent a query. Later that very same day, she left her former agency over some actions of the agency owner. There’s been plenty said about what happened with that agency, and this article isn’t really about that, so I won’t go into much detail. However, I admired that she was willing to take such a career risk to stand up for what was right.
Meanwhile, I continued to query. My manuscript was receiving a handful of requests and some other close calls, but as is par for the course, I received mostly rejections. There were some emotional low points, times when I wanted to stop querying entirely. Luckily, my CPs were able to talk sense into me and shove me back into the query trenches every time. When I received rejections, I sent out more.
A month or so after Amanda left her former agency, I noticed on QueryTracker’s “recently updated” section that she had joined Azantian Literary Agency, so I sent my query there.
(I know this sounds creepy and stalkerish, but I promise it was purely professional, industry-accepted stalking levels for a querying writer. 😅 )
A couple weeks after sending my query, I got a full request! Later that day, this showed up in my Twitter feed:
I checked the timestamp on the tweet and the request. Wait. That could be my book. At that moment, I got the first inkling that maybe, just maybe, this could be a match.
Time passed, and I continued to query. The day of #SFFPit–a Twitter pitch contest for sci-fi and fantasy–arrived. I decided to throw out a few pitches, but wasn’t really gaining traction in the crowded feed. Halfway through the day, I saw I had an email from Amanda. I braced myself for the inevitable rejection and opened it.
But wait. It wasn’t a rejection.
I had to read it a few times before it sank in that she wanted to offer representation! She had such beautiful things to say about my book… it was a very surreal moment. Amanda mentioned that she would request some heavy revisions before submission and shared a few of the major ones. However, as a revision addict, I was more excited than daunted about that prospect.
I loved her ideas, and immediately started thinking about how these changes could make my story even better.
We scheduled a Skype call, and things just clicked. I felt at ease with her. Our communication styles and plans for my career meshed well, and she seemed to get my story and my writing style. It just felt right.
But as much as I wanted to say yes then and there, I had other fulls and a number of queries still out, and wanted to give everyone a fair shake. I never knew what other agents might have in store, after all. I sent out the “offer of rep” emails and it was a trick to keep track as the replies flooded in.
I also contacted two of Amanda’s clients (with permission) and asked a few more questions about their experience working with her.
When all the dust settled, Amanda really ticked all the boxes of what I wanted in an agent, and she was so passionate about my story that I knew she would champion it well.
The moment I made the decision, I composed the email to her. There was some internal flailing and I sent the necessary “aaaaaa” DMs to my CPs, the most supportive writer friends who squealed and celebrated with me.
I’m so happy to work with Amanda and I’m unbelievably hyped about the next revision steps. After that, it’s onward to submission and a whole new phase of the publishing journey!
So to my querying friends in the trenches, keep going.
When all was said and done, I’d sent around 50 queries for this project. They say “it only takes one yes”, and that’s so true. The right agent for your story is out there. And when you find them, it’s like magic.