Last April I broke up with my agent of nearly three years. It was necessary, and risky, and terrifying. It meant leaving the only person in publishing who’d thus far agreed to champion my work, in order to find someone else who would, you know, champion my work.
Writing that message was hard. It couldn’t be undone, and there was no guarantee I would find another agent. Worst of all, I don’t ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially someone I like, and someone who gave me a chance before anyone else in publishing ever did.
Some things need to be done, however. This was one of them.
Because my newest book was ready to go — or so I thought — I jumped into the agent hunt fairly quickly. I had my query letter. I had two different synopses. I had a query-specific email address with a unique chime that gave me a miniature heart attack every time it announced a new message. I even had an agent spreadsheet so detailed that my writing buddies took every opportunity to tease me about it — and then asked me to share it with them when they, too, were ready to query. (Vindication feels good, by the way. In case you were wondering.)
Just over a month later, I received a response to a full request. It wasn’t an offer, but it wasn’t a rejection. It was a revise & resubmit letter from the amazing Suzie Townsend and her assistant Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary & Media. Because my life is beyond glamorous, I was cleaning our bathroom at the time. I may have dropped the Windex when my phone dinged. (It’s things like this that keep us humble. And also remind us that anything can happen at any moment.)
Danielle and Suzie’s suggestions were smart and thorough, and they had clearly given my book a lot of thought. Following their requests would take serious work, but I could see how each revision would make the book better. Naturally, I pounced on the opportunity. (If “pouncing” means waiting almost 24 hours to write back and commit, since I wanted all traces of my knee-jerk freak-out gone by the time I pressed send.)
Querying halted, and revising commenced. For two whole months. Finally, I sent the book off. I heard back from Danielle soon after. Another revise & resubmit. But it began with encouragement and ended with more encouragement, and all the words in-between seemed doable when read one suggestion at a time. I agreed to another round. Then I headed up into the mountains because I had a lot of thinking to do. Not only did I have some plotting issues to work out, but I was also concerned about the possibility of spending another two months writing to someone’s specifications and either receiving more revisions or being turned down altogether.
As I crunched along the hiking trail, with golden aspens glowing around me and snow-dusted peaks above, Danielle emailed to see if I had any questions and if I wanted to talk about revisions. I didn’t even know I could get messages up there. It was a delightful surprise. Throughout the day we had a casual email exchange, punctuated by moments when the mountains blocked my signal (pesky rocks) or when I stopped to take pictures. By the end of the day I had eight hundred photos, a quarter tank of gas, and a call arranged with Danielle for the next week to discuss revisions.
When the day arrived, I had my thoughts in order and was prepared to act less nervous than I felt. And then, exactly ONE minute before Danielle called, I received an email from another agent who had the full. It was a long message, and I didn’t have much time since I (rightly) suspected Danielle would be punctual, so I skipped to the end and caught some formal thanks-but-no-thanks language. That’s when I knew it was a rejection, and with the worst possible timing.
As I was catching my breath, the phone rang. Danielle.
Only later did I bring myself to read the new message more carefully. That’s when I realized it was, in fact, another revise & resubmit, saying many of the same things Danielle and I had talked about in our phone call. I immediately let both agents know, and went to work on revising.
And then, a few days later, I received an email from yet another agent. Like Suzie, she was one of my dream agents. She had read my manuscript over the weekend, and informed me she was “pretty much obsessed with” my book. I may have swooned a little when I read that. (Okay, a lot. Several times. I also giggled.)
Our chat was lovely and lively, and she was oh-my-gosh-so-wonderful. Of course, because I am the master of timing, I had maybe a half hour afterward to email everyone else who had my submission and let them know I’d had an offer of representation. Then my four-year-old daughter and I took off on a fourteen-hour round-trip drive across the desert to visit some friends in the Grand Canyon.
You know what’s really awesome, by the way? Spending four days with almost no cell or internet service when you have one offer of representation, twelve full manuscripts out, and a deadline. No, really. It’s fantastic. Sometimes nothing is more freeing than enjoying the beauty and seclusion of nature with little chance that the phone will ring, and with plenty of space for thinking.
By the end of it all, I had four offers, including one from Suzie and Danielle, who had received a very first-draft version of my barely-started revisions after I escaped to the Grand Canyon Village library to send them off. Despite the roughness, Danielle and Suzie somehow saw the potential in what I had done so far. I was thrilled, to say the least.
Still, the decision was tough. Every agent who offered was superb, and I would have been happy to be with any one of them. They were charming on the phone, and their clients raved about them, and they had insightful things to say about my manuscript. In the end, however, the answer was clear, and I am ecstatic to announce that I am now represented by Suzie Townsend and Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary & Media! They are smart and talented and enthusiastic, and I am so lucky to be working with them.
Thank you, ladies, for believing in me enough to go through two rounds of revisions with me, chat on the phone twice, and discuss this book through many, many emails. I am so happy to be working with you both, and I can’t wait to see what happens with this book and with future ones!
NOTE: Stay tuned! In a couple of weeks I’m going to have an agent-related surprise on the blog. Come back and check it out, or subscribe so you don’t miss it! And if you liked the scenery photos, come visit me on Instagram so we can connect!