This week, we’re discussing how we found and landed our agents.
I started my search in early 2013, after about six months of editing the manuscript I’d finished the previous summer. We’re doing a week on query letters and the querying process later in the year, so I’ll spare you that gore for now, except to drop this truth: query letters are the devil.
Once I’d beaten the query letter into something resembling submission, I had to figure out who to send it to. I began by looking up the agents of some of my favorite writers in the fantasy genre, and then I searched through Writer’s Digest to fill out my list.
What worked best, though? Was Manuscript Wish List Day on Twitter.
This happens a few times a year, when agents and editors post using the #MSWL tag to let authors know what they’re looking for. This might be broad genres that they’d like to have on their lists, or it might be specific time periods, tropes, character types, under-represented groups, or themes that they’re looking for.
So, one afternoon in late June of 2013, this tweet from Connor caught my eye:
This feels like a ‘Likes’ field on a dating site. ‘Diverse protags! Powerful, complex women! Political sci-fi/fantasy with subtlety!’ #MSWL
— Connor Goldsmith (@dreamoforgonon) June 27, 2013
Well, that was just then-Aven all over! So I added him to my list. In August, I actually got around to querying him — and I got a response asking for a full manuscript within 45 minutes. For those of you who’ve never been through the querying process, this is highly unusual. Most of the time, you’re lucky to hear back at all. Many agents send form rejections, but with just as many, no news is bad news. If you haven’t heard back within 6-8 weeks, assume it’s a no. Hearing back the same day? Astonishing.
What I didn’t know at the time I queried is that Connor is a fellow classicist! So Aven was even more up his alley than I knew. About six weeks later, he emailed me to let me know that he’d started reading the manuscript and was already loving it. I spent the next few days somewhere between excitement and heart-palpitating panic, over-analyzing every single tweet of his that even conceivably might have been about my book. If I’m remembering right, there was one about how great it feels to curl up with a delightful MS, and I was absolutely terrified to hope he meant mine.
The Call will be another week’s topic, and that’s a super-good story, so I’ll save it. (The short version is: important events in my life have a habit of happening to me in really weird surroundings). Connor and I clicked right from the start, and we signed contracts pretty damn quick.
Connor was, at the time, a fairly new agent; I was, obviously, a hoping-to-debut author. So we were both hungry for success. As it turns out, I’m… sort of his late bloomer. It took us two years to make the sale to a publisher, and in the meantime, he had fantastic luck with his other clients. (Seriously, check them out; they’re awesome). What was Aven and is now From Unseen Fire has had a long journey. Long even by publishing standards. But Connor still loves me, and it’s going to be so worth it when the book is a real, tangible thing.
I don’t know if everyone has this experience with their agent and agency, but I’ve been delighted that Connor and Fuse Literary have helped me build my writing community. The authors of #FuseClub are all super supportive of each other. Since writing can be a somewhat isolating career, it’s nice to have my agent-siblings and the rest of the Fusers to chat with. It’s one of the many reasons I’m glad I went the traditional-publishing route rather than trying to self-publish: I knew I wanted a team. Connor is a huge, huge part of that for me, and the extended network of writers is a great bonus!