Taking the Long Road (Read: Everything Happens for a Reason)

PhoneThings moved quickly when Dhonielle and I first started working on the book that would become Tiny Pretty Things. We’d both been working on our own stuff as well, and D had gotten an amazing agent for her middle grade work. And the agent was intrigued by the ballet book’s concept — and the idea of CAKE Literary. So we ended up quickly signing with her, too, and got to work on completing the manuscript. Then we did a revision. And another revision. And another revision. Clearly, we’re not afraid of revision, since we worked on the book for nearly two years — but after what felt like one too many passes, it was becoming clear that, as much as we loved Big Agent and her awesome reputation and her true kindness, this book was not a good fit for her list. We would revise forever, and she would never pull the trigger. It was time to move on.

This wasn’t an easy decision. Dhonielle is, let’s just say, change-averse, and while I don’t love it either, I’ve been known to shake things up every so often. So we talked about it, and decided it was time. And, in the process, D decided it was time for her to leave Big Agent for her personal work too. Now, don’t get us wrong. Big Agent is awesome. She has a gorgeous aesthetic (see the CAKE website — it just wouldn’t be that gorgeous without her guidance), and reps some of the most amazing writers ever. And those revisions did improve the book. But the book was ready. We were ready. It was time. And so I managed to convince Dhonielle to give it one more go — despite the fact that we had “missed the ballet trend,” that two unpubbed authors couldn’t start a packaging company, that we were fools to leave Big Agent.

We did another revision. (Yes, another one!) Then we we queried a handful of agents — including one we loved who had read earlier drafts of the book. And naturally, while we were on sub, I broke some news to Dhonielle. I was pregnant. (Yes, Navdeep already knew.) Perfect timing. But within a week of that, we got word from Awesome Agent that she was interested in repping the manuscript — and CAKE. And then, checking in with the others we queried, we got a couple of offers, too. Including one from another Big Agent. But we had a great feeling about Awesome Agent (whom you can find here!), because she was young and hungry, building her list, but with some solid sales, fun to chat with over a glass of proseco and a hamburger (yay for people who eat!), and super-collaborative about the process. In our previous agent relationship, Big Agent was definitely in charge. With Awesome Agent, we knew, this would be a collaboration. And when you think about D and I — both bossy firstborns — that only makes sense.

And within two weeks, the book — then Dark Pointe — went out. About two weeks after that, we got our first bite, which Awesome Agent very tentatively conveyed via email. Then we got a few more. Then Awesome Agent did some negotiating. And instead of having “a call,” we went in for a meeting, since we were in New York. And we landed happily at HarperTeen. At our first meeting there, with the awesome Sarah Landis (now departed to HMH, but missed) and Jen Klonsky, we knew we were in the right hands. They had great vision for the book and its sequel, and they loved baked goods nearly as much as we do. (We know, because we all had some together to celebrate!) Plus, no one rubbed my (by then big ole) belly when we went to visit, which is much appreciated. We’ve gotten a new editor on the team since — the amazing Emilia Rhodes (and Alice! Hi Alice!), and we’re super-excited about how things are going.

So what I’m saying here is: while we got the call pretty quickly after we went out on sub with Awesome Agent, we definitely took a long, hard road to get there, full of potholes and missteps and detours galore. But we learned so much along the way, things that have made us better writers (and stronger businesswomen). Things turned out the way they were meant to turn out. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

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An entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by The New York Times, People, ABC News, MSN, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, SONA CHARAIPOTRA currently curates a kickass column on YA books and teen culture for Parade.com. A collector of presumably useless degrees, she double-majored in journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she's not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like Twisted and Vampire Diaries. But call it research: Sona is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. Her debut, the YA dance drama Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Dhonielle Clayton), is due May 26 from HarperTeen. Find her on the web at SonaCharaipotra.com or CAKELiterary.com.

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This article has 6 Comments

  1. I’m also a “bossy” firstborn, and also turned down an offer from a BIG agent/agency because I wanted a collaborative relationship — which I knew my current agent welcomed! The twists and turns can be frustrating, but they do make for a fun ride 🙂

  2. I also went with my gut and turned down Big Agent for someone who replied to my emails right away and talked to me like a business partner instead of someone she was doing a favor for. I think so many writers feel so lucky to have any agent that they don’t trust that the right agent will come along. They do! Good for you for sticking it out for the right one!

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