Agents

General

My BEA (& beyond) Top 5

So, Callaway and I went to New York recently, partly for book stuff and partly for fun. I did BEA, and I know everyone right now is posting about books or advice for if you go next year. If you’re interested, I can help you out there a bit too, but for now, I want to share my top 5 favorite moments of my trip:

Number 1: Being recognized by complete strangers. Behold the power of YouTube! I was shocked that people could identify me by my big hair as I paraded through the aisles of BEA. In Blacksburg, the only people who recognize me already know me… and that’s kind of cool, but not as cool as this. It’s always awesome for me to meet people who loved The Siren or dig my videos or follow me on twitter. If you ever see me out and about, please say hi! I might do to you what I did to this poor blogger and force you to take a picture with me.

Number 2: Meeting book bloggers. I got to participate in the Book Blogger Convention’s author speed dating panel, and I met so many enthusiastic bloggers. Not only were they excited about books in general, but they were giving incredible feedback on what works best for them, the kind of things they like to see/do on a blog tour, and even offered up promotional ideas. I think YA writers in particular have a really amazing pool of bloggers to team up with. Talk to them!

Number 3: Books! Glorious books! I stopped by the HarperCollins area at BEA and also got to head into the offices for a while. Between their ridiculous generosity and the general  giving-away-books thing at Book Expo, I ended up with so many books that some of them had to be shipped to me. I think I have most of the HarperTeen Fall lineup so look for some reviews in the near future.    

Number 4: Meeting authors. Surprise, surprise! The writing community in rural Virginia is kind of small. As in it’s pretty much just me. So getting to talk to Melissa Marr or sit at a table with Lisa McMann or have Elizabeth Scott just openly embrace me? It rocks so effing hard! I was also please to find that these people (the ones who had already made a name for themselves) were amazingly humble and friendly. It was just encouraging to breathe the same air.

And number 5 (and by far my fave): Meeting my agent and editor. Many of you know that I was fortunate enough to get to choose my agent as I had two interested in The Selection. One of the big reasons I chose Elana was because I could just tell she was different from me and would bring a totally fresh perspective to my story. I was so right. She’s a sneaky kind of funny and the type of person who just always has her eyes open. Meeting her in real life was so much fun, and I love who she is, and think she’s cool even if she does laugh every time I try to touch her.

With Erica I had no idea what I was getting as you don’t get to choose your editor. But I sensed through her edits that she was laid back and funny and just generally enthusiastic. Right again! She made me laugh and I felt so at ease as Callaway and I sat in her office holding her up from actual work. Even though it seemed we picked the worst possible week to visit, she was super friendly and it made me happy.

So there you have it! There were tons of other amazing things (some of which I’m just pressing the pause button on for now), but these were some absolute booky highlights. Were any of you at BEA? How was your experience?

General

The Call

Okay, first, today is my agent’s birthday, so go tweet at her. Second, today also marks a year from me getting a phone call from Elana where she offered to represent The Selection. I was remembering that conversation this morning, and it’s a little comical to me now because I was way nervous.

This is what I remember:

It was about two months into the querying process, and I’d sent out about thirteen letters. There was one other agent who was already reading the manuscript, and she’d had it for over a month at the time. This other agent has some pretty good sales, and some of those books are on my shelves. I also remember that after reading Elana’s sales, I had a good feeling about her tastes, and I liked her so much that I actually bumped her just out of my first ten queries. After everything with The Siren, I just assumed my first ten would be rejections, so I moved her back thinking that would somehow change her answer. Writer’s superstitions? Whatever. It worked.

I remember hearing back from her after she’d actually read my manuscript and said she liked it and wanted to talk to me, and I thought Oh, crap. Because I’d read a lot about querying and learned to be patient, but I’d never actually prepared myself for the possibility of someone wanting to take it on.

I also had another huge concern. I had a three-month-old, and I was terrified he was going to be the worst version of himself, screaming in the background as I tried to convince this person that I could really do both, be a new mom and an author… I swear I can… honest. I don’t know why, but that was one of my greatest worries, that motherhood would somehow knock me out of the race. I now know I’m in good company, but I didn’t really think about that at the time. Two notes on this: One, I’m not sure what made me decide to start querying while I had a baby that was a few weeks old, but no one can blame a woman for the decisions she makes under that degree of sleep deprivation. Two, you can bet your butt that Jeanette (along with a host of others) is getting a shout out on my acknowledgements page for watching Guy while I talked to Elana.

And, even though I had a list of questions for her and I wanted to talk to the other agent and there was no guarantee that she was going to even offer to represent me, I wanted to give her a hug when we started talking and she said something like “This book is kind of like Cinderella meets The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor,” because those very words went through my head the night before. It wasn’t some huge revelation, but I knew she got it and I might have even went “YES!” really loudly in her ear because I thought it was so cool.

We talked about her sales and how she worked, and we went through the trilogy and I had to spoil her. I honestly hated that. I wished with all my heart that I’d had all three books written so I could just send them to her instead of flounder through saying what I was kind-of-almost-maybe-pretty sure was going to happen. And then she told me everything she thought needed to be worked on. Maybe that’s some kind of scare tactic to see if you’re really up to working with her because Elana kept worrying she was overwhelming me. In truth, that was the best part. I knew it would have to be polished up, and I was grateful to have a set of professional eyes look at it and see ways to make it better.

At the end of the phone call, she offered to represent me, and we both agreed I had to talk to the other agent first, and we hung up. Later Elana would tell me I seemed very serious, which we all know is NOT what I am, but I kind of suck on the phone. And I was nervous. Still not sure how I talked her into this… Anyway, had it not been for the other agent, I would have said yes right away. Elana has good juju, and I like her.

It’s been a year, and The Selection is coming out next summer, Brave New Love will see daylight this winter, and I hope that there will be lots of other awesome projects in the future.

I’m not sure if there’s any wisdom for you to glean from this… Look for good juju? Yeah, look for good juju. Because, if you’re lucky, this is a relationship you’ll have for a long time.

advice

The Odds

Hello, my lovelies!

So, I’ve been realizing how lucky I am. My agent, Elana, has been violently angry with her query pile lately, and I’m sure with good reason. Every once in a while, I think about what it would be like to dig through tons of letters— some good, some bad, some obviously not my taste, some addressed to the wrong person… some showing no sign of understanding basic English— and have to pick out ones that I thought showed promise.

I think I lack a certain patience and toughness it would take to be a literary agent. Bravo to anyone who takes on that job and manages to make it through the day without pulling out their hair.

That said, I was thinking about what it’s like on our end, the writer’s end. Elana has been helpful enough to post some of her query stats on the CJLA blog, and based on those numbers, it looks like Elana got at least 3,000 queries last year. And I think she took on only 3-4 new clients. And not all of them from queries. So… yikes!

I’m genuinely counting my blessings and am so thankful she saw something worthwhile in my writing, and I hope, once The Selection is in all of your hands, that you feel the same way. But I look at those numbers and think that if I was starting out now, I’d feel kind of depressed. To be one chosen out of thousands… what are the odds?

Well, here are some things you should know. 1 out of 3,000, right? You’re odds of finding an agent are better than:

The odds of you drowning in the bathtub this year (1 in 900,900)

The odds of you winning an Olympic medal (1 in 662,000)

The odds of you dating a supermodel (1 in 88,000)

The odds of you winning an Academy Award (1 in 11,500)

The odds of you becoming a professional athlete (1 in 22,000)

The odds of getting struck by lightning. (1 in 567,000)

So be encouraged. There are harder things to do out there. And I also just discovered the odds of me writing a New York Times best seller are about 220 to 1...

Oh yeah, baby. Oh yeah.