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  • Writer's pictureSierra Isley

How I Got My Agent

Hi, everyone! If you're reading this blog post, you might be in the query trenches wondering what you can possibly do to get the hell out. Trust me, I know the feeling. Querying was exhausting. It made me question my talent as a writer and my goals for the future. Querying is a test of patience and perserverance, but I hope my story gives you the confidence to keep going.

I wrote my first novel, "In the Ring" during college. I finished it in late 2020 during the height of COVID-19. I finished up the ending, read it over, sent it to my friend... and decided it was ready to query. I sent out my first query in February 2021. For lack of a better word, the query letter was awful. The query was only a few sentences long. I didn't have a synopsis prepared, and my first few pages needed more edits than just what my one friend provided.

I sent out probably ten queries over the course of that week. And, to nobody's surprise, heard nothing but rejection.

Pro tip: DON'T do what I did! Do your research and make sure that your book has been reviewed by CP's before you send it out. Impulsive querying is not going to help you. I ruined my chances with those ten or so agents when I sent that mess of a query letter out.

Flash forward a few weeks later, I decided to participate in #PitMad, a Twitter pitch competition. To my surprise, I got a like! I spent hours working on improving my query before sending it over to the agent. She responded back the next morning: she wanted to read the full!

I still remember how excited I was for that first full request. I stayed up all night rereading the book to make sure it was perfect. I sent it, treated myself to some ice cream, then made a plan to send out some more queries since the letter wasn't quite as horrible anymore. The querying process after this is a blur. I recieved more full and partial requests, MANY rejections, and ocassionally other requests from Twitter pitch contests. The first full rejection stung, but it came with some editorial feedback that I took advantage of.

I started researching agents' #MSWL both on Twitter and on the manuscript wishlist website. I found one agent who tweeted that she was looking for something very similar to my book, but she was closed to queries. I looked through the agency website and found nothing about when they would reopen. So, I took a risk and replied to her tweet, explaining that I had something that matched her request. To my surprise, she got back to me quickly with an email to submit to.

Twitter is a powerful tool, but use it sparingly, especially when approaching agents or editors. You don't want to be annoying or overstep any boundaries. I do NOT recommend blindly tweeting agents, unless you have an important question or a request that has not otherwise been answered anywhere else. And if they don't answer, don't ask again!

I sent her the query. She responded just a few hours later to let me know that it wasn't usually her type of story, but she read the opening pages and wanted to read more. I sent the full right away!

And then... more waiting. More requests, more rejections. It was about a month later that I noticed a voicemail on my phone. It was the agent from Twitter! I called her back and she told me that she loved the manuscript and wanted to offer representation. (When I tell you that I screamed so loudly that the entire apartment building heard, I mean it). She connected me with someone else from the agency who would be offering editorial feedback should I choose to accept the offer, and a client for reference. Her client got back to me immediately with glowing reviews.

I emailed all of the agents with my outstanding query or manuscript to let them know that I had been offered representation. Many requested to read the full! I gave them a ten-day deadline, then crossed my fingers for what became the most nervewracking and exciting ten days of my life. In the end, I recieved two offers of representation. I chose my agent based on editorial feedback, communication style and client references. I'm so happy to announce that I signed with Tina Schwartz from The Purcell Agency!

She has been such an incredible champion of my work. We dove immediately into revisions, and after a month of working with her editorial assistant, Joel, I had a manuscript ready for submission. "In the Ring" is currently on sub with editors. The waiting game has started again, and this time the stakes feel even higher, but I'm so happy to have a team supporting me.

There were so many times throughout my querying journey that I wanted to give up. During those ten days of waiting on agents, one of them responded with a report of everything she hated about the book. Even though I had an agent offer, I started wondering if somehow Tina had made a mistake and the universe was tricking me. I'm still working through my imposter syndrome, and I'm not sure if it will ever go away, but the more I write, the more confident I become. As this book is on submission, I'm spending my time working on book #2 and I already feel like a stronger writer.

Keep going. Even if it feels like the universe is against you, just keep trying. Sometimes you'll need to take a break, and that's okay! Your mental health should always come first, but do not let imposter syndrome or fear get in the way of reaching success. Do your research. Use tools like #MSWL to find the right fit. And most importantly, eat a lot of ice cream along the way.

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