How I Got My Agent
Updated: Jan 23
Did I just type that? OMG. Okay. As I write this, I currently do not know who my agent is. By the end of it, I will know, and so will you.
Let's start with query stats, because we all love those!
Total queries sent: 125
Total responses: 118
R&Rs: 1 (leading to a pass because I had an offer)
Full Requests: 28 (this includes 3 partials that turned into fulls, and fulls that did not respond before the deadline)
Partials: 1 (this was a partial that did not convert to a full)
Request rate: 24%
Days querying before first offer: 56
This might be a long post, but I'm going to start at the beginning. Because I can.
SONG OF CHEVEYO was the first book I queried. And I feel really lucky to have gotten an agent with the first book I queried, because I realize that doesn't usually happen.
I almost queried my first ever novel, BENEATH THE GLARING DOME, which was an abomination Frankenstein mess that was something like THE HUNGER GAMES meets GAME OF THRONES? For really no good reason. I shelved that monstrosity, but only because I did some research and realized that it was a terrible book that would never sell.
However, I never would have gotten an agent without that book. And here's why:
It taught me the most important thing about writing a book. And that's building your characters. I built the shit out of those characters, and I still love them. Every character I ever write now is a real person that I know (as far as I'm concerned). Yes, I am ND.
It also taught me the other most important thing about writing a book, which, surprise surprise, is finishing it.
*the crowd gasps*
Once I finished one book, I knew I could finish two. And then three.
I went on to write a YA SFF, which I adore. I won't share the title because it's not terrible. So I'll keep that to myself for now.
Now I'm 24, and I've been writing for a long time. I have an obscene amount of unfinished projects. I started writing creatively since I could hold a pencil. I had a Winnie the Pooh notebook that I kept under my pillow, and I used to write short stories about my dreams (and my nightmares). That was when it all started. I finished my first book (if you could call it that), which was a 30K children's book(?) about unicorns and dragons and a little girl who is meant to save them from their dying world, when I was 12. I even sent it to a publisher (without bothering to edit it) and they promptly told me to eff off.
But I didn't. I kept writing, and I got really good at it really quickly. I was so good for my age, in fact, that my teachers were sending me off to writers' conferences from age 11. They would let me leave school to attend these things, and I was even recommended for the governor's school (a special school for special kids or something like that). Unfortunately, my family didn't have the money to send me, but it was a very exciting time for me, and I felt really special because my teachers were encouraging me so much. And they're honestly the reason I never gave up. My entire childhood, all the way through high school, I was writing stories. I had a semi-popular book on Figment, when that was a thing (RIP Figment, we love you), which was a Mother Nature origin story.
Writing was the only thing I ever did consistently that I never felt mediocre at. And I am so glad I never gave up, because SONG OF CHEVEYO never would've come to me. I love this book, and I hope you will too.
I could've made the fatal mistake to query my first book, but the Bookends YouTube channel taught me well. And, if you're a querying author, or a writer who plans to query one day, I highly suggest you go binge their videos. I mean it. Watch every single one. The information they shared is invaluable, and also taught me the rest of the process after you get your agent, too. Because that day will come and you'll need to understand the full spectrum of how all this works. So do your homework.
And that's a perfect segue into the next part.
How did I prepare to query, what resources did I use?
I started prepping to query back in 2019 when I finished BTGD. Like I said, I almost made the fatal mistake of actually querying that book.
The Bookends YouTube channel
Oddly enough, a Facebook group
Okay, hold on. I know you just made a face. I joined a beta reading Facebook group long long ago, before the seed of CHEVEYO was born in my mind. I actually found some great CPs there who are now agented and published authors (they were truly diamonds in the rough....). Unfortunately for them, they had to read draft 0.5 of SONG OF CHEVEYO (I'm sorry Krystin).
So, Step 1: Research. Research a lot. Understand the WHOLE business, not just querying. Know what happens next. This will help you choose the right agent. Going into the process armed with knowledge will protect you and keep you nimble. Here are just some of the amazing research resources available out there:
BookEnds YouTube channel
Step 2: CPs. A good critique partner is worth their weight in gold. Choose your CPs carefully. Don't send to anyone who will read. Send to someone who is a good match in skill and the types of books they read. Make sure you're choosing CPs who will have actual valuable feedback for you; someone who reads frequently in your genre. Your CP(s) should be reading your earliest drafts, suggesting developmental edits and finding plot holes.
Step 3: Betas. When it's as good as you and your writing group can get it, it's time for betas. These are normal readers, they don't have to be writers too. Just someone who reads, and preferably in your genre. Send them a reader report so they have something easy to fill out as they go. I love betas who live comment. I live for those comments on google docs.
Step 4: Write your query materials. This is where that research from step one comes in handy. For me, I like to write my query blurb before I've actually finished writing the book. It keeps me on track with the central plot. It always changes as I get closer to the end, but I like having something basic to work with. I've done it for all of my books and I always will. As a notorious pantser, writing my blurb before my book is the closest I've gotten to outlining. Though I have started outlining for my current WIP (I hate it), pre-writing my query has always helped me. And it's less intimidating to revise a query blurb once you've finished a novel than to start fresh. It's overwhelming to wrap up your life's work for the last year or more into less than 400 words.
Oh, did you think I was done? No. I'm not going to let you forget about your synopsis. Do that. I won't tell you how, because I hate talking about synopses.
But just....figure it out. And do it and then it will be over.
I'm sorry for your pain.
Step 5: Edit, edit, edit. I mean it. Edit the shit out of that stupid letter. I found the PubTips subreddit to be particularly helpful. You can upload your query there and strangers will tear it apart. It's not for the faint of heart, but it really really helps. I also paid for 2 query edits. One from the amazing and incomparable Megan Eccles, and the other from the incredible Elisa Houot. I wouldn't have done it any other way. Both their feedback was invaluable, especially Elisa's advice about my opening pages. Her notes ramped up my book by a whole level. And it only took me one round of edits to my first 10 pages to get there. If you can invest in paid edits, they really help. But you don't need them. There are lots of free resources out there, so look them up and use them.
Seriously, don't. It'll take forever. I sent about 10 off the bat, just to see if my materials were working. I chose agents who responded quickly to test my materials. When I started getting requests, I knew I was good to go and over the next month or so, I sent queries out. A lot of them. I tried to choose agents with close MSWLs, but honestly, a LOT of my requests were from agents I normally wouldn't have sent to. So if they rep your genre and age category, honestly, send it. Check out the MSWLs, Twitter stalk as needed, but honestly, half the time you never really know who is going to be interested in your work until you send it. It may surprise you!
Don't take the rejections personally.
I know, I know. It seems easier said than done. But when you're getting a hundred of them, you have to get yourself mentally prepared. It's good to have a supportive community of other writers in all different stages. You'll want to pick the brains of published authors, agented authors who have yet to be published, and querying writers too. Finding a community is important, and choosing your friends wisely even more so. But it will get you through. Just be mentally prepared. Querying and traditional publishing are not for the faint of heart.
And remember this: in the end, there will only be one agent. So, as much as we love statistics, I honestly don't think they matter. It's a mixture of your query materials being really good and effective (in a marketing sense) and just finding the right person. That's all you're doing. Finding the right person. And remember that you're interviewing your agent just as much as they're interviewing you. Make sure you're submitting to agents you genuinely want to work with. Take some of that power back for yourself.
Okay, let me step off my soap box so I can tell you about my first offer.
First, let me give props to MoodPitch, and the whole MoodPitch team. As I mentioned in my previous post, I wouldn't have had as much interest as I did so early on without this event. I started querying about 2 weeks before MoodPitch, and I didn't have really any interest immediately like some people did. I got nothing. Not even rejections. Just silence.
I participated in MoodPitch thinking I'd get no interaction at all. But boy, was I wrong. I received 6 agent likes and 1 publishing like, and one of those agent likes would turn into my first offer in exactly one month! After MoodPitch, I was getting fulls left and right. I was averaging 1-2 requests per week after that, and I was kind of on a high. But querying is a trench filled with more trenches. I'd get a 3-4 rejections for every full request. It hurts. I got a rejection on a partial from a dream agent, and that honestly made me want to give up. It was my first response on requested material, so I immediately started questioning myself. Were my pages not as strong as I thought? Oh, god. I had so many fulls out. What if the agents all hated it as much as this agent did? (She didn't hate it, it was a form rejection).
My first response on a full was an offer of rep. I was hearing lots of sad stories about authors getting form rejections on fulls, and I was preparing myself. If that partial rejection hurt so much, how bad would fulls hurt? When I got my first response, I was so scared to open it.
But it was a long ass paragraph about how much the agent loved SONG OF CHEVEYO. I cried. I was shaking. It was an offer of rep right there in the email. I didn't even know what to do. I called my best friend Sydney who helped me scream, and then they told me exactly what to do next.
I sent out my nudges, and surprisingly, I lost less people than I thought I would. As you may know, a good number of agents will step aside initially because they don't have the time to compete with the standard 14-day deadline. I will tell you this: don't query close to the holidays if you can. It kind of messes things up. Publishing is generally closed between December 23 and January 3. So getting an offer of rep right before agents pack up for the holidays can cause you to lose some people.
Pre-offer, I had 13 fulls out. I lost 3 to time right off the bat (but I thought it would be worse). Then, I had the call with the offering agent. This agent was amazing and I got great vibes from her. I was extremely happy with the offer, and I still adore that agent so much. The offering agent was also kind enough to extend my deadline until after the new year, which was so nice. As the days went on, I got a LOT of fulls. I would end up getting another 14 full requests post offer. A lot of those requests were also from surprisingly big agents, and several were from agents who had barely requested anything this year. I was shocked, and I was on yet another high.
Something no one ever talks about is how bad the vague days are. They're really bad. Insufferable, almost. They're worse than the whole of querying, but that's just my opinion. 🙄
Anyways, the following week, the rejections rolled in. Most of them were form, which honestly, is fine. I like form rejections on fulls.
I like them 'cause, like, I can just make up my own reason for why they didn't want to sign me. I got an R&R, which was painful, but I agreed with a lot of the feedback actually. The agent passed since I had an offer, but I will probably apply some of her feedback during my edits. I have made peace with that R&R though, because as much as I respect that agent and really liked some of her edits, she didn't really get the book. She was looking for something in the book that wasn't really there. And that's when it really clicked for me how important it is to find an agent that understands your purpose. That person will take you places.
I got rejections on those fulls. A lot of them. Rejections from people that expressed a LOT of excitement for the book. A rejection from one agent I was sure would offer. But it's like I said earlier, there will only be one in the end. I got my second offer 5 days before my deadline. And as much as I loved the first agent, I knew pretty much right after getting off the call with the second that he was the one.
So I guess here it is:
I have officially signed with Jonathan Rosen at The Seymour Agency!
And here's what you really came for: my query letter for SONG OF CHEVEYO.
I am excited to present my young adult contemporary, SONG OF CHEVEYO, complete at 98,000 words. It combines a dark summer of uncovering family secrets akin to WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart, the atmosphere and style of Karen M. McManus, and the heists, juicy love triangles, and mild political drama of Netflix’s Outer Banks. [Personalization]
16-year-old Amelia LeBlond didn’t board her flight to Gran’s sleepy Canadian town, Tofino, with the intention of becoming a felon. On the contrary, this summer was supposed to be the most boring summer of her life, and she didn’t plan on making friends—especially not one with a tail.
When she’s invited to cliff-dive at Pacific Rim with the local teens, Amelia finds herself stranded and on the verge of drowning. She’s sure she’s imagining the young orca who saves her, but when the calf, Cheveyo, turns up at Gran’s cove lost and severely injured, she becomes determined to reunite him with his pod.
Amelia and her new friends record Cheveyo’s journey on social media, quickly amassing millions of followers. Their plan to release him comes to a halt when orcas start washing up dead all over the Salish Sea. Now they’ll do anything—lie, steal, and commit espionage—to protect Cheveyo’s family. Their investigation leads to a shady fishing charter and accidentally uncovers a long-kept government secret. When they expose the charter on national television, they find themselves playing a game that could cost them their lives.
Amelia must untangle a twisted web of lies and combat a group of dangerous criminals, all while navigating the pressures of instant fame and confronting a ghost from her past to save Cheveyo before it’s too late—for him and his pod.
SONG OF CHEVEYO is inspired by the true story of Luna, the lost orca adopted by the inhabitants of Nootka Sound. This book was written with the combined efforts of the Orca Behavior Institute, The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Administration, and Dr. Joe Gaydos at UC Davis, whom I consulted for accuracy. I minored in animal science at Clemson University, where I was the editor-in-chief of the AVS newspaper, AVS Corner, for two years. I spent time in South Africa working with tigers, and was lucky enough to visit the Southern Resident orcas in the San Juans this past September. I currently live in South Carolina and spend most of my free time catering to the every whim of my Doberman Pinscher and two rabbits, Teddy and Moo.
Thank you for your time and consideration!
Thank you all for sticking with me through this journey, and I can't wait to continue sharing more with you about my road to publishing. Later in the week, I'll have a fun life update-style blog too, since I've been going through lots of life changes (hence the extremely long vague period).
If you're still in the trenches, DO NOT GIVE UP. This is a numbers game. You're looking for a needle in a haystack--a love match, if you will. In the end, there will only be one. ❤️