How I Got My (Second) Agent
As with almost all things, second time's a charm...right?
This is the story of how I went from an agent situation that just wasn't working for me--to being represented by one of the top agencies in the industry.
You can check out my original How I Got My Agent post if you'd like to time travel into the mind of a naïve author with nothing but a poorly prepped manuscript, a premium subscription to querytracker, and a dream. But if you're here for the cold hard truth about querying from a now-jaded author who has been on and off sub faster than you can blink both eyeballs, you've come to the right place.
This may also give perspective on how querying after having an agent previously *can* be easier. (But this really depends on a lot of things)
I went back to the querying trenches at the end of June after leaving my first agent.
Now, to put this into context for you, this happened right around the time my company laid off 10% of its employees, me included. So by the time I was back in the trenches solidly, my mental stability was nearing 0%. I was signed with my first agent for about 6 months, during which time, I learned a lot. Things you just simply can't learn until after you've signed and gone on sub, and just...made mistakes.
I quickly learned that the agent relationship I was in was not what it needed to be. I knew I needed to get out, and though I was scared to take the plunge, I needed to face the facts. My book had been on submission (albeit, only to a very small handful of people). I didn't have another completed manuscript to fall back on (yet). I could be ruining my chances by jumping ship now. But I knew that what was happening wasn't much better. So I decided to go for it. What did I have to lose? I now had a very polished manuscript, that, in the least, would stand out amongst the slush. Editors were contacting me to see the manuscript again as soon as I secured rep--I just needed to believe that I could do this.
One. More. Time.
I wasn't really that confident getting back into it, but I did it anyways.
The first thing I did, as an author who had queried before, was approach agents who previously had the full. Now, I didn't approach everyone, but the majority of my fulls resulted in form rejections, so I figured it could be a number of things that caused someone to pass on the MS the first time, starting with the fact that the manuscript simply wasn't ready the first time I queried it.
Surprisingly, only 2 agents I approached a second time did not ask to see the manuscript again. Everyone else was excited to read again after I shared my revision outline with them. I even had an agent approach *me* after seeing that I was querying again on Twitter, and she asked to see the revised manuscript. I got action quite quickly the second time, and a lot of this is due to the fact that my first offer came only 6 days into querying, from an agent who had already read the book. The other half of this, that must be recognized, is that I spend a good amount of effort networking in the publishing industry through social media. I maintained connections with editors and agents, albeit distant connections, but I have a solid reach on my posts within the industry, so I started my querying 2.0 journey with a tweet and a pitch. Contrary to popular belief, I don't do this to be annoying (that's just a side effect of any and everything I do, sorry!), I did it to get the word out to my target audience. And it worked. Which is why I do the [annoying, extra] things I do.
Now, I'm about to talk stats, so if you don't like those, please skip!
This time around, I only queried a fraction of the agents I queried before.
I used basically the same query blurb, only tweaking anything that didn't ring true for the newest version of the manuscript, and the beginning of the letter started with the fact that I was previously represented by X Agent, and I had been on submission. I also included that the manuscript had been requested by X number of editors. Otherwise, the letter essentially stayed the same. It worked well last time, and that rang true my second time as well.
This time, I was very selective. I only queried people I 100% knew I would love to work with. Unlike the first time, where I queried anyone who repped my genre, this time, I targeted top agents, and people I knew would enjoy this book. This ended in 42 total queries, including agents who previously had my full. Actually, let me just drop the numbers:
I also requeried a small group of agents who had given personalized, regretful seeming passes to just the query. Surprisingly, all of those people who passed about 6 months ago on the query actually requested the full this time! I don't know what that means exactly, but I thought it was interesting to note. 4 of my queries were CNRs, and those were all agents I fully expected to get CNRs from.
I received more personalized feedback on fulls this round, all generally positive. I got 23 full requests, 0 R&Rs, 4 offers of representation, and 1 full that CNRed.
My Query Didn't Change, I did.
I knew my query worked, because it had worked for me the first time. I'm not sure what got my a 55% request rate this time, whether it was simply better timing, better agent targeting, a longer nudge period due to receiving my first offer right before basically all of publishing shut down (Is this a pattern for me?), but I think at the end of the day, the only thing that changed was me. I was a better writer. Sure, I had editor interest now, since I'd been in front of a few editors, but really, the book was just...better.
Don't let these numbers fool you though
My getting rep the second time was a culmination of many, many things. Querying previously, being agented, having experience on sub, knowing exactly what I was looking for. All of those things lended themselves to my being agented again.
In total for this book across two times querying, I sent 167 queries (some of those may have been repeats), received 55 full requests, and 6 offers of representation. I truly believe that the thing that got me multiple offers from amazing agents is that I worked so damn hard on the book.
It went through 4 rounds of edits before going on sub, so the book was simply better. And I think that's the thing I'll always stress when I give advice of any kind about querying. Make sure that book is solid. It's about the book.
It's always been about the book.
And remember, your Tweets don't count toward your word count. I can share my experience and give advice, and that probably means next to nothing to a lot of people. It's all anecdotal. Numbers don't really matter. The only thing that matters is the book, and the work, and putting work in. I can't stress enough how important it is to focus on yourself, and not worry about what's going on with other people, especially if it upsets you.
At the end of the day, if you wrote a damn good book, it will find its way. You just push, don't give up, and for the love of god, don't compare yourself to everyone else. You carve your own path, build a positive community around you that's supportive and full of real friends, and you will be okay.
It ain't called the trenches for nothing.