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Monday, September 28, 2015

How I Got My Agent : Summer Spence

The "How I Got My Agent" posts were pretty popular last time, so I've decided to bring them back because, let's face it, who doesn't love to read these stories? As I'm working on an R&R for an agent, I especially find them inspiring, and I hope you will too.

The amazing Summer Spence is here today to share with us her story of how she hooked her agent. Take it away, Summer!

My "How I Got My Agent" story is a long, blood-and-tears tale of epic highs and lows, driven by two things: persistence and chocolate. Without those two essential ingredients, I would still be wishing for an agent, instead of sending the wonderful Heather Flaherty at The Bent Agency too many annoying emails.

When I started my book, OF NIGHT AND STONE, I had no idea it would even BE a book. I wrote on the train everyday on my way to work, to pass the time. I've always loved storytelling – I have a degree in Theatre – and the train ride was LONG. So I wrote. Usually whatever came to mind. Sometimes about the fantastically funny people on the train with me. But then, one gloomy fall day, I was in a creepy mood, and the beginning of a spooky story popped out. I didn't know what was going to happen next… but I had to find out. I chased that story every day on the train, writing until my fingers cramped and I groaned when I got to my stop.

In the end, I had a very messy manuscript. And I LOVED it. I wanted to share it, this little world that had burst from my fingertips. But I knew it needed work. So I started editing. That took a LOOOOOOONG time. Too long.

But listen – EDITING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART – and the part that I screwed up. I got anxious. My concept was fresh. My setting was creeptastic. My characters were real people to me. I wanted this thing out there! So I started to query… before I even knew about beta readers or critique partners or character arcs or any of the thousands of craft things I had to learn still.

I got requests. A lot of them. I joined Twitter. I found a wonderful community of writers who all seemed light years ahead of me. They gushed about the revisions they were able to do with the help of their CPs. And it hit me – I had sent my baby into the world too soon. Sure, my mom loved my book. So did my best friend. But they didn't know anything about the craft of storytelling. Ooops.

The rejections came in. (This is where the chocolate was needed.) I developed a nervous tick whenever my email notification dinged. I dug through my book, trying to fix all of the things I suddenly knew were not great. And I got overwhelmed.

Luckily, I found out about Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars contest. (See http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-wars/ for details on the contest). I submitted, and I was lucky enough to get in. I gained a fabulous mentor and friend, Evelyn Skye, and her objective eye helped me whip my book into shape.

Sounds easy, right? Like this would be the fairy tale ending. All that hard work had to pay off soon! The Pitch Wars agent round came and I got great requests. I also started querying again in earnest.

And I got rejections. Wonderful, kind rejections. With no clues as to what I could fix. I thought if I heard "this is great, you are so talented, it's just not for me" one more time, I might pull every key off my computer and throw it into the ocean.

I'm not going to lie; at this point, I wanted to give up. But by this time, I had made some wonderful writer friends who wouldn't let me. (PSA – Get some of those!) They told me what every querying writer HATES to hear – "you just haven't found the right agent, yet!"

And they were right. Because then I queried Heather. And everything started going in fast-forward. She was enthusiastic, responsive, and something about this time just felt different.

When I got her email that she wanted to talk about my book (was it THE CALL? Was it NOT? OMGGGGGG), I thought I would explode. Little bits of Summer all over the ceiling. I managed to keep myself together though, and I'm so glad! Because she offered rep and said so many smart things about my book and what she thought we could make it into together, that I was smitten.

The moral of the story is one I'm sure you're sick of hearing. DON'T GIVE UP. Keep pushing. Meet other writers. Learn from them. Improve your craft. Be honest with yourself. If you've written a dystopian vampire romance, you may need to hold onto that one until the market isn’t so saturated. Use everything you write for your own profit and learning. I have rewritten SO MUCH of my book SO MANY TIMES. It has evolved. As have I. And I am so grateful.

And guess what? Now that I have an agent… I'm STILL revising. I'm going to make this book the absolute best thing I can and then send it out into the world again. And I really, really hope some of you will be able to read it someday!

Until then, I live on words and chocolate! <3

Summer Spence is a YA author living in scenic Utah (and always pining for California, her true home). She began her storytelling career on stage as an actor, where she fell in love with words and the beautiful challenge of creating human beings out of them. When she's not dreaming up imaginary worlds, she loves to be out exploring this one. While she has yet to convince her husband and kids that camping is just reading outdoors, or that the beach is only fun with a book, they all agree that chocolate is an absolute must for every adventure!

Summer is represented by Heather Flaherty at The Bent Agency.


Stephen Tremp said...

That's life in a nutshell. Don;t give up. Perserverence is the key. I gave up on getting an agent for now. But that could change with a new series coming out next year.

Angela Brown said...

Holding on and persevering can seem very difficult, but if it is the path of true desire, then it is the path worth continuing on.

Very glad you found your agent, Summer, and thank you for sharing your story of inspiration and the importance of chocolate - erm - perseverence :-)

Chrys Fey said...

It seems that sending our babies out to seen is a common practice. I did it with one of mine. And I know so many others have too. There were times when I would say, "I give up." But I knew I was fooling myself. I couldn't really give up. I was too passionate. Not giving up is the best thing we can do. :)

dolorah said...

Fabulous; congrats Summer. So cool when that happens. I'm still waiting for my "right agent."

Liz A. said...

Great story. I think the one thing all these stories have in common is "don't give up". Just try it one more time...

KAT Writer said...

Thanks so much for sharing Summer. Good luck with your book. I have not started looking for an agent yet but I will keep this in mind when I do. I am just enjoying learning the craft for now.