Last May I'd been querying for, officially, about seven months. Right at the beginning I got a partial (passed a week later) and a full (but was warned it would be a long time before the agent would have time to read it). In January I realized I'd queried too soon, and my manuscript needed a major make-over. Plot and pacing were pretty good, but some of it was just so clumsy.
So as the first round of rejections finished rolling in, I pressed pause and went back perform surgery on my baby. I rewrote about half the scenes and cut 12,000 words (though I let about 8000 back in after they promised to be better). Then I sent it out to a group of beta readers. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and there were several good suggestions. Just before I was done polishing it, I heard from the agent who had an earlier version, saying she was ready to start reading soon, and since it had been so long, she wanted to make sure it was a) still available and b) the latest revision. I risked looking like a total noob and asked for extra time to finish what I was working on.
Two weeks later I took a deep breath and sent out a round of queries and 2 full requests (one to said agent, another that had come in a February earlier). Almost immediately I got another full request. Can you say dizzy?
But the literary world is a cruel one, and a week later rejections started rolling in again, including on the new full. Fewer were form rejections though, and that was a good sign. I girded my loins and sent out another round, then that evening I got a quick note from that one agent (from the very beginning) saying she was starting in the next couple days so I would hear from her soon.
(Can I just throw out here that I REALLY appreciated those progress notes? It is agonizing to have a manuscript- or even just a query- out for weeks or months and after all that time of wondering if they are liking it or hating it, it turns out they haven't even had a chance to look at it? Agents are busy, and their actual clients come first, and I totally get that, but that knowledge of their status is lovely.)
So several days later I'm riding in the car to a local USNA alumni luncheon. I'd spent the week prepping another batch of query letters because we were moving soon, and I thought now was the time to send them. I figured the wait would be easier if I had school ending and packing and driving and unpacking, etc to distract me. My phone buzzed with an email, and I pulled it out to look. Groupon.
As I dismissed the notification, I remember thinking that someday, someday it would be an email from an agent saying "I want to see more" or "I want to talk." It would happen when I was least expecting it, but someday it would happen. I put the phone down and sighed. Someday.
My phone buzzed with a new email. I swear this is true.
It was from that first agent, the patient one. In the notification, I could read the first lines of message: Dear Erin, You kept me up all night reading, I'm very upset with you. Now I have to go back and read the story again...
I may or may not have stopped breathing. I slammed the phone back down on my lap, like when I was 13 and called the radio station to win Paula Abdul tickets, and they answered with "You're caller number nine!" and I panicked and hung up.
No. Effing. Way.
I stared out the windshield for a minute (I will always remember where we were on the highway). Finally I mumbled to my husband (who was driving). "I just got an email from an agent."
"Really, what did it say?"
"It says..." I picked up the phone and opened the message. It was short, but clear. "She wants to talk."
The rest of the day was pretty much an out of body experience. The only part I remember was two hours later I got a phonecall from my son's teacher about a tantrum he'd thrown. Talk about whiplash. But I was still so high I don't even think I was mad.
I don't remember setting up the call. I don't remember writing pages of questions to ask. But I must have done both of those things because less than a week later I was on google chat with a printout in front of me and a deer in the headlights look on my face. Don't let her know you're crazy.
She put me right at ease. She said the nicest things about my story. She suggested a revision point in the plot, which I liked, but she offered rep without it.
Then it was over. It took me another day to be able to start emailing all the agents who still had my query. Manuscript requests and very nice step-asides poured in. It was right during BEA (not to mention my house was being packed up and 3 of my kids celebrated birthdays), but at the end of two weeks I had a choice to make (and also a couple more who asked for extra time). Since I had so much going on I couldn't take calls right away, I extended it a little. Patient agent was patient.
Then I waited another day or two because writing my own rejection letters was freaking hard (and I was driving a van full of kids halfway across the country). And I went with the first agent, the patient one, the one who had a great revision idea, the one who requested a full way back 7 months before and so was one of the first to give me hope that this book might become a real thing- Valerie Noble.
And she still has to be patient with me, because I always have so much going on in life outside writing, and I can never, ever leave things alone. I never finish a revision but two days later I'm like, "Wait! I need to fix something else!" I already warned her she has to be prepared to cut me off like a bartender with a drunk sorority girl. You're done. Go home and sleep it off.
Anyway. There's still a long way to go on this journey, but now, even four months after signing with Valerie, I am as stoked as I was when I read that fateful email. Every day I'm like