Pages

Monday, December 11, 2017

To The Future (a.k.a. How I Got My Agent)

So…I have an agent. (Insert insanely over-the-top cheering and celebration here.) How’s that for a beginning?

I know, right? Crazy. The past few months have been such a whirlwind that everything seems like some sort of fantastic dream. I honestly cannot believe this has happened. But it has. And here’s the story:

It started with Pitch Wars. Once I was accepted into the contest, my mentor (the fabulous Destiny Cole) and I went to work on my entry. There was a lot of back and forth and a ton of revision, more than I had anticipated. I knew the book needed help, but was surprised at how much character motivation and specific details it was lacking. Destiny pointed out the needs, made some suggestions, and gave me plenty to get the book polished and done. I wrote a lot then, some weekends spending almost 20 hours on my laptop to get it ready. The work was hard, but the final result was amazing.

Then came the agent round. If you are considering entering Pitch Wars, prepare your emotions for the fact that, if you get chosen, you will be on an intense roller coaster ride of feelings. I’m not kidding here. I stopped sleeping once my pitch went live and it has taken me about a month since to calm down. All the fears that I’d experienced prior to entering Pitch Wars were amplified 100 times while I waited to see what agents would think of my project. I knew the book was polished and in great shape, but getting only 300 words to ‘pitch’ that to an agent was agonizing. It was torture. I kept checking the site to see if anyone would post a reply to my submission and ask to see the manuscript.

And I waited.

Other entries started receiving interest. And more interest. And more. I kept staring at my page wondering what I had done wrong and if this had been some sort of massive mistake. Was the title a problem? The pitch? The page? I had no idea why agents where passing on my work—and that hurt the most. Then the first request came in and I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. More requests came in, and more. The roller coaster ride was taking another turn and it was incredibly exhilarating, a thrill I never imagined. Such a rush of love for my little book.

The rules of the contest directed everyone to wait a week before sending materials to agents. This allowed for everyone to read the entries and give them a chance at so many great manuscripts. And that’s another thing about Pitch Wars that I didn’t realize before entering. Everyone in the contest is super supportive and wonderful. You get to know all the mentees and realize how everybody is traveling on this journey together. You want others to do well. You love their books and you get this overwhelming sensation of imposter syndrome because people are fantastically gifted. I felt that way and as excited as I was to send off my work to agents, I wondered how they would possibly accept my book over another. It’s like choosing a flavor of ice-cream when everything presented is your favorite. I was one of many.

There was a lot of back and forth between me and Destiny the day I sent my requested material. One point of concern was my query letter. I’d spent so much time on the manuscript that the query needed help. Destiny was a champ and gave me the advice I needed to improve the letter. That night, I fired off a dozen emails and (again) didn’t sleep a wink. (I told you it was a wild ride!)

I thought life was grand as auto replies and small notes from agents reached my inbox. Some loved the title and had requested based on that. Others loved the comps. A few enjoyed the voice. I was living the dream and I was unprepared for the next step. Arriving home from my day job less than 24 hours after sending off my material, I received an email from an agent asking if they could call. OM Freakin’ G. I ran into the house and fired off an email. Sure, I said. I’m available. I was so excited that I forgot to send her my phone number. I had to reply again when she asked.

I knew a little bit about agent calls and mentees in the Pitch Wars group had shared a list of questions to ask, but I’d never studied them. I didn’t actually think I’d get to that point. I wanted to, I hoped to, but I was also realistic. I didn’t want to anticipate something happening and have it never transpire. And I certainly didn’t expect to hear from an agent so soon.

We spoke for over an hour, talking about the book, asking questions, and getting to know each other. Stacey was wonderfully kind and professional. I took notes during the call which is something I recommend since everything was such a blur that night. There’s protocol with an agent offer and having manuscripts out to other agents, something I won’t get into here, but let me say that the two-week wait was agonizing and frantic. (Roller coaster—remember?) I was so relieved when I could finally sign the agreement and call Stacey Donaghy my agent. That’s right, I’m now represented by Stacey Donagy of DonaghyLiterary Group. And she’s awesome!

So now the real work begins and it’s exciting. I’ve started writing another YA Mystery—of course—and we’ll see what the future brings. Until then,

Happy Reading!


~ Jamie

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pitch Wars

While working full-steam ahead on my fantastic new project about a guy haunted by his ex-girlfriend, I had another book idea pop into my head. I shouldn't use the word pop. It exploded! The idea hit me with so much force that I had to begin right away. And I did. That day, I outlined the book and wrote the first chapter and the last chapter. The date was May 31, 2017.

And the book was enjoyable to write. I loved the characters and the story—and the twists. This was the type of book I’d been looking to read, so the words flowed and the story got better and better.

Then I remembered a contest I had entered last year. Pitch Wars. In the contest, you submit a query letter and the first chapter of your manuscript to four mentors who then pick a lucky winner from all their submissions and help get that manuscript shiny and magnificent. I didn’t get in to the contest last year. (Between you and me, not getting in motivated me like crazy. I started writing a new story the day the winners were announced and then rewrote the manuscript I entered in the months following the contest. The re-write is awesome and I’m certain it’ll draw interest once I start querying it.)

Now I’m rambling. So I remembered this contest and I didn’t want to enter the same novel as last year. I thought, perhaps, that I might get this book done in time to enter. And that’s what I did. I wrote non-stop to get the first draft done and managed to get some edits complete before the submission date arrived for the contest. Yay. At least I had an entry.

After failing last year, I learned how subjective contests can be, so I didn’t have high expectations for this book. While I loved the story, I wasn’t sure how other people would react. The book was dark at times, and twisted, and also contemporary. I had never written a Contemporary YA before. Would I pull of an authentic voice? Would people think I needed therapy? Would people scream at my title and ban me from the contest? These were real questions stirring in my mind as I researched authors participating in the contest as mentors.

I eventually made my choices and submitted my book, I KILLED BRENDA MORRIS, to Pitch Wars.

Fast forward to today.

I made it into the contest and I couldn't be happier. Destiny Cole took a chance on me and accepted me as her mentee. To say that I was shocked to get chosen is a huge understatement. I get emotional thinking about it. This contest was what I needed and it’s making me better every day. Destiny is a fantastic mentor and I’m lucky to have her cheering me on and helping mold this book into something that will surprise and delight a lot of readers. 

Pitch Wars is wonderful. If you entered and didn’t make it in to the contest, keep writing. Keep imagining. Keep entering. If you are a mentor, thank you for giving up your time to help people like me get better. If you are a mentee, hello again. I love our community of support.

Writing is an art, a skill that can be developed. We’re all improving and learning, and putting our dreams onto pages together. And that’s what I love about it.


Jamie