How I Got My Agent (And Changed My Agent)
Being the procrastinator that I sometimes am, I delayed documenting this process until 7 months after signing with an agent, but lo and behold my entire post became outdated because before I had the chance to make this post, my agent situation changed! Anyway, read on for the full story...
My writing journey dates a long way back, so I’ll spare everyone the gory details. In summary, I’ve dabbled all over the place - in theatre, screenplays, fanfiction - and now I’m finally settled into a comfortable space between getting my novels traditionally published and actively sharing less conventional work online via Wattpad.
So let’s start at the beginning of my grand trad pub quest, with me joining Twitter (that hell site) in 2020. Prior to that, I had no clue how to break into the trad pub space at all. To me, getting published was limited to the few small presses we have in Singapore - Epigram, Ethos Books etc. - but I never believed they’d publish any of my work, because the local lit feels very literary-leaning, while my books are more commercial in nature. I have Thoughts about this lit fic vs. commercial fic divide, which I will save for a later day. Twitter, ironically, for all its shit, was where I found my writing community, and where I’d learn everything I now know about the Western trad pub industry. I am eternally grateful to Amery for bringing me into her BIPOC queriers group chat, through which I learnt so much about pitching, querying, agents and all. Thank you Twitter for my writing BFFs (Jenny & Amy - hi ily so much you’re never getting rid of me), fellow SEAsians trying to bring our books to the shelves. It was also here that I learnt about a thing called PitchWars (now deceased), about two months before the opening of the submission window - and decided to finish my WIP and throw it into the ring.
I thought it was a long shot, considering there were over 4000 applicants, so while waiting for the results to be announced I also hedged my bets with #DVpit and got antsy over preparing to leap into the query trenches once it was confirmed that I didn’t get in. But by some miracle - I GOT IN. I owe so much to my dear mentors Kat and Daph for what they’ve done for me and my book. Querying was put on hold and I was thrown into a whirlwind two months of revisions, and then preparing my pitch for the big, flashy PW showcase. I still count showcase day as one of the most exhilarating days in my writing journey. My entire PW class was on edge while we waited to find out how many agent requests we got, and while I tried not to get my hopes up, it was impossible not to have Some expectations.
I had 8 requests. It’s not that many (there were entries with over 40!), so I kept reminding myself that it only took one - right? And then it was into the query trenches with me. I dutifully sent out my materials to the requesting agents that I thought I’d want to work with, and then some more on my list of to-query agents. I followed the book. I started conservatively, cold querying ~5 agents who were fast responders, a mix of A/B/C-tier agents from my list. There was good news! One of my A-tier agents responded almost immediately with a full request, and I was super optimistic that I would get My agent soon.
Querying was painful. Made doubly painful when I saw my PW classmates getting agentoffers right off the bat (and then book deals too). The silence was excruciating. The rejections hurt. I know I’m not alone in feeling, a month or two into this struggle, that maybe my book was shit and that’s why no one wanted it.
I threw the querying strategy book out of the window.
Instead of doing batch querying and being cautious, I started yeeting out queries on a rolling basis because I just couldn’t take the silence and the waiting. Whenever I got a rejection, I sent a new query out. I sent queries to all my A-tier agents, because I decided at some point that this query package was as good as it was ever going to get. I didn’t want to revise it anymore. I was Tired.
In the middle of all this querying, 3 months after the PW showcase, #APIpit happened. With still no bites for my PW book (#1), I tried pitching it again - and because I have no chill, I pitched Another book (#2) as well. This second book was started during Nanowrimo 2021, paused for PW, and then finished post-PW while I was suffering through the querying wait. And so I began querying TWO books concurrently, throwing out queries like a tennis ball pitching machine.
More rejections. #1 received some lovely feedback and compliments from agents with fulls, but it was still a bunch of nos. The voice was great, they loved the MC, but didn’t love it enough to take it forward. #2 actually fared better in terms of full requests from cold queries, but they didn’t think it would sell well in the market.
In October, when I was pretty much ready to shelve #1 entirely and CNR all the outstanding queries, I got my first bite.
The End (?)
I received an email from Agent A, who had both my fulls for books #1 and #2, and the email asked for A Call. The Call. She’d finished #2 loved it, and wanted to offer representation. Cue lots of screaming! Now this was an agent who was absolutely lovely, whom I would have been thrilled to work with. The call went super well and she was so enthusiastic about mywork. Honestly, I was itching to just say “YES SIGN ME NOW” but in the end I held back and did what you’re supposed to do, sheepishly ask for two weeks to consider and notify all other agents.
Slowest two weeks of my life (before sub happened that is).
Then I got another call request from Agent B. Cue more screaming! Remember at this point I was already totally ready to sign with Agent A, but I hopped on the call with Agent B anyway - and I was blown away. I know having options is Fantastic, but it’s also so Hard. I spent the rest of the two week period weighing pros and cons, throwing random thoughts at my group chats and see-sawing back and forth while other rejections streamed in. Fourteen days later (finally), I stabbed the send button on my offer acceptance - with Agent B (mynow agent Anne!).
I am still so grateful to Agent A for being the first one to believe in my work and offer to champion it, but unfortunately hard choices still have to be made, and a big part of me really wanted to launch my writing career from the UK (controversial, I know) a place I consider my second home. With Anne’s experience in the UK pub industry, I knew she would be a superb agent for me.
Not The End!
When I signed with Anne, I honestly thought that it would be the end of the agent search drama, but it was not to be. In August, I got terribly sad news that my star agent Anne was going to be leaving agenting to return to editorial :( I am truly happy for her because the job offer was amazing and I know she'll be such a fantastic editor to so many other authors in future (sub to Anne pls), but I was also really bummed that I would be losing her as my champion. At this point, I flew into a small panic at the thought of having to find a new agent and go back into the query trenches.
Thankfully, I didn't actually need to do that because the agency smoothly got me moved over to another agent with minimal fuss and maximum professionalism. In my intro call with my new agent Meg, I asked whether she was truly willing to represent me because "what if you don't like my style of work!", but her response was first class. She replied with, "What if you don't like my style of agenting?" and that was a really important reminder to me that this is a partnership, so I really should stop self-deprecating and be more confident of my work.
So here I am, less than year after signing with an agent, having a brand new agent already. Ngl, agent transition is scary. There are many "what ifs" that still run through my mind, but I'm just going to suck it up and take it as it comes. For now, everything is well again and I might have some news soon?
Total queries sent: 48 Partial requests: 2 (for Book #1) Full requests: 11 (for Book #1) and 3 (for Book #2) Offers of rep: 2
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