This is the story of how I started March 2021 thinking I was going to die and ended the month signing with my dream agent. This is also a story of never giving up.
While the whirlwind that was querying the book that got me my agent was very fast and intense, I want to point out that it also didn’t feel that way overall. I want to be as open and honest about this experience as possible since I know what it feels like to feel like you’re constantly watching overnight successes, that it feels and looks like everyone is getting a “Cinderella story” or a fast querying journey on their first book, lots of rep offers etc. when that isn’t actually that common. I know that feeling of discouragement being on the outside looking in and honestly, it sucks and I want to encourage people over my journey rather than discourage.
I’ve wanted to be a traditionally published author since I was 17, now I’m 26 and over the course of those nine years, I wrote six books(not including an entire rewrite of one of them), queried five, and felt like I was going nowhere. I got one to two full requests on each of my books, all of which lead to rejection. I had one agent tell me, in much nicer words, that while I had good concepts my writing sucked lol. My writing friends kept telling me I was getting close when I got an R&R on one of my books or that my stats weren’t that bad even though I had very few requests but it didn’t make the rejections hurt any less. I kept being met with deadends. The book I queried before this one made me feel like it was never going to be my turn and that this dream simply wasn’t in the cards for me.
My previous queried book stats are:
1st Book(2014): Rejections: 15, Requests: 1 full, R&R: 0, Sent: 15
2nd Book(2017): Rejections: 111, Requests: 1 partial, R&R: 0, Sent: 111
3rd Book(2019): Rejections: 14, Requests: 3 fulls, 1 partial, R&R: 1, Sent: 14
4th Book(2020): Rejections: 38, Requests: 2 fulls, 1 partial, R&R: 0, Sent: 45
Then this book happened.
I was trying to do NaNo November 2020, got two weeks in, forcing out a fantasy book that I thought I loved but it just wasn’t working. I managed to get 10k words out before I decided to give up, take a break from writing while also worrying that maybe I had no stories worth telling. It was discouraging but also needed. At the time there was a very vague concept stirring in the back of my mind, one I refused to let myself think about. It was so different from anything I’d ever written before that I wasn’t sure if I knew how to do it.
But as I rewatched The Promised Neverland for the millionth time to analyse the amazing writing structure of that first season (don’t talk to me about the second season *clenches fist*) That vague idea came back to me. I wanted to write something creepy and isolated like The Promised Neverland so bad and then I had an epiphany. I could write a story like that, simply because I wanted to.
And so, not caring about anything other than to get lost in a story I loved, I began writing. Everything for this book clicked together so easily and poured out of me. Ideas popped in my head before I had a moment to brainstorm and it truly felt like magic. Before I knew it, I had finished drafting and revising by February 2021 and sent it off to betas. (It’s wild for me to think I started drafting this book in December 2020 and four months later I landed an agent. What even is time.) I had intentions of participating in Pitmad in March but I knew the book wasn’t quite ready to query yet. That ‘thought I was going to die’ part of my life I mentioned? Yeah, lol. I happened to get emergency surgery in which I had an organ removed the day of Pitmad lollll so it clearly wasn’t meant to be. What I did know though was, this book was different.
I kept resisting saying it felt different, that this book really felt like The One. Mainly because I felt like I said that for every story I’d written before it and then ended up being wrong and I really didn’t want to be wrong again. I can’t explain the feeling other than that in the pit of my stomach I knew this book was great, I was so proud of it and loved it more than anything I’d ever written. In my gut, I knew. In retrospect, I know the feelings for past books had been nothing more than hope. Hope it was the one, hope that it would get me to the next step, hope that someone would love it as much as I did. This time it was believing. I believed this book was The One.
Now let me be honest for a moment. Yes, I drafted and revised this book very quickly, but that isn’t a reflection of my success. Every book for me is different and some books have taken me years to write and revise while others like this one ended up being very quick. It all depends on how much time I have available, my mental health, etc. etc. I don’t want anyone to read this and think they need to draft quickly in order to find success. Something I say all the time is “don’t fret about how long something will take you. Time passes anyway.”
While I was off work to recover from surgery I ended up doing one more round of revisions(YES YES I KNOWWWW I SHOULD HAVE BEEN RELAXING TO RECOVER BUT I SIMPLY COULD NOT) and sent it off to another round of betas. I wanted to give this book its best chance possible and planned to start querying it in June 2021. Clearly, that is not what happened lol.
On Friday, March 26th, my friend Elizabeth and I were talking about our books. She asked me who my dream agent was and for someone who has been rejected, again and again, I stopped having a “dream agent” out of fear of being rejected by them. But as I thought about it, I said “I’d love to be represented by Megan Manzano.” I always felt like I vibed well with them and at the end of the day, I wanted someone who not only loved my books as much as me but also found them easy to talk to. Fun fact: the book I signed with Megan for was actually the third book of mine she’s read and she even rejected me on the last book I queried.
THEN THE WEEK OF CHAOS CAME.
Sunday, March 28th.
It was a normal day and I had initially planned to spend my evening playing Animal Crossing. But as I was waiting for dinner to be ready I read over the first chapter of my book again for fun. (to which I changed an entire scene. Oops.) Then, out of impulse and impatience, I sent out five queries.
I told myself I just wanted to test my query and sample pages to see if they worked and give me a starting point on my next round of revisions. WELL, THEY WORKED ALRIGHT.
TWENTY MINUTES after sending out those five queries I had a full request. My mouth literally fell open in disbelief, but I ultimately decided not to get too excited. It could still end in rejection and that was what I was used to! Then the next morning I had a partial request from Megan. Now I was shaking. This was so fast, I was expecting months for them to respond and it had only been a day. When I got home from work I sent out that partial and then AN HOUR LATER Megan responded back asking for the full and pitches of future books I’d want to work on. No agent had ever asked that of me before and this was the point where I thought this was definitely different than all the times I’d queried before.
Then twenty-four hours later, Megan responded to me again, asking for a phone call. An agent, my dream agent at that, finished my entire manuscript in 24 hours. That can’t be reality lmao.
My friend Elora helped me, in my panicked state, compose a list of other agents to query to keep my options open. At this point I didn’t really care, I felt like I was just floating through time, but I sent out six more queries anyway. The next day, the morning of my phone call, I got another full request. When I tell you that every time I got an email notification I panicked, I mean I had to run to the washroom a million times at work to quietly squeal.
The night of my phone call came and Megan offered rep. I was in such disbelief I don’t even remember reacting. I said nothing. I don’t even know if I smiled. Thankfully it wasn’t awkward and Megan kept the conversation moving. It was so easy to talk to Megan and their answers to my questions really made me feel like we’d be a great fit. I almost didn’t want any other agents to offer because I was worried I’d feel that way for all of them and then not know how to decide who to go with lol.
That night I quickly sent out emails to all my withstanding queries and full requests that I had an offer. The next morning led to me getting another full request and I had now broken my record for how many full requests I’d gotten on a manuscript. Now I had two weeks to wait and make my decision.
No one warned me for how brutal and soul-crushing those two weeks would be. After the day of informing all my withstanding queries and fulls, my email inbox was radio silent. Megan also closed to queries before our deadline. I spent most of those two weeks worrying about if Megan would suddenly take the offer away or that because she was closed to queries meant the offer no longer stood, or that I imagined the whole thing, or that the reason why agents were taking so long to respond is that my manuscript wasn’t as great as I thought it was. All the self-doubt and imposter syndrome I had yet to experience for this book came crashing down on me. Going from feeling overwhelmed by the response I was getting to literally nothing was not the shift I was mentally prepared for and made those two weeks drag on for what felt like forever.
Another thing everyone failed to mention about getting an offer is the rejections still sting. I mean, I expected as much but with an offer under my belt I thought they would be easier to shrug off, not even worth thinking about. Yet I still found myself feeling that familiar sinking feeling and discouragement over them regardless of the excitement from an offer.
After about a week and a half, I still hadn’t heard from any of the three agents who had my full, but to my surprise, I ended up getting another full request. Now we are at a total of five!!! Wild. Here I thought I was done with this roller coaster lol.
I spent the last four days waiting with tension in my chest that my body simply wouldn’t let go. One thing to know about me is I tend to be a very efficient person and deadlines make me anxious. So, I tend to get work done much faster than what is expected out of me, making waiting for others before a certain deadline excruciating. How could they be so calm to take their time? How are they okay with waiting until the last minute to make their decision and get back to me? It was painful.
The deadline was approaching and the responses were rolling in. I got a rejection on a full I was really convinced was an agent who would offer rep and it stung more than I’d like to admit. I spent a lot of time reminding myself it’s okay to only get one offer of rep, normal even. All it takes is one yes and only one doesn’t mean my book isn’t as good or has any less potential than other stories. Besides, I knew Megan loved my story and how quickly she finished it was the enthusiasm I was looking for. Megan is literally the agent I wanted!! She was number one on my list! LITERALLY MY DREAM AGENT!! I was 99.9% sure I wanted to sign with them the moment they offered rep regardless if anyone else offered!! I shouldn’t feel down about only one offer, yet that is much easier said than done lol. But I also didn’t want an agent to offer simply because of the market and if they thought my book would be an easy sell.
Finally, April 13th arrived after what felt like 2 years instead of 2 weeks lol. I sent an email to Megan to accept her offer and it wasn’t until I signed the contract the next day that I finally let myself cry and believe this was happening.
It’s so wild reflecting back on this experience because I literally expected NOTHING and got EVERYTHING. I wasn’t mentally ready for the whirlwind I was throwing myself into, but I guess that’s life.
I’m so excited to work with Megan and I truly believe they are the best champion for my book about messy queer girls, a school with dark secrets, and a forest you can’t trust.
It’s honestly so true what they say, never give up.