My friend Katherine Grace Bond, poet and YA author and teacher and terrific critiquer, recently heard the words that writers long to hear: "May I represent you?"
*sound of crowd cheering!*
That's right, Katherine is now represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger!
So I invited Katherine to spill some of her secrets to landing an agent right here. Welcome, Katherine!
HOLLY: The actual event of receiving an agent offer is kind of a momentous and memorable event in any case, but yours is particularly hilarious. Tell us how it went down!
KATHERINE: Now you’ll find out what an awful wife and mother I am!
My husband was having sinus surgery on the day I had scheduled to talk with Sara. He thought this wouldn’t be a problem because I was to simply drop him off at the hospital at 5:45 in the morning and then spend the day at my mom’s, which was ten minutes away. I planned to take the call at Mom’s, where I would have a quiet room to talk. As it happened, he got out surgery an hour earlier than we’d anticipated. And I couldn’t bring myself to stay away from the hospital. I had to see him and know he was okay. So I went, phone in hand, and found him just about to transfer out of recovery. He was having an adverse reaction to the anesthesia and was very nauseated. But they got him settled into his room and I asked him if I should reschedule the phone call. “No,” he said bravely. “This is important.”
I was to hear from Sara at noon and every few seconds I looked at my phone for the time. Andrew was more and more miserable and began throwing up blood. I was patting him and nurses were going in and out and checking on him. I kept checking the phone: Two minutes to twelve…one minute to twelve… At 12:03 the phone rang.
“Mom?” It was my youngest. He loves to give me detailed descriptions of his morning, or complain bitterly about how unfair his brother is.
“Thomas, I can’t talk right now. I have an important call coming.” I said this rapidly, shooting a glance at the wall clock.
“Can I have a root beer with my lunch?”
“Yes!” I clicked the phone off.
At 12:04, the phone rang again. It was Sara. Of course I blathered that I was in the hospital with my post-surgery husband.
“Should we schedule another time?” she asked, concerned.
“No, no. It’s fine,” I said blithely, as my poor husband began to moan in pain.
I moved to the other side of the room. Sara and I discussed my novel, BODACIOUS MYSTERY GALPAL TELLS ALL. She was enthusiastic and--glory be--didn’t think it needed many changes. What she did want changed was, I thought, spot on. She understood my project and I knew she could help me make it a better book. While my husband intermittently threw up and moaned, I paced the hallway talking with Sara. I went to the nurse’s station mid-phone call and asked them to get him more pain meds--really, I did! Sometime during all that pacing, Sara made it clear that she wanted to work with me. And I knew I wanted to work with her.
After I hung up, I checked on my husband. “I have an agent,” I whispered.
Through cracked lips, he croaked, “I’m so proud of you!”
What has been your process for querying agents?
I’m a member of SCBWI, so I notice who is attending the conferences and try to get in and hear them. I especially take recommendations from friends who know the market better than I do. I have a brilliant writer-friend who has been more actively involved in SCBWI than I have. She has a knack for knowing which agents would be best for a particular author, so I always listened to her. In fact, she told me I should find out who represented verse-novelist Lisa Schroeder. Turned out it was Sara Crowe!
So now that you’ve signed with Sara, what’s next? Did she ask you for revisions?
Yes. More and more agents take time on the revision process before sending the book out. Sara’s notes were done with a light touch, and were so respectful in tone. I feel like she is a collaborator, rather than some mean teacher red-penciling my precious book. Since my life is so full, I had to figure out where I was going to get some more writing time, so I’ve been getting up at exactly 5:00 the last few mornings and writing for three hours before I go off to teach or drive my kids around or go to meetings. Once she’s seen the revisions, we’ll discuss it and decide whether it needs another go. I’m confident that she’ll send it out at its best.
What advice would you give to other agent-seekers?
Set a target: Mine was that I wanted to have representation by June. I realize that you can’t have a “goal” that requires someone else’s actions to achieve it, but having that target forced me to set the goals of querying a certain number of agents, keeping queries circulating, and always having an agent or two in mind to research. That way, if things came back, I knew to whom I would send next. I’m encouraged that it took less time than I expected.
Do your research: Talk to other professionals, read the Verla Kay boards (I was a lurker), read AgentQuery, read industry blogs. Pay attention to the books you read and love. Check the acknowledgments to see if the agent is mentioned. Go to SCBWI meetings and conferences. If your career goal includes writing for adults, join other writing organizations in keeping with your genre and market.
Gather with like-minded people: You must do this so that you can have encouragement in your writing. The process is too grueling to do alone. As artists, we need each other and it helps us to both give and receive support.
Hone your craft: Pay attention to critique given by your writing group, by writing teachers, by editors and by agents who take the time to do so. Be honest with yourself about whether your project is ready to go and ask for honest feedback from writer-friends you respect (don’t ask them to critique your manuscript, though – unless you are VERY good friends!) Be a lifelong learner and keep a sense of “beginner’s mind” about your writing. Don’t let your writing get so hooked into your ego that you can’t hear critique. That being said, if you are consistently hearing, from writers you respect, that your work is ready…
Take risks!: Carve out the time to write, even if it feels foolish. Guard it like a mama bear guarding her young and bare your teeth at anyone who tries to impinge on it. Query even if it makes you nervous, and even if you have received multiple rejections. Go to the SCBWI conference in New York. Yes. It is worth the plane fare. Take your writing seriously and it will take you seriously.
Check back tomorrow for Part II, where we hear from Sara Crowe, the agent, herself!