How I Got My Literary Agent
Yup, you read that right. I have a literary agent!!! If you know me, this has been something I’ve been working on since Ireland, when I decided to get serious about my writing career and I bet on myself. I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but back in 2017 I decided I was going to take that dream seriously and become a traditionally published author. Technically, the journey to this literary agent milestone took six years but I’m so glad I stuck through it and I’m excited to share my lovely journey with you. Like most, how I got my literary agent is a bit different and not how I expected it to go!
I Started Taking Writing Seriously
When I came back from Ireland, I started working on a book idea I had been flirting with at the start of the year. I outlined, revised, figured out structure, started to doubt the book and the process–all that jazz. This social justice YA book I was working on is how I learned to write, what my writing process looked like–it was basically a work in progress practice test. I was trying to figure out what the book wanted to be at the same time I was figuring out what I wanted the book to be. I read soooo many books on craft, plot, character. I basically made course curriculums for myself (no joke).
I Found New Tools
I would write on weekends at the library, and around the State Capitol during my lunch breaks. I was determined to finish this book I thought was the one. I made playlists, character charts, multiple outlines, I downloaded Scrivener and transferred my current draft to help me organize my thoughts a bit more. (Scrivener is a life-saver, highly recommend). Downloading Scrivener made me finally feel like a real author.
I would work on scenes on plane rides and in coffee shops. I took a free screenwriting workshop at my local library to help and started reading more books to help my writing process. I had lists of books that reflected my characters, I read more in my category. Did I get carried away and think I wanted to be a screenwriter instead for a hot minute? Obviously. Maybe one day…
I watched a bunch of Masterclasses and took notes. Neil Gaiman is the best writing one in my opinion, he helped me realize maybe I wasn’t ready to write the book I was currently working on. That was a huge crush to the ego but I slowly started to realize that was probably my Graveyard book, just like Gaiman’s. After sharing it with two friends for feedback (way before it was even ready) I decided to pause. I continued writing and learning, I focused on this blog and played around with some short story contests. I was trying to improve my craft anyway I could. Then, the pandemic hit.
I Finished The First Draft
It’s early 2020 and I’m in New York for work. I find myself in Brooklyn trying to research for my “Graveyard book” I was trying to figure out. I was in New York a few months before, doing the same thing as my first writer’s trip. I was getting back in the groove, trying to jumpstart the draft I was desperate to finish. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, everything changed.
I couldn’t write the social justice YA. The cloud of a dark time ahead was looming over me. I needed something to help me mentally survive this thing. So I looked through my idea treasure box and found a list of dates I had written down while an idea came to me in a museum in Toronto.
I also missed going to the movies. Solo movie theater dates had become one of my go-to self-love dates and with theaters closing, I wanted to relive the magic of the movies again. In March 2020, I broke ground on a Latinx YA rom-com. I outlined that baby in one night. The next day, I let myself gain two new best friends in the pandemic who I hope you will soon meet one day–Ale & Julian.
After nine months of writing, I finally finished the first draft. This was my first completed first draft. No more getting stuck in the whirlpool of my previous WIP (work in progress) where I was still trying to figure out my voice and writing style. This was a complete draft. An entire book. Done! (That’s a huge accomplishment, I don’t care what your perfectionism or imposter syndrome says!)
Revisions & Beta Readers
I printed out that first revision and got to work. I had never done a full revision before so I wanted to try out what this part of the writing process looked like for me. Hand edits helped me review my work and write more scenes. I would transfer those edits to my document on Scrivener and have revision sessions scattered throughout my calendar. We were still working from home at this point, I was still isolated before the vaccines were available. I used my downtime to finish draft two.
After the second draft, I let three people read it. Each round was feedback I had to decide whether or not it was something I agreed with. (You don’t have to apply every recommendation that doesn’t resonate with you!) While I was editing and revising, I was starting to think who I could send this too. What agents would be a good fit?
Getting Ready To Query
At the start of 2021, I built a list of literary agents I thought would be a good fit for this manuscript. I used a GoogleSheet to add their submission guidelines and divided them out into batches. I got my log line ready thanks to Save The Cat Writes A Novel and I signed up for a webinar to learn more about querying. I wrote my query letter, bio and synopsis. I wanted to have all the tools ready to go if someone asked to see more.
In March 2021, I signed up for a virtual writer’s conference and pitched a well-known agent who was at the top of my list to kick off my querying process. She loved the pitch and asked to see more. I was ecstatic! The next week, I sent my first round of queries to about 10-15 agents.
The Query Trenches
I queried this book for a year. Sending out in batches every month, I would get rejections and requests for my full manuscript. I got a lot of interest early on, which made me know my query letter was working. Some agents requested a partial (a few more chapters) while others requested the full. I tried three different Twitter pitch contests and got more requests from agents, retweets from editors.
Most of the feedback I was getting was that they didn’t love it enough to take it on. Something, I now completely understand. An agent I didn’t have on my list followed me on Twitter, I queried her, she immediately asked for my full manuscript. I sent an hour later. While I was waiting for rejections, I started writing something new–a contemporary Latinx YA set in college.
After a year of ups and downs, more requests and more rejections, I was starting to doubt myself. I had received two revise and resubmits from agents (which is a great sign!) but the revisions didn’t resonate enough to make me pull the plug. At the end of 2021, I had pitched 116 agents. From those, I recieved: 6 partial requests, 16 full requests, and 3 R&R (revise and resubmit) requests. Remember that agent that followed me on Twitter? She was one of those R&R requests!
Plot Twist: I Became An Agent!
After rooting for writers during pitch contests on Twitter, I started to get curious about agenting. Why weren’t there many Latinx agents? Serendipitously, I found an internship at a literary agency and my sister encouraged me to apply. I had just left my 9-to-5 matrix environment and was building a new career path for myself. I decided to walk through the door and met my new mentor. I was offered a part-time marketing position and paused on querying. I figured this was a great time to pause and learn as much as I could about the publishing industry.
In February 2022, I was ready to open for queries. I signed my first client a month later (one of the authors I was always rooting for on Twitter!) I continued working on my writing craft and had been covering TV Shows and Movies for LatinaMediaCo. I hadn’t gotten my traditional published author yes yet, but I wasn’t going to stop learning and growing along the way. If I was going to eventually have a seat at the table as an author, I made it my mission to build more tables and keep the door open for others as well.
Revise & Resubmit
I had a revision conversation with the one agent who’s remarks resonated with me the most and sent her a partial we agreed on. I continued writing as I waited to hear back. The movie theater element in my book was something I was concerned about as well, especially in the new post-pandemic world we were getting a feel for. Her idea to have the story take place in the 90s really inspired me to have so much fun with this version of the story. My characters loved it as well. I kept writing.
I hit a wall in April 2022, thinking maybe I wasn’t meant to be an author. Maybe I was only meant to help other authors with their dreams. I stopped writing and focused on agenting. I signed my first adult romance author who’s banter completely jumpstarted me again. I started watching rom-coms, 90s movies, reading books, trying to define what romance meant to me, and kept going. I knew after a few months in the industry, if it didn’t work out with this agent, I would need to finish this version anyway. Summer came and inspiration struck again.
I was in the middle of my 40 day challenge of receiving when I got an unexpected email. The agent who was considering my revision wanted to chat again. On June 3, 2022 she offered to work together on this project. I was in complete believable shock. I had been working towards this moment since 2017. Now knowing this was only a milestone in my traditionally published journey, I celebrated the well-deserved victory by going to the movies.
I’m happy to say I’m represented by Alyssa E. Henkin of Birch Path Literary!
This is my agenting story. It’s not at all what I thought it would be because I left room for The Universe to guide me. I said yes to a lot of doors that opened for me, I kept going. I said no to things that didn’t resonate with me, but I didn’t give up. If you’re thinking about querying, know that it’s a long and winding road. It’s not easy. Continue working on your craft and following the signs towards your yes. After 111 rejections, I finally got my one.