Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Agent Story--PART 2

So I left Agent #1 in May of 2009. I'd been wanting to split for a few months, but I had a book on submission with her and I wanted to wait and see how that turned out. But the emails slowed, then stopped, and no matter how many times I emailed and called, I got no response. I realized I had nothing to gain my staying. I terminated the contract on my way out the door to a restaurant. I felt great.

Immediately after the split, even before I queried again, I did two things.

First, I emailed the editors who, as far as I know, still had the book on sub. I pretty much groveled, asking if they knew the status of the manuscript. Most of them answered, and they were all very nice. They'd all passed, but my agent hadn't told me. So that was that.

Second, I emailed my Simon Pulse editor, who had asked for a manuscript of mine nearly six months earlier. My agent didn't think it was ready, and said we weren't going to do anything with it until I edited according to some notes she had. I asked about these notes every few weeks. They never materialized.

So as soon as we split, I emailed my editor, told her what was up, and asked her if she wanted to see the manuscript. She did. And I got to work finding another agent.

I seriously thought I'd have no problem drumming up another agent. I'd worked with an gent for over a year! I knew the drill! I had a book coming out in three months! Who wouldn't want to work with me?

It took about three weeks for that to get sucked out of me. When May passed, and then June, and then July with no new agent, I was terrified.

This was a busy summer for me. I was planning for BREAK's release, which was stressful but not time-consuming, since by that point the book's all done and completely out of your hands. I was getting ready to go to college in the fall and taking two summer classes. And I was querying essentially non-stop.

I decided to query INVINCIBLE SUMMER because it was my favorite, and really it was either that, a manuscript I didn't like as much, or the manuscript I loved that had been subbed all over the place my Agent #1, which I didn't think would make it a very attractive commodity to agents. In either late July or early August, I got one of the weirdest emails ever. Something like...

Hey Hannah. I finished reading INVINCIBLE SUMMER. Great job!

Great job? What the fuck does that mean?

I puzzled over that for a minute, then I wrote back thanking him and asking if he'd like to schedule a phone call. He said absolutely, and that's when I relaxed. Significantly.

I ended up with one other offer from an absolutely brilliant agent, but I went with the one who originally offered (hereafter Agent #2) because his vision of INVINCIBLE SUMMER meshed more closely with mine (meaning, he didn't make me do any edits. More on this later!

About a week after we signed, I got an email from my SP editor telling me she was halfway through INVINCIBLE SUMMER and loving it. Agent #2 stepped up to the plate, drummed up a mini-auction, and we ended up selling INVINCIBLE SUMMER back to my SP editor in a two-book deal. This was the week before BREAK came out.

(In case anyone's confused re. why SP didn't automatically get IS--IS was not my option book. SP had already turned that one down. Just clarifying.)

I was wildly, deliriously happy with Agent #2, and I have nothing but good memories from working with him. He didn't edit my manuscripts, but at that point, I didn't think I wanted that, since I'd gone through so much hell waiting for edits from Agent #1. He answered all my emails in a heartbeat and had a great sense of humor. I found out later that he way more clients than I ever would have guessed. I felt like I was his only one, and I never had any communication issues at all. I was in heaven.

He had great big ideas for my career as a whole, and he worked hard on subsidiary rights and encouraged me to branch out beyond YA. He's the reason I wrote an adult book. He's not the reason the adult book was a big big mess that didn't sell.

So...we're on sub with the big mess of an adult book, and he emails me and says, "Need to talk to you. Can I call?"

This is January of 2010. I'd just spent my first night in my new house. I thought this was big news. You know, one of The Calls.

I was completely jittery when he called and said, "So. I have news."

I said, "I love news."

And he said, "You won't love this news."

To be continued...

29 comments:

Shelley Watters said...

Bah! Well at least I know how the agent #2 details go. :) It's reassuring that you had a few months of query hell too. I feel like I'm the only one in the trenches (when I know there are tons of us).

As always, great posts Hannah! Can't wait to hear how you nabbed #3 aka. superagent!!

sagelikethespice said...

Aw, cliffhanger.

hannah said...

sage, you know what happens :P

Allan Krummenacker said...

NOOOOO!!!! Don't leave me hanging here. Just kidding I can wait. (foot tapping nervously) Is the next part ready yet?

booksidontlike said...

The way this post is structured with the cliffhanger ending and all, you'd almost think you were some sort of writer :P

Seriously, this stuff is great. It's not often I follow a series of posts like this for fantastic writing - usually I'm just looking for some little detail that might help me down the line. I'll be eagerly awaiting the next one.

Suzanne Young said...

Ooo..... love how this post ends!

Kristan said...

Dun dun DUUUUN! Oh boy. Looking forward to Part 3.

Emily White said...

Gah! What happens then?? *bites nails and curls up in corner*

Julie said...

I'm a huge fan of Agent #2!!!

But I have a feeling I might be a fan of Agent #3 as well when we see THAT post!

:)

Btw- love the cliffhanger

Lydia Sharp said...

Craaaaaaaaaaaaap. After all that, I'm afraid to read your next post. Even though I know you eventually get to a happy ending.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

I, too, remember being thrilled when my first agent didn't feel like I needed to do any revisions. That's not always good news, but I have a feeling that's what you meant by "more on this later!"

Lea (YA Book Queen) said...

Ahh, gotta love cliffhangers...they always keep you curious. Agent #2 sounds far better than #1, but I can't wait to read the next post =)

hannah said...

Jennifer--leaving IS alone before it went out turned out to be fine, but since then, I've been very very grateful that I have an agent who edits...

Daryl Sedore said...

How could you stop there...we gotta know.

Darn, I'll be waiting for the next post.;-)

aspiring_x said...

oh man!!! what a cliff-hanger!!! what could it be?!

Mick said...

Hiya Hannah -- I'm a 33-year-old writer in Australia. I came across your blog via a link in Dean Wesly Smith's blog, and I just wanted to let ya know how much I'm enjoying it.

I've been writing forever, got some interest from major publishers at 19, got an agent in my early 20s -- one of the most well-known literary agents in Australia -- and for a bunch of boring reasons, a) I broke off communication with that agent (not her fault at all) and b) went through a MASSIVE period of self-doubt, in which I wrote very little.

Blogs like yours provide excellent motivation for self-doubting writers. The bottom line is "The only way to write, is to write." Find your own way, do what works for you. Your blog's a constant reminder of that. I just wanted to say Cheers and Thanks and all that good stuff!

hannah said...

Mick--Thanks for stopping by, and I'm so glad the blog's been helpful for you.

I've definitely felt strangled at times by all the rules they tell you...but the only that that works is what gets stuff done. So that's what I try to remember.

Nadine said...

Thanks for your honesty about this whole process.

Agent #2 sounded awesome. Looking forward to hearing the rest of the story!

Graystone said...

I know how the story ends (I came across the post awhile back), but the cliffhanger still made me want to hear more! I can't wait for Part 3.

hannah said...

Heehee, yep, if you're feeling impatient, you can find this in the archives from January 2010.

elissa said...

hahaha noice!

this story is so great from this angle! at the time, though...yoiks!

cathellisen said...

even knowing what happens next, I feel all jittery.

I remember that day very clearly.

Laura said...

Hannah--wow, and I thought -I- started young, selling my first book at 25 (many moons ago). Good on you!

Also good on you for talking about this subject in public. For over two years, I've been writing about it in my NINK column (the monthly journal of Novelists, Inc.), speaking about it at conferences, and occasionally blogging about it, and the more writers who are willing to discuss these kind of experiences publicly, the less inevitable it becomes that other writers experiencing the SAME problems will believe--as I did, and I gather as you did, too--that "it must just be ME."

I went through four literary agents. These days I work without one, by choice, and that's unlikely to change. (I blogged a brief version of the whole story at: http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/author-agent-business-model ) I've made over 25 book sales over the course of my career to date... and most of those were without an agent. Indeed, many of those deals were specifically with books that various agents (those whom I queried -and- those who were my agent at the time) declined to handle or told me were unsaleable.

Glad you found an agent who's working out well for you. And the bottom line really is, of course: Never settle for less than an agent who's working out really well for you! (And also: Agents are one possible business model for a career novelist, but not the ONLY possible business model.)

Laura Resnick
http://www.lauraresnick.com/

Christine Fonseca said...

Ahhhh......

hannah said...

Laura--very very good point, and thank you so much for sharing your story.

J.S. Wood said...

I found myself saying, "Oh no, What happened." and I know what happened. Your story is so interesting I forgot I knew, you must be a great writer ;)

Livia said...

Hannah -- a few questions.
1. So the editor offered for IS, and then your agent drummed up a mini auction? How does that work? Wasn't that editor the only one with the manuscript at that point, or did other houses also have it?

2. Now you have sales with two former agents. Can you talk a bit on how the money flow works? Did you have agreements where the agent first gets the entire royalty check, and then passes your 85% onto you? If so, how is that working now that you're no longer with those agents (and I guess Agent 1 has stopped agenting completely)?

hannah said...

Livia--

1. It worked out because the timing was a little funny and worked in my favor. Right after I split with Agent 1, I sent the ms to my SP editor. Next thing that happened was signing with Agent 2 (who I obviously told about my editor having IS) and him putting him out on submission. THEN SP editor emailed me saying she was loving it, I told Agent 2, he expedited everything and got editors back to me fairly quickly.

2. I haven't talked to Agent 1 in over a year now. She actually never responded to the email where I left her. Same with a couple of friends of mine.

So when it became clear we weren't even going to be able to be professional about the book we sold together, I let SP know and they've been amazing about sending everything that's mine, money, information, updates, royalty statements, all of that, to me directly, while I assume sending her stuff directly to her.

I don't know how Agent 2 and Agent 3 worked out who gets what for IS, but since I was just moved around in-house (giving away the story, hahaha) I'm sure they have an arrangement.

Livia said...

I'm glad SP was so willing to work out the money stuff with you directly. I've heard horror stories in which the writer and agent end up in an acrimonious relationship, but the money still goes through that agent.

Haha, I guess you did give away the story. But that's okay, I'm pretty sure the ("hey Suzie's" would have tipped me off anyways :-))