I’m going on an agent hunt. I’m not scared. (Part 1)

researchLet me say first off that I never thought this would be a blog I’d write and that I’m writing it for those who are thinking the same thing.

This week I’ve had a daydream come true – I signed with Hannah Sheppard from D H H Literary Agency.

I’ve been writing seriously for about two years. By seriously I mean I’ve been researching what publishers and agents are looking for, writing all the stories that came along, trying different genres, reading as many books as I could squeeze into my already fairly busy life and of course, writing regularly, whether I felt ‘moved’ that day or not.

My first round of agent querying was ten months ago. As I sent off my chapters I was nervous but excited. I knew the wait would be long but within two hours of sending it to Hannah, an email pinged back saying she liked what she’d read and could she read the full manuscript. I performed the small obligatory kitchen jig then hurried to email it to her. I continued dancing for days but I also kept sending out queries. I’d read that full requests don’t necessarily mean you’ll get offered representation. A month later I received another request for the full manuscript followed by more dancing.

And then I waited. Form rejections and lovely personal rejections came back. Some agents were generous with their feedback and encouragement – a thing that I’m hugely grateful for. I printed them off and keep them in a folder which I look at when I’m having a ‘this is all completely pointless’ day.

Hannah came back to me and said that she loved my writing but that this story wasn’t for her however to stay in touch.

I felt really, really, really sad.

Fortunately (I say fortunately but of course it had taken effort) I had started my next story, also for middle grade readers. After taking a couple of days to drown in chocolate, I got on with the writing. Hannah wanted to read what I wrote next, so I’d better crack on and write it. Several other agents had also expressed an interest in seeing what I wrote next.

I took this new story along to 1-1s at York in September and to SCBWI conference in November. I had it critted by the SCBWI critique group in Birmingham and I read bits to the local writers’ group in Ashby. It was read by my sister, and a couple of my friends – all with strict instructions to be brutally honest. It was then read by another friend who gave me the most thorough critique of the whole script to whom I am extremely grateful. I contacted Cornerstones and paid for a review.

And with every bit of advice I got, I carefully considered whether it would improve the story or not. Some obvious ones like moving it into the first person and some less obvious ones, like making it more (or less) gritty. Every opinion was valid, but was it right for me and my story?

Then finally in early February I knew. This was good, but would it be good enough? There was only one way to find out so I started sending it out on Friday 13 February. I’m not superstitious. In fact I was hoping submissions might be lower that day!

I sent it to Hannah first, along with a couple of other agents who I liked the look of. Within five minutes Hannah had replied saying that it was good to hear from me again and that she looked forward to reading it. (Little whoop!)

We then went on holiday to Devon, and in the evenings when the kids were in bed, I’d spend an hour or two sending out two or three more queries. Each query was carefully researched. I had the basic letter written but I tried to personalise each one. Lots were easy as I’d met them, or they had given me useful feedback from last time, but some took a little longer.

The first full request came the morning after I’d sent out the query. I was very pleased, but deep down, I knew that this was only the first hurdle. I’d been here before and I knew that while it was good, it didn’t mean they’d offer.

The following Sunday night, I asked Julia Churchill in one of her #askagent sessions if I should contact agents with the information that I had received a request for a full manuscript. She said that if it was her, then she would. It was now late on Sunday evening, but I emailed round, letting everyone know. Hannah came back very quickly saying she thought the voice was great and that she would love to see the rest.

Over the next week I had three more requests for full manuscripts, bringing me up to five. Then seven. Things were starting to look interesting.

Concluding part tomorrow.

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