Over the past three years, I've sat down to write many posts that seemed surreal — events that felt as though they were taking place on another plane. I felt overwhelmed as I stared at the computer screen, searching for the words to properly share my husband Ramón's leukemia diagnosis. Then there was the apprehension I felt as I typed about his relapse, as if each keystroke was giving the cancer more power. I remember the evening I hunkered down to share the terrifying story of his cardiac arrest — the moment that seemed to be a mere hiccup but turned into much more. And, hardest of all, was the day I plopped down to write that he was gone — to find some way to adequately describe the light that went out in my world.
Today, as I sit down to write, the moment again feels surreal. However, this time it's the otherworldly feeling that arises when there's something GOOD! to share. If the internet had a rooftop, I'd be on top of it, screaming for the world to hear.
I HAVE A LITERARY AGENT!
A real person who read my book from beginning to end and believed in it!
Someone who thinks my story is worth sharing and wants to find the right publisher to bring it to life — and to a bookstore near you!
[For those of you who need to be brought up to speed: A literary agent acts on the author's behalf to help get in front of the right publisher. Many larger publishing houses only accept submissions from agents — not the authors themselves. Previously I was working directly with a smaller publishing house that accepted unagented submissions, hence skipping the literary agent step.]
I want to share how I landed an agent because it's a testament to the fact that it's not always about who you know and what connections you have. Sometimes it's just about hustling — about doing what needs to be done. Often, when we see others celebrating success, we fail to realize the arduous steps along the way — the unfun part.
After I learned that I was back on the market with my memoir, I knew the next step was to secure a literary agent. But, like many other lofty goals, I felt so overwhelmed and wasn't sure where to start. Searching "literary agent" brings up countless results, and I immediately wanted to close my laptop and go cuddle with the dogs on the couch. I didn't. Well, maybe I did, but I reopened the laptop at some point.
I began tirelessly researching how to query agents. The querying process is a lot like applying for a new job. I started by finding who might be interested in what I had to offer — a memoir. I searched some databases and ultimately narrowed my criteria to someone who likes memoir and humor. From there, I looked up each agent's name to see whether they were currently accepting submissions. Finally, a small list began to materialize.
Next came the time-consuming task of compiling submissions based on each agent's specifications (i.e., the cover letter and customization stage). This is the time in the job-seeking process where you just want to upload your résumé and pray that they forgive the fact that you didn't follow the instructions. But, instead, I powered through. I wrote what the agent requested, be it a two-sentence summary, the book jacket summary, the author bio, and so on. I tinkered, fine-tuned, and did everything in my power to best present my work.
After the querying comes the waiting. Some agents said to expect a response in 6-8 weeks, some said they'd contact you if interested, and others gave no time frame at all. I submitted two queries on March 5, another one on March 6, then two more on March 9. Now there were five queries out there, and I wanted to leave it up to fate (despite the fact that five is few in terms of querying. I mustered another two submissions the following week, all with the hope that I would always have a potential "yes" out in the universe if I just kept submitting.
Then came April 3, the day I received an email from an agent who read my query and requested the full manuscript — the entire story in all its glory. I was simply over the moon. I knew from my research that this was a big step. This meant the agent read it, felt something, and wanted to see more. WANTED TO SEE MORE! I enthusiastically sent the entire manuscript her way, hoping with all my heart that she'd fall in love. Then, on April 25, I met my soon-to-be agent Jennifer virtually, and we hit it off spectacularly. I HAVE AN AGENT!
Right now we're in the editing phase and, after the manuscript is made as magical as it can be, we'll begin submitting to publishing houses. As a random girl from Georgia who doesn't already have name recognition, the hardest part will be proving that my book will sell. But we are so up to the challenge. If you've got avenues to help get my name out there, opportunities to guest write, etc., I'm here for it. Everything else can be directed to my agent. :)
Now THIS is the surreal I prefer to write about.