This envelope contains a contract. For an agent. The kind that represents people who write books. My name and signature can be found in that contract.
In other words, I have a literary agent for my young adult novel.
You’ll notice it’s not yet sealed or addressed. That’s because I’ve yet to determine if it’s better to FedEx it the 17 blocks from my office so that I have a record of its receipt or just plaster the envelope with $20 worth of stamps and photograph myself dropping it into the corner mailbox (that way, when I’m engulfed in worry and second-guessing about whether or not I sealed the envelope I can scroll through the photos in my phone and assure myself that 1. I did, indeed, mail the thing and that 2. I’m a hopelessly paranoid weirdo).
So, what does this mean? Essentially, I now have professional representation in all things related to selling my book. Smart people with experience in the publishing industry will pitch my book to publishers and (hopefully) negotiate a contract. In my case, my agent will also work with me on the creative side of things. She’s an experienced editor and writer herself and has already given me some really great feedback that I know will push me to make my manuscript even better.
This is crazy, right?
To be clear, there is still A LOT of work ahead and no guarantees. But, now I’m working with people who have the knowledge and expertise to get my book published. And if I have learned ONE THING during this whole process is that you need people.
Seriously, if I can offer one tiny piece of advice to authors soliciting agents (I swear I won’t turn this into a “How to Get a Literary Agent” post because 1. I don’t know my ass from my elbow and 2. it happened five seconds ago and acting like some kind of expert would be really annoying and 3. I’m very superstitious and wary of good news/positive developments, which makes it difficult enough to write this post in the first place) it would be to just dump your ego and listen to people who know more than you.
Ask for critique from people you respect, but make sure you really consider what they have to say… even if it means a lot of work for you. There were a few times I received feedback and thought “They’re right…Damn it.” A part of me really wanted to ignore those big, gnarly revisions. Editing and rewriting can be mentally and emotionally draining, especially when you’ve already done a significant amount of it. But, (in my experience) it almost always leads to a better version of your manuscript.
I have also learned the value of a professional network. It can be a tough thing to get going, especially if you’re not naturally self-promotional. I knew a published YA author, so I asked if we could meet for coffee and chat about his experiences. That was probably the most important cup of coffee I’ve ever had.
So, while I decide how to transport my signed contract (is there a courier services that also offers emotional support/psychotherapy?) I’m working on yet another edit of my manuscript. Just for fun, I looked back to see when I began querying agents and it was almost exactly one year ago to the day. If I knew then that in a year I’d still be revising the same manuscript, but using an agent’s notes, I’d be…well, thrilled! Just like I am right now. Seriously, I’ve never been so happy to have so much work to do.
Question: What’s your advice to people just beginning to build their professional network?