Signing with an Agent: My Story

This is itthe news I’ve been dreaming about announcing since I first started querying The Hustler

I have an agent!

And not just any agent, but the utterly fabulous Patricia Nelson of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

If you read my blog, you’ll know this is me right now…

Three weeks ago I was deep in the query trenches. Today, I signed with an agent, one I couldn’t be more thrilled to work with. It’s amazing how quickly things can change. I firmly believe that determination + hard work = success, so if you’re still querying, don’t give up! The Call may be coming sooner than you think.

For those who are curious about how it all happened, here’s my story.

How I Got My Agent

For years, I’ve dreamed of pursuing publication as a writer. So when a new idea for a story involving a tech-savvy private investigator and a smokin’ hot thief took root in my brain just before Christmas of 2015, I made a critical decision: I was going to stop dreaming and start doing. I’d been dabbling in writing on and off for several years, but dabbling wasn’t enough.

I had to stop thinking of myself as someone who liked to write. Instead, I had to become a writer.

And so I wrote. In every spare moment—evenings, during my son’s naps, weekends—at least one to two hours a day, every day. Often more.

Slowly, the first draft of my romantic suspense novel, The Hustlertook shape.

In January, I joined Romance Writers of America and my local Northeast Ohio chapter. I also started researching the industry. I subscribed to Publishers Marketplace and read every scrap of information I could find online about the query and publication process, including perusing my favorite authors’ websites to learn how they achieved success.

Bestselling & RITA award-winning romance author Kresley Cole’s story in particular struck a chord. When she was first starting out, she instituted a plan of action called the “Rule of 25.” At any given time, she’d have 25 active ventures toward publication in play, like conference registrations, contest entries, or query letters. Twenty-five.

Totally bananas. And utterly brilliant.

While I opted not to pursue 25 ventures at once (that’s a lot of balls in the air), I did adopt her mentality: treat writing seriously, like you’re starting a business. There’s no wishy-washy, maybe-it’ll-happen, maybe-it-won’t, dip your toe in to test the water.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Bolstered by Kresley “Yoda” Cole’s approach, I entered The Hustler, still in its infancy, in a handful of RWA chapter contests. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get some feedback early on so I could apply what I learned to improve my manuscript moving forward. Plus I love contests. And games. And anything competitive because weeeee!

To my utter astonishment, I finaled in several of these contests. So of course I entered more, incorporating judges’ feedback from one contest before I entered the next. I even won a few.

In May, I attended my first writers conference, Chicago-North RWA’s Spring Fling, where I networked with other writers, pitched an agent, and learned more about craft and the industry. My writing improved, and I finished the first draft of The Hustler.

By October, after some hefty rounds of revisions and positive responses from several beta readers, I decided The Hustler was as good as I could make it at that point in time. So I began querying agents.

I already had manuscript requests via a contest final, an online pitch event, and an in-person pitch, so I submitted those first. Then I referred to the agent list I’d been building over the past few months and fired off queries to my first batch of eight agents.

As rejections came in, I’d send more queries. Sometimes agents even requested my manuscript—oh, that tiny flicker of hope!

There was one agent I was itching to query, but couldn’t. She was in the process of judging my entry in SFA RWA’s Heart-to-Heart contest, so to avoid any impropriety, I’d have to wait until results were announced in early November before I reached out to her.

No big deal. Querying can take months—years, even! I had time.

Except I didn’t.

Just as I’d settled in for a long slog in the query trenches, I received my first offer of representation—less than three weeks after I sent my first query.

It was 6:45am on a Tuesday, and I was laying in bed checking email on my phone (everyone starts the day that way, right?). So naturally, when I read The Email asking to schedule The Call, I shook my husband awake—his alarm was about to go off anyway—shoved my bright-as-day phone in his face, and whisper-screamed, “Oh my god, READ THIS!”

He was not happy. Or capable of reading tiny print on a blazing screen after being jostled out of a peaceful slumber. So I told him that an agent might be making an offer. Then he was happy. Squinty and grouchy, but happy.

I officially received the offer that afternoon during a 45-minute phone call with the agent. After I hung up, suddenly everything kicked into high gear. Five other agents had fulls of my manuscript, so I nudged them with my offer of rep and asked if they could get back to me by the following week. I also contacted all of the agents I’d queried up to that point, but hadn’t heard back from. Three more asked to read my manuscript.

I then emailed the coordinator of the Heart-to-Heart contest and asked when I could contact the agent who was still judging my entry. I learned she was handing over her scores in a few days, so I could query her then. Plus, at that point, I’d find out if she requested to see any more of my manuscript.

It was around this time that I stopped sleeping. Or eating. Or doing much of anything besides obsessively checking my email. When I got my hair cut that week my stylist asked me if I’d lost weight and what had I been doing? Yeah, it’s called the Stress Diet. The one where your nerves are so frazzled that your stomach constantly churns and you lose your appetite.

I don’t recommend it.

That week, I received an offer of rep from another agent—and I couldn’t have felt luckier. I now had not one, but two, offers to consider!

Meanwhile, I’d received an email from the Heart-to-Heart contest coordinator. The agent I’d been eyeing had submitted her scores and I was free to contact her.

Thing was, she hadn’t requested to see my manuscript.

Disappointment knocked me for a loop and I almost didn’t reach out to her. She’d read my entry and didn’t ask for more pages, so why torture myself with another rejection?

Because, stubbornly, I was convinced we’d be a good fit (more in a Say Anything-boombox serenade kind of way than a Glenn Close-Fatal Attraction way, I swear). The contest entry she read had started at chapter three—it was a hero/heroine “first meet scene” contest—and plunking a reader down partway through a book is jarring for anyone. And I was confident in my story’s hook. Maybe she’d be interested if she knew more about the book’s core conflict courtesy of a query pitch?

I knew I’d kick myself forever if I didn’t at least try. Besides, what was the worst that could happen? All she could say was no.*

[*Side note: it’s generally frowned upon to query agents after you’ve received an offer of representation unless there’s some sort of extenuating circumstance, which I felt was the case here since the agent I queried had already read part of my manuscript. So yeah, tread carefully with that.]

Within the hour, I’d sent my query to the agent from the contest, Patricia Nelson of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, which included an honest explanation as to why I was only contacting her now with an offer of rep already in hand and what I hoped was a dynamite pitch.

The next day she asked for a full (cue freakout!). I sent it immediately, and about thirty hours later I noticed I had a new follower on Twitter: Patricia Nelson. Still staring at the notification, mind racing—does this mean what I think it means?—my phone buzzed.

It was an email from Patricia. She’d finished The Hustler, loved it, and wanted to talk on the phone tomorrow.

Of course I promptly sprinted to the basement where my husband was lifting weights, squealed, and danced around like a maniac.

Yes, there is video footage. No, I won’t show it to you because yikes.

The next day, I was a bundle of nerves as I waited for The Call, but it turns out I was worked up for no reason. After some brief and awkward (on my part; Patricia was totally cool) chit chat, we had a terrific discussion about The Hustler—what she liked about it, revisions she thinks it needs, and what I have planned for the series. Then she offered representation.

For the remainder of our talk, I somehow kept it together despite hopping up and down on the inside. By the time we hung up, my gut was practically screaming that Patricia was the right fit.

I’d decided in advance not to accept any offers on the spot, so I told her I’d let her know my answer in a few days. A couple of agents still had my manuscript, and since they were taking time out of their busy schedules to read my book, I wanted to hear them out if they happened to make an offer. 

Choosing an agent is a business decision after all, and a critical one at that. Marry in haste

I received one more offer of rep during those few days, which felt like the longest of my life. With a total of four offers on the table, I carefully considered my options, which, I’m pleased and humbled to say, were fantastic. In the end though, I went with my gut.

I signed with Patricia Nelson. 

Right now I’m absolutely overwhelmed and grateful for the opportunity to work with such a talented, passionate agent, and thrilled at the prospect of what the future holds!

And that’s my story. At least this chapter…

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Amanda Uhl | 10th Nov 16

    I’m amazed you didn’t just accept the first agent’s offer but waited and went after the one you wanted most of all. Incredible story. I’m so impressed! Hope to see you at the holiday party:)

    • Angie Hockman | 10th Nov 16

      Awww, thanks! Hoping to make it to the holiday party so hopefully I’ll see you there!

  2. Michelle Joyce Bond | 11th Nov 16

    Congrats again, Angie! Thanks for taking us on your journey and best of luck as you move forward with THE HUSTLER!!

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