After The Call: Lessons Learned From One Year Later

Exactly one year ago today, I was in the midst of choosing an agent to represent me--which meant I was a veritable mixing pot of emotions. One second I was on Cloud Nine, jumping up and down and screaming like Xena the Warrior Princess. But in the next second, I was utterly overwhelmed and completely afraid of making the wrong choice.

Ultimately, I was incredibly lucky to have signed with Jim McCarthy of DGLM, who's smart and funny and just about the quickest reader on Earth. I was so excited that I made my husband take a picture of me signing my contract.

Look at me! I'm so nerdy!

Now, a year later, it has been fun to reflect on what I've learned and how I've changed since then. On one hand, I kind of miss the starry-eyed look that I had in the picture above. I was going to be a bestselling author! The next Rick Riordan! A superstar! (Ha!)

But on the other hand, I'm really grateful for the writer that I have become. I have thicker skin now. I'm more realistic. A bit more cynical perhaps? Yes, but I'm still very hopeful. (Although I no longer think I'll be the next Rick Riordan!)

Anyway, here's a list of lessons I've learned in the past year as an agented writer:

1.) An offer of representation can come at anytime. Back in March 2010, I was just about ready to give up on my middle grade sci-fi novel. I had been querying for about a year and I had collected dozens upon dozens of rejections, which made me want to stab my heart with a fork. But a month later I had three offers of rep! I was completely blown away. So yeah...keep your chin up! You never know when you will get The Call.

2.) Sometimes you won't talk to your agent for over a month. And that's okay. When I first signed with Jim, I didn't realize that agent communication would fluctuate depending on what was going on with my book. That's why I freaked out when I wouldn't hear from him for a week or two. Surely, he hated me! He despised my book! Woe, woe is me! But...this is all part of the business. Sometimes there simply isn't a lot to talk about!

3.) Reach out to other agented writers via blogging and Twitter. I'll be the first to say it: going on submission is tough. I'm not sure if it's as tough as querying, but it is definitely just as gut-wrenching and heart-hurting. During my own roller coaster ride of submissions, I've been really grateful for my agent sisters and writerly friends who can commiserate with me whenever I feel down in the dumps. Their support has certainly kept me going when I've wanted to give up!

4.) You can't control the market. Or trends. Or an editor's reading taste. The only thing you can control is your writing. That's it. So make your book as shiny as it can be and then move on to the next manuscript.

5.) Writing books is a creative pursuit but publishing is a business. Somehow, you have to marry these two ideas in your mind. Case in point: my YA dystopian. I've been working on this book on and off for about a year and I was hoping that it would become my second manuscript to go out on sub. But when I talked to Jim about this novel, he told me that dystopians are increasingly harder to sell since editors have become inundated with this genre.

This put me in a quandary: should I keep pursuing a manuscript that belongs to an over-saturated genre or should I work on something new? After a lot of thought, I decided to shelve my dystopian for the time being and work on a Shiny New Idea that has turned into my YA alternate history. At the end of the day, I thought it made more business sense to pursue a manuscript that would stand out in terms of genre. (Of course, I definitely plan on taking another look at my dystopian because the creative side of me can't let it go. It's my baby!)

Well, it's about 1PM now and I really need to get going! Perhaps I'll turn this post into a two-part series because there's a lot more I'd like to say. If you have any questions, please leave them for me in the comments! And if you have an agent, please tell me the lessons you've learned since signing your contract!