How I Got An Agent and What Happens Next

It is with great excitement that I can finally announce that I signed with a literary agent! Those who know me, know I’ve been trying to find an agent for quite some time. Anyone who queried knows how hard it is.

I thought to use this thread to MAYBE shed light on what I did right (for a change) and what’s going to happen from here. Querying writers don’t get a lot of control over what goes down at the end, but this time around I tried to have a strategy, but I can’t know if the success was due to the strategy or due to the book itself—or both.

What Came Before

I completed my very first novel “Rat” in January 2012 and started querying in February, landing an agent after fourteen queries and three weeks. My book went on submission in July of that year, it did not get picked up but I was already hammering through a different book called Undefined. That went on submission a year later. It did not get picked up either. For various reasons, I decided to quit writing and parted ways with my agent in 2015.

Quitting didn’t stick. A year later I joined Wattpad and my profile exploded seemingly overnight. I regained some self belief and completed a book called Ridde of the Owl. When I deemed it ready (it wasn’t), I started querying rather heavily.

I had two rounds of querying. 150 queries in the first round resulted in 4 requests and 146 rejections. Ultimately the requests ended in a “no” too. Second round, a year later, after heavy revision I queried 97 agents and received 13 requests. Better, but again, it was all “no”.

I wrote My Monster and its sequel, I wrote a YA contemporary called Law of the Jungle, wrote Skysnatched and The Thirteenth Courtyard and started countless projects. I was scared to query again. I randomly started a book called “Masquerade” in July of 2018, posted the first 5 chapters and Wattpad and forgot about it while I worked on self-publishing My Monster.

But my heart wasn’t in it. My health wasn’t great. I was busy with work, family… I decided to just quit writing… again.

Even though… the funny thing was that this book idea, MASQUERDADE, was shortlisted for the Wattys in 2018. I moved on, though. I was too busy anyway moving from Italy to the UK.

How It Happened

After moving to the UK, I again failed at my attempt to quit writing. I returned to my old projects, as a warmup and then suddenly, at one point or another, I found myself with this Masquerade project again. And it was a go. Very much so.

I had a draft I was happy with in November and contrary to advice, I didn’t let it sit and continued editing it relentlessly.

On the 5th of December 2019 I participated in PitMad. Out of the 27 agent likes I received, I queried 23 and (initially) got 7 full requests. I sent a few cold queries, just to test the waters. I did not have much success with those.

In mid-Jan, I decided to pay for a consultation with a literary agent to see if there was any problem with my pages. I wasn’t getting any bites from colds and I suspected that the reason might have been something in my pages. Or maybe I was trying the wrong agents? We will never know. Either way, that agent’s advice was gold and the change she suggested helped to focus the emotion in my first pages. Requests started pouring in. I didn’t query too heavily, though, because I was waiting for SFFpit.

On the 30 of January, I participated in SFFpit. I got only 6 likes this time, and queried only 4, and 3 of them called in the manuscript.

By the time I got my first offer on February 5th—exactly two months from the moment I started—I had sent out 57 queries and had 13 fulls out. I got back to all those agents who had my fulls, and also all the outstanding queries that were not yet rejected. An additional 16 agents responded and asked to consider.

And the offers rolled in. Actually, this part was stressful for me. Who to choose? How to make the right choice? Should I trust them? Should I trust myself? Should I sign with a US agent or a UK agent? One agent wanted to cut my book in two. One wanted to do at least 3 rounds of editing. Two thought that the book was ready for submission after just a few minor changes.

I loved them all. They were all so intelligent, excited about my book and passionate. They all had something to offer.

I couldn’t sleep for 3 weeks.

But in the end, I made a choice, and I felt in my gut that I made the right one. We’ll see how trustworthy my gut is.

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My Strategy— 3 “simple” steps.

As I mentioned, I did have a strategy. Whether it was the strategy, or I had finally reached a level with my writing, or everything combined, your guess is as good as mine. But I do think there’s some worth in being organised about how exactly your book arrives before an agent, and having a strategy helped me cope with the process. It sounds like it went smoothly and fast, but those days were still filled with an anxiety. I was proud of the book I had written, I felt like I couldn’t have written a better book. I was so afraid to “fail” again because I didn’t know how to do it better.

Step 1: I wrote the query letter, the pitch and the synopsis before I wrote the book. The query and pitch were 90% perfect. The book is super pitch-able, so easy to explain. Maybe it wouldn’t have been if I reversed the order. When I was ready to query, I had a query ready.

Step 2: Twitter. I decided that I wouldn’t “waste” queries and agent interest by starting with cold queries. I wanted to go the PitMad route and put PitMad as my target for when I would start to query. But that wasn’t enough for me. PitMad lives up to its name in terms of madness. It’s a very crowded event. To get any attention, I had to have my tweet appear in the “top tweets” of the hashtag. So I worked very hard on building my twitter a month before PitMad, joining discussions in #WritingCommunity and follower sprees in #WritersLift. I was on twitter every morning and every evening before I went to bed. Before PitMad, I tweeted that I would retweet people’s pitches, and I did. I landed in twitter jail for tweeting too much 3 times during the event. It was worth it.

Step 3: Query in small batches. I thought my opening was pretty strong, and my readers on Wattpad confirmed this further, and yet I wasn’t getting any success with cold queries. It was no matter, though. I hadn’t sent so many. I set a budget exactly for this and had a very good consultation through Manuscript Academy that helped me polish my opening so that agents began to request even from cold querying. I still didn’t go all out, as I was gearing towards another twitter event. [*** This is where I felt I kind of made a mistake. If I were to do everything over, I would have done the consultation before even PitMad].

My Query & Twitter Pitch

Twitter Pitch: CARAVAL x RED QUEEN In a land where a deadly curse forces all to wear masks, Yael steals the mask and identity of a noblewoman to infiltrate the nobility and find her abducted sister, but gets sucked into a twisted game of spies.

Dear Agent,

I’m excited to share with you my latest upper-YA fantasy project, MASQUERADE. Complete at 88,000 words, it can be described as CARAVAL (if everything was real and Scarlett was more like Arya Stark) meets a spy-focused RED QUEEN. [Personalisation added here]

Eighteen-year-old Yael was a talented mask-maker apprentice—but not anymore. Now, she’s a spy, an imposter and a murderess.

In the land of Vynam, all must wear masks to ward off the curse of the spectres, ghost-like beings that kill with a single touch.

After the Somaer family, the richest nobles in Vynam, abduct her sister and her parents are put to death, Yael steals the mask and identity of a noblewoman to infiltrate the nobility, find her sister and avenge her parents.

Her only chance of success—and survival—is if she can outplay the shrewdest spymasters in Vynam. When her search for her sister unearths dangerous knowledge, she alone holds the power to destroy the precarious peace of the noble houses, and shake all of Vynam to its very core.

But the cost might be her sister’s life.

I live in northern England and work as a data analyst for an IT company. On Wattpad, I have 370,000 followers and my stories accumulated over 13M reads, I won a 2016 Watty award and have been given “Star” status.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.

Sincerely,

Einat Segal

What Happens From Here?

I went with Janna Bonikowski from The Knight Agency and after a few revisions, she’ll begin shopping around my manuscript with publishers. If all goes well, you will hear me screaming from the rooftops. If all doesn’t go well….

I hope you all have your hugs and tissues ready for me.

I will, of course, do my best to update.

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Wow, wow, wow!! CONGRATULATIONS! I’m so excited for you!

This was a great write – super helpful to those who are planning to go down the trad path. I hope you’ll keep posting updates as things happen.

Again – congrats!! You worked hard, and it paid off.

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That’s amazing! I’m sure you deserve it after all your hard work and thank you for sharing the process with us

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Thank you so much! I was kinda hoping to give the idea of roughly what the process is like. At the same time I know that it’s the kind of lessons that have to be learnt on the flesh.

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Thank you so much! I don’t know if it’s about deserving something or luck. The idea I had to hammer into myself is that working hard doesn’t make me entitled to anything. I had to do that because otherwise I felt bitter about the process. It feels to me that it’s a combination of constantly creating, learning to see writing as a way of life, and coming upon the right sellable concept.

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I admire you very much for that because a lot of people - including myself - might’ve given up following all the rejections and everything. s

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I hear you. Rejection made me feel incompetent. Even when things were going well, I didn’t know it they were really going well or if there was something wrong about my writing and my book would be shot down.

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Exactly

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Congrats :tada:
Super happy for you! Can’t wait to see your work in the stores!!

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Congratulations on your success! You deserved all of it! :confetti_ball:

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Congratulations! I wish you much success during the next steps of the process, and I hope you get a great publishing deal :blush:

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Congratulations, Einat! I’m excited to see you in the stores!

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Congratulations! And thank you so much for sharing your story. This information is so valuable and, honestly, it has reignited my drive.

I started my first novel, Owlsong in 2016. I mistakenly thought it was ready when I finished writing it in 2018, and had a batch of five queries ignored. I revised it, ended up rewriting a lot of it, bought the Writer’s Yearbook and sent out a batch of 20 queries mid-2019. I’ve had four rejections and 15 no-answers, and I’m waiting on one last one. I tried PitMad last year and failed to get noticed — you’re right, it is VERY loud in there!

But honestly, I’ve been sitting here thinking “Wow, 20 rejections, maybe I should give up.”

I had no idea just what scale of queries would be needed until right now! What process and strategy there could be! Thank you so much!

If you don’t mind my asking…how did you find so many places to query to?

(Also, hello from the North of England too! :stuck_out_tongue: )

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Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story! It is one thing to read about what one “should do”, but it is so much more helpful to hear what someone actually did. I am in the middle of this whole process myself. It really helps to hear that it can be done. The frustration and insecurities are all encompassing some days!

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I recommend Querytracker. Not only can you log your progress, but the site doesn’t list agents who might be predatory, or have good intentions but nothing to show for it.

There are considerably less agents and agencies in the UK and are harder to find. I tried both the UK and US simultaneously and had a handful of offers from both territories. Ultimately, since I write YA crossover, I knew the US market for that age group is more powerful and when visiting a bookstore it was glaringly obvious how heavily the UK relies on the US in this category.

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Ah! I’ve been sticking to UK agents, so this is very helpful too. Time to branch out, haha. Thank you so much for the advice! :green_heart:

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Great news. Well done for sticking with it. I hope your agent is able to connect with a publisher for you. I would caution though that I have had an agent since 2007 and, so far, no sales to mainstream publishers. Start thinking about your next project.

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Thanks! I’ve been there too, twice. I’m always working on the next thing and trying to be optimistic but I’m sure the anxiety will settle in when we go on sub.

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