Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Signed with an Agent Today! (Or a Slush Pile Success Story.)

So, after failing to get a literary agent for my first novel, Lucky Town, today I signed with Kerry Sparks of LGR (Levine, Greenburg, Rostan) Literary Agency for The Water Tower 5!  Knowing this process isn’t that known to people who don't write, and that I did a lot of researching the process when I was going through it and loved when people talked about how they got their agent, I’ve put together a FAQ in the form of an imaginary Q&A.  Enjoy!

Okay, first off, what the hell is a literary agent?
Yeah, I guess a primer is in order if you've never heard of this stuff.  See, if you write a book, you can’t just send it to, say, Simon & Shuster with a “Please publish this!” sticky note on it.  (Well, you can, but good luck with that.  It’ll likely go in a room similar to where the Ark ended up at the end of Raiders.)  Instead, you have a literary agent who champions your book to editors at different publishing houses.  The agent helps you get the book in fighting shape, offers suggestions, gives support, and, in my case, helps me not to screw up too badly.

So you, Kurt Dinan, major league slackass, actually wrote a book?
Uh-huh.  It’s a Young Adult novel presently called The Water Tower 5.  It’s a combination of Ocean’s 11 and The Breakfast Club.  It also proudly includes the phrase “like my balls” ten times.

Okay, so you wrote a book - probably one with a lot of pictures and small words, knowing you - but then you somehow coerced someone to agree to be your agent?
I know, right?  I’m just as amazed as you are.  Here’s the long version of what happened: On June 16th I queried Kerry Sparks of LGR Literary Agency.  Two weeks later, Kerry emailed requesting the whole manuscript of The Water Tower 5.  On August 13th, Kerry contacted me to say she was halfway through the novel, was enjoying it, and hoped we could talk on the phone when she finished.  We talked on Monday, August 18th after school let out, and I paced my classroom as Kerry talked excitedly about my novel, what changes she though it needed, and what the process would be with her.  When she said she wanted to represent the novel, I actually made her repeat the offer slowly because I was fairly certain I was hearing things.

Then you detonated her eardrum by screaming “YES!” into the phone?
Uh, no.  In fact, it was another week before I signed with her.  Eight other agents had the manuscript, and professional courtesy states I was to give them the heads up that I’d been offered representation.  I sent an email giving them a week to get back to me, and one actually wanted to represent me, too.  In the end though, I pretty much knew in my gut it was always going to be Kerry.  She’s just incredibly enthusiastic about the novel, and super easy to talk to on the phone.  Plus, it certainly helps that she has a ton of sales under her belt.

Is she like, a real agent, or is this really some dude in a trailer who is catfishing you?
No, she's a real person and a real literary agent with a real literary agency.  LGR sold Gillian Flynn's
Gone Girl (read my post on this!), Allie Brosh's brilliant Hyperbole and a Half, and rep Chuck freakin' Klosterman.

<cough>Namedropper.<cough> So when can I buy your book?
Slow down, turbo, I didn’t sell the book to a publisher, I finally got someone who will do that for me.  First I have to do another revision on the novel.

Revision?  How long will that take? 
A couple of months, maybe?  I’m not sure.  The novel is close, I can feel it and see where it needs to go, I just need to buckle down and get to it.  I have a lot of ideas for what to do to improve the manuscript, but I’ll run those by Kerry first.  Once that’s finished, I’ll send it back to her, and she’ll likely have notes for a final polish before she’ll submit it to editors at publishing houses.  I’m told that’s the real nail-biting time.

And do you happen to have a bunch of numbers to throw at me since I’m a math nerd?
Sure!  Here you go!
Agents queried for The Water Tower 5: 105
Negative responses: 66
No responses: 26
Requests for the manuscript: 13
Requests to revise and resubmit: 3
Offers of representation: 2
Agent signed: 1!

And do you have a bunch of people you’d like to thank because, you know, the Emmy’s were on last night and it’s put everyone in a speech-giving mode?

Great idea!  A bunch of people helped me during this agent search, especially my wife who was Ms. Moral Support, telling me I’d find an agent even when I was racking up five rejections a day at one point.  John Mantooth, Sam Anderson, and Kimberly Gabriel were awesome and supportive, Matt McNish gave me a great critique of my query letter and suggested I fix the first five pages of the manuscript, and Andrew Smith of Winger and Grasshopper Jungle fame gave me a kick in the ass at the very moment I needed it, basically telling me not to take shit from anyone and to trust myself.   And, of course, thanks to Kerry Sparks for taking a chance on me.  World domination is in our grasp.