My name is Courtney. I write young adult novels. My first novel, Cracked Up to Be, is due out in January 2009 from St. Martin's Press and I keep a blog over here, where I often write about zombies and volcanoes with an urgency that might suggest I'm constantly threatened by both. Maybe I am. Hi!
At first, I was going to do a guest-blog about why I write YA, but realized my reason for writing YA is so simple, I couldn't stretch it beyond this sentence: I love it and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing. But since a sentence does not a proper guest-blog entry make, instead I thought I'd talk about how I went about finding my agent and give some advice that will hopefully be helpful to those of you who are actively seeking representation for your own novels.
(But this IS a disclaimer: I don't claim to be an expert on anything, except maybe sleep.)
Cracked Up to Be is my fourth completed novel, but it will be my first published novel. The three novels that preceded it have all been banished beneath my bed, where they stay, quietly biding their time until Halloween night, at which point they rise up and go on a killing spree throughout the neighbourhood (true story!). Anyway, those novels were not retired until after I sent a bunch of queries out to agents about representing them, and by a bunch, I mean a ton. So when I finally did get my agent, I was no stranger to the process.
There's not much I can say about the agent hunting thing that hasn't been said and said better by others. It hurts so good! Except when it doesn't! How I came to land my agent, Amy Tipton--as exciting as it was and has turned out for me!--is, I think, a pretty straightforward account. I wrote the novel. I edited the novel. I drafted what I hoped was a passable query letter and researched agents who represented YA novels on agentquery.com (researching agents is always a good idea).
I decided to query Amy, not only because she represented YA, but because the word 'edgy' was in her interests (Cracked Up to Be is an edgy YA), I liked the sound of her bio and I especially liked that she was a newer agent at an established agency. I've noticed some writers will make a list of what they want in an agent and a lot of the time 'must have at least a trillion years of working as an agent under their belt' is somewhere near the top of it.
When I was querying, I actively looked for newer agents because I knew they were actively looking for new clients, and those who worked with established agencies had the benefit of the agency and their colleague's years in the business behind them (and don't forget--a 'new' agent doesn't necessarily mean they're new to the business). There's nothing wrong with querying agents who have been agents for decades--I did that too--but I wasn't going to potentially miss out on a fantastic advocate for my work simply because they were 'new.' So here is my first bit of advice: neither should you. You owe it to the manuscript you've cried, bled, sweat over, torn up and pasted back together to find the best possible fit for it.
I sent Amy a query, she requested the full, and shortly thereafter, she made an offer of representation. I accepted and am happy to report I've been VERY well looked after ever since. She rocks.
My second piece of advice to offer those of you looking for an agent is to Be Professional. I promise I don't mean that in a condescending way. Sometimes the most obvious things are the easiest to forget. Sort of like saying 'please' or 'thank you' or asking someone how they are when you meet them on the street. Wanting to fire a mouthy email back at an agent who rejects you is probably a good time to remind yourself to be professional. Airing out your agent hunting grievances and naming names on your blog is probably a good time to remind yourself to be professional. When I communicate with people on the internet, I tend to !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and CAPITALIZE and ~*sparkle*~ at them way too much, so in my case, reminding myself to be professional prevented me from sending this email to Amy when she requested my full:
Dear Amy!!!!!!!!,... Although, I just realized those are the types of emails I send her now.
YES ~*OF COURSE*~ YOU MAY HAVE ~*MY FULL MANUSCRIPT*~
So that's how I got my awesome agent. Not very dramatic, I know. I wanted to lie and tell you the ghost of Jacob Marley visited me and was like, "YOU MUST QUERY THIS AGENT BEFORE THE CLOCK STRIKES THREE OR ELSE DOOM etc," but you'd probably be able to tell I was lying and that would totally undermine all the advice I put in there about querying agents, since we all know no one takes advice from blatant liars.
(But there really ARE murderous manuscripts under my bed, I swear).