The Day that was Made of Awesome Part 1
I’m back :) I’ve been offline for a few months now and it was a much-needed break for me although I did miss chatting with all my writing friends. Life has still been exceptionally busy but I confess I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation away from all things online. In fact, I was rarely on Twitter or Facebook for the entire month of October and during that period I found time to breathe again. November came around (as it is wont to do) and I found myself doing NaNoWriMo once more that required me to jump back and connect again. I knew I wouldn’t reach 50,000 words in a month without chatting about word counts and daily totals so it was great to reconnect with people again as I worked hard to pass the finish line by November 30. I did just that…and managed to move house in the middle. So November was what you could call crazy. Here’s a picture of my NaNoWriMo graph. (Any guesses when we moved???)
And then came December.
And with December, came The Day that was Made of Awesome (a.k.a. How I got my Agent). This is going to be quite a long and winding tale, so I suggest you grab a cuppa and a biscuit and meet me back here in a few minutes ’cause I can’t wait to tell you the story of how I got my agent, the fantabulous Anjanette Fennell from Rick Raftos Management.
The Power of the Twitterverse
I can’t remember when Anj and I first connected on Twitter but we’ve been chatting for at least a year. I think it was a case of us both having a Twitter buddy in common and ending up participating in the same conversation and I followed her from there. I liked Anj from the get-go. From her tweets, I knew she was funny and passionate and smart and kind and loved books and writing and was a mum like me, but – you’ll laugh when you hear this – I had no idea she was an agent. Honest to goodness, I didn’t have a clue. I guess I didn’t read her Twitter profile closely and our conversations were around real life stuff such as how to dig yourself out of a hole when you’ve said the wrong this on Twitter (that was me) and the woes of finding a new hairdresser when moving to a new place. (That was also me, and amazingly enough, Anj was responsible for finding me a great hairdresser here in Ballarat! She said she wished I could go to her hairdresser and included him in the tweet and he sent me a tweet with the name of a local hairdresser here he’s good friends with. Social networking at it’s best. And I love my hairdresser. Thanks, Anj!) Anyhow, the upshot is that Anj and I would often find ourselves on Twitter at the same time and we’d chat and laugh and join in conversations together here and there. We talked about books and writing in general, but I still didn’t know she was an agent.
In June this year I decided I wanted something to focus my writing around and so I enrolled in the Year of the Novel (YoN) course run by the Queensland Writers Centre and the Australian Writers Marketplace. Last year I had completed the Year of the Edit workshops (in person) in Queensland, but since that was no longer and option then online was the next best thing. And lo and behold, I found myself alongside Anj and another beautiful Twitter lady, Jayne Watkins. As we three were already connected on Twitter, it was natural for us to form a little trio of support as we worked our way through the course. This sometimes meant we shared our writing with one another and had a chance to give each other feedback.
And it was then that I discovered that Anj was an agent.
And I nearly fell off my chair.
You see, one of the things I fear most about Twitter is that someone will think I’m friends with them for purely selfish reasons. Sure, I follow a lot of agents intentionally, but I’m not about to butter them up, coerce them into being my friend and them bombard them with my manuscripts. I follow them because I want to learn about the industry and the current trends and get a better grasp of the way this fickle business works. And I’m also a stickybeak. I love hearing about other people’s sales because it makes me think that one day that just might be me. But I really dislike it when people use others for their own gain so I actively cultivate genuine friendships and trust that if God means for me to be an author then it will all work out in the end (with a lot of hard work on my behalf). But back to the story.
After reading some of the early parts of the YA novel I’m working on in YoN, Anj said she’d like to read the manuscript when I was done – in her capacity as an agent – because she really liked what I’d written thus far. I was thrilled and surprised all at once. Anj was an agent? How had that vital piece of information escaped me up until that point?? I quickly replied that I would LOVE her to read it when it was done but I also mentioned my concern about taking advantage of a connection for the wrong reasons. She assured me that she wouldn’t have offered if she felt I wasn’t being genuine. So I relaxed and we shared some more of our writing and connected on Twitter every now and then while the dream of Anj taking me on as a client occasionally flickered in my subconscious and gave me butterflies.
Not long after that, Anj had to make the decision to pull out of the course. She simply didn’t have enough hours in her day to do everything and since giving up sleep wasn’t an option, something had to give. I was sad to see her go but understood the whole juggling thing all too well, so Jayne and I have continued on (albeit slowly!) together. I still haven’t finished the first draft of the YA novel, but I will get there. I will. One day.
The story continues…
Fast forward a few months to the last day of November. It was a Wednesday night and having finished NaNoWriMo the day before, I was feeling the jetlag from having written an insane amount of words in a really short time. I popped onto Twitter to see who was out and about and promptly got bombarded by those awful spambots with eggs as avatars. I lamented my spambot attack and Anj replied, saying she’d been hammered that night too. We chatted back and forth about the senselessness of spamming and wondered together what it achieved (we never did come up with an answer). After telling Anj I missed her around YoN (which I do), I went to bed.
AND MISSED A DM THAT ANJ SENT ME THAT WAS VERY IMPORTANT!
I woke the following morning and checked Facebook and Twitter on my phone pretty much straight away. (Yes, I’m a bit of a tragic like that. You just never know what good/important/funny/cute/sad stuff has happened overnight.) I just happened to flick across to DMs and saw the message from Anj, which *may* have made me squeal like a teenage groupie for a few seconds. You see, Anj was meeting with a publisher in the coming days and she wondered if I had any picture book manuscripts that I might like to send her way. After picking myself up off the floor, I sent her a DM in reply, which may have started with the word, “Squee!”, and assured her that yes, I just might have a PB or four-thousand ready to go. And then I emailed her three of my best and pinched myself to make sure this was really happening.
And so began the process of Anj taking me on as a client. And you know what? It was actually really, really easy for me to sign on the dotted line because I know Anj. Sure, I asked a lot of questions that I would’ve been foolish not to ask, but her answers just confirmed what I already knew. You see, I’ve known Anj for over a year and I like her and trust her – not as an agent – but as a person. And I am over-the-moon-shout-from-the-rooftops excited to have this funny, passionate, smart, kind, book-lover, writer and mum-like-me as my agent. And together I think we’re going to make a pretty awesome team. And the best part? With Anj by my side, I’m not only going to be writing PBs but I’m intending to branch out into MG and YA as well. How exciting is that? :)
And so ends the lengthy epistle, Part 1 of The Day that was Made of Awesome (don’t say I didn’t warn you it would be long). There is a Part 2, I promise, but you’re going to have wait a little while for that one. In the meantime, if you’re looking for an agent here’s a couple of things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Be genuine.
Don’t set out to get something from the people you meet. Anj and I have been connecting online for more than twelve months and if I wasn’t being genuine, she would’ve spotted it by now. Be the best you that you can be but please, please, please don’t use people. It’s not pretty. Ever.
2. Be professional.
You never know if the person reading your tweets or blog posts or Facebook status updates might be the one who helps you get to the next step in your journey. I know we all need to whinge and complain and grumble about things from time to time, but personally I think it’s best to keep those things more private than the world wide web. My amazing author friends Kat Apel, Dee White and Katrina Germein have all been recipients of a whinge email or three from me and have provided the perfect amount of sympathy, humour and chocolate in return. Gather a group around you who can support you through those moments, but remember that you are what you tweet. Or something like that… :P
Sometimes it’s impossible to create opportunities but in very rare, sacred moments, opportunities arrive, gift-wrapped with a note from God saying, “Just for you.” When I went to bed that Wednesday night I had no idea that a very important DM was sitting there waiting for me to unwrap on Thursday morning. I didn’t know Anj was meeting with a publisher the next week, I didn’t know she was looking for picture books, I didn’t know that she was building her client list. Maybe she had me in mind all along, or maybe our mutual whinging session over spambots reminded her of my work. Regardless, I couldn’t have conjured up this wonderful situation. It was a whole lot of things lining up all at once, and I consider myself blessed. So try not to stress too much. Do your best, work hard, learn the craft and relax. You never know what might just be around the corner…