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  • Writer's pictureMarve Micheal

How I Got My Agent

Updated: Mar 22



Days Querying- 23

Days from query to offer- 16

Queries sent- 50

Full requests- 15

Rejections- 28

Ghosted- 7

Offers- the only one that matters is the one I said yes to


Stats for the signed agent

Query Sent: May 1

Full Request: May 2

Offer: May 17

Number of calls: 2

Signed: June 1


It’s taken much longer than I thought to write this blog post, even though it’s one I’ve been looking forward to writing long before I completed my manuscript. Somehow it feels both real and unreal at the same time. To remind myself it’s real, I go back to my agent’s first note to me while she was reading my manuscript, then I read the email asking for the call, then I read through our chat, and then I tell myself, ‘No way I’m making up’ LOL. It’s that unreal.


PRE-PANDEMIC TIMES


I'm starting here because all our lives are now simply pre and post-pandemic. Let’s go back to the beginning. Writing has always been a form of therapy for me. One day after a pretty traumatic event in my childhood, I started writing poems and filling out journals with words that soothed and, most importantly, helped me create new worlds I desperately wanted to get lost in. I started my first long-form novel at thirteen but didn’t get past 10k for nearly a decade. I very lazily rewrote the first three chapters of my first novel over and over again throughout my four years at uni. The year I graduated, my mum gave me one of those pep talks where it's like, ‘Finish this book or stop saying you’re a writer’. To be fair, it was more encouraging than that. Needless to say, my mum believed in me becoming a published author long before I did. And to show how much she believed in this dream, as I raced towards my final submission deadline, tired from full-time work and sleepy at dead hours of the night, my mum sat/slept on the floor of our family library, keeping me company as I typed away. She hadn’t even read the book, nor did she know what it was about until it was published, but she poured her whole heart into ensuring I had everything I needed to get those words out to the world. She’s the best.




I wrote 80,000 words between January 2017 and June 2017, edited furiously for a month, and sent off my first completed novel to the publisher. Now, here’s the bend in the journey. Back then, at 21, living in Nigeria, I didn’t know that my deal was with a vanity publisher (I’ve since cancelled this and republished it). So this meant I paid for a publishing package with a loan from my dad (which I paid back in full with profits from the book) and paid for the publisher's editing/marketing services as well. It was a crap deal. I should have known when they sent me the copyedited version, and I sent to my grandma, who is my personal literary powerhouse, and she sent it back with her ever-ready red pen marking all the errors in the manuscript. After lots of polishing, I had my book launch on Aug 17, 2017.



Even with the hiccups along the way, I made the most of the situation and went on to have the best book launch, with over 400 guests, sold over 400 copies, had two more author events across the country, and had my book stocked in cafes, bookstores, libraries, and online retailers. A month later, I moved to the UK on a scholarship to study technology consulting. And thus began my long sabbatical from writing. I was bone tired and, in truth, didn’t know any other route to publishing, and I wasn’t up for doing that again. However, while on the plane taking me to the UK, I had a eureka moment that inspired this fantasy book for which I now have an agent, but that’s for another post.


POST-PANDEMIC


While in a writing slump between 2018 and 2021, I lazily wrote and rewrote the first few chapters of my fantasy novel FOTS (A fantastical book full of magic, adventure, spice and Yoruba mythology). I also returned to my first love, poetry, and started the Poetry For A Thousand Days series. The goal was to write a single poem daily for a thousand days. I got stumped at about nearly 300 days. My goal now is to simply write a thousand poems, LOL. In January 2022, I picked up steam and began an intensive deep dive into the world of fantasy writing and traditional publishing. I did A LOT of research. I attended many free virtual events/sessions like ProWriting Aid’s Fantasy Writer’s Week, Brandon Sanderson’s Youtube lectures, Jericho Writer’s Summer Festival of Writing etc. Six months later, on June 30, I finished the first draft at 120k. During the writing process, I had my Facebook writing group as critique partners, and when it was done, I hired an editor for a full manuscript assessment. I know this step isn’t necessary for everyone, mainly because it can get quite expensive. Still, I was lucky enough to get a really affordable editor who allowed me to pay in many instalments. I would highly recommend Emma’s Edits.


I also sent this out to 20 beta readers, so I had a lot to work with (I used Google Forms to collate the responses and gave a six-week deadline). Editing took from September 2022 (because after reading the edit notes, the amount of work I had to do upset and terrified me) until April 2023. A few things that kept me afloat during the despairing months of editing: knowing that this was a good and original/marketable idea, positive beta reader feedback, attending the Jericho Writer’s York Festival of Writing (where I got three full requests) and getting shortlisted for the 2022 Friday Night Live Competition, the 2022 Kit De Waal Bursary, longlisted for the 2023 REVPIT competition and winning the 2023 Jericho Writers’ Self Edit Course Bursary with Debi Alper and Emma Darwin. The most exciting opportunity was getting shortlisted for the 2023 Future Worlds Prize for Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers of Colour. (All this information was included in my query. I mention this to advocate for entering competitions while writing/querying).


I also participated in a few pitch events. Here are some stats:

DVPIT - 2 Agent ❤️/ 1 Full request

SFFPIT - 2 Agent ❤️/ 1 Editor request

MoodPitch - 1 Agent ❤️


Lọ́rẹ has fiery blades and ice in the veins. One of these is a secret that will get her killed.

The Holy Order sends their deadliest assassin after her, but she just might be her own worst enemy. She must choose who needs saving, her family, her kingdom or herself


CHILDREN OF BLOOD&BONE X EMBER QUARTET

When Lọ́rẹ tries to save her best friend from a deadly trial, she uses magic she didn't know she had and is forced into exile. Every step closer to finding her real family takes her farther away from the only home she ever knew


EMBER QUARTET X CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE

Desperate to escape the only home she's ever known, Lọ́rẹ must fight, steal and kill as she seeks refuge in the snow-capped mountains of the Sahara. Falling in love is a distraction, and for this, she’ll pay dearly.


I was a nervous wreck all of April 2023. As I edited each chapter, my word count grew exponentially; by the time I was done, it was 170,000 words. I had one agent who agreed to read at 160k; bless her. I brutally killed some darlings, got it to 150k and queried the first five agents on April 24. I didn’t send any full requests. Just wanted to see the response to the word count. Got three out of five rejected. I replied, asking for some feedback, and luckily two responded. One said it just wasn’t for her, and the other was R&R to cut the word count. I sighed and brutally killed even more darlings—that one hurt. Luckily, I’d gotten a few tips from the REVPIT editor, who had longlisted me for her list. So, at 138,000 words, I send out fulls, queries and everything in between.


I had my top 10 list, a mix of the top agents in the UK and US who had multiple bestsellers and newer incredible agents, all of whom felt so out of my league. 8 out of 10 asked for fulls. (I mention this to encourage you to reach for the stars). I nearly passed out from disbelief as I got requests to send the full manuscript every other day the entire time I was querying. One thing about the high of getting a full request is that it makes the anxiety and panic that comes with a no so much worse. I was obsessed with QueryTracker. I checked my email as soon as I opened my eyes. In fact, due to the time difference, I’d wake up randomly in the night to check for updates from across the ocean.





Querying– would not recommend. LOL. It’s hard. The first full rejection sucked the air out of me. Although it was an R&R, I knew I wouldn’t make those changes because it wasn’t in line with the story's theme. The next few rejections didn’t hurt any less.


THE EMAIL

I had a list of all my fulls and adequately stalked each agent on the list waiting for the first to say something. Every couple of days, I had one agent or the other asking me if anyone had offered, and this was ridiculously annoying. It was a game of chicken, and I hated it. However, my darling agent messaged to say she was enjoying the story. I had two other agents do this, and I highly recommend it. Amid my anxious spiral, I loved hearing how much they liked a particular concept or character. I got a note from my agent around the 50% mark, and by the 75% mark, she said there was nothing that would change her mind, so I got the email asking to speak to discuss representation. It was nearly midnight. I was watching something on TV to calm my nerves, and I nearly passed out. I read it over and over and over. In fact, I’ll reread it after posting this haha.


THE CALL


I got the email on Wednesday, May 17th (I had sent a query to her on May 1st and got a full request on May 2nd). I sent out a notice of offer on Thursday. I had the call on Friday. I was so nervous! I was sweating. I’ve never subscribed to the idea that an agent was doing me a favour. I’ve always understood it to be a business partnership where we both work hard to make the most money possible and maybe even be best friends. This partnership would be a long-term career-making one; nothing else would do. So, I was mostly nervous because if, for some reason, I didn’t feel like I found someone who matched this after the call, I wouldn’t say yes. I had a long, long, long list of questions. Nothing was left unasked or unanswered. I am grateful for this blog post by Ann Zhao that helped me organise my thoughts.


The Call went better than I’d dared to hope. (I may do another post specifically on the call). Kesia answered most questions before I even asked. As I went on about all the things that were important to me, her response showed how carefully and expertly she’d navigate my publication timeline and my career. Her eight years of experience as an editor in a publishing house made me confident in her vision for my book, and I knew I could trust her to make it the very best version possible. I left that call knowing that I’d never be left stranded and that I potentially found someone who would champion me, my books and my career. I was sweating buckets by the end.


THE AFTERMATH


The rejections came rolling in. Rejections don’t get easier even when they are valid. Some said they couldn’t read on a deadline. Some said, Oh, fantastic, good luck with publishing- felt like they really couldn’t be bothered. Others were travelling or at conferences and couldn’t meet my two-week deadline. One was ill, and another was a referral, so she had a very short timeline to read. One asked for an extension-maybe? Only one truly disappointed me and gave no real feedback other than not falling in love with- literally the one sentence as a response to a full. (I’ll have another post with some of the rejections I got).


The consensus in replies, however, was that this was something big, a big screen kinda big. So, it came down to the final eight. When I say final, I mean two days before the deadline. I still had these eight fulls out. I was dying. However, at the same time, with every passing day, I couldn’t find a reason to say no to Kesia. Honestly, I knew from the moment we ended the first call. Five days into the deadline, my mum kept saying, ‘I like her. Say yes.’ Even when she hadn’t even spoken to her ever, haha... I guess she could tell from my excitement. I spoke to clients of about three agents, including Kesia’s list. I was most impressed with her list cause even with a handful of clients at the time, I still wasn’t the first black client she had. Diversity is IMPORTANT.


In contrast, there was an agent with nearly 70 clients, and less than 10% were black. By the end of my second call with Kesia, cause yes. I had more questions. But by then, I knew that there was nothing any other agent would say that would change my mind. Glad to say that after hearing from the other agents, I was right. I’d made my choice, and boy, was it the right one! (I had my contract reviewed with the Society of Authors. Highly Recommend).


*Ladies, and Gentlemen, this last note, was why I said yes*


I prayed for my querying/choosing process to be quick and easy and to be led to the right person. I’m grateful that it worked out perfectly. Kesia is my dream agent, and together we’re reaching for the stars! ✨✨✨

  • Editorial experience ✔️

  • Great communication ✔️

  • Career planning ✔️

  • All round amazing personality ✔️

P.S. Kesia has a new thriller published by Bloomsbury titled, Let’s Play Murder. Worth the read!


I’m grateful to everyone who supported me all the way. My husband, who made dinner every night, I couldn’t get my head out of edits and offered massages while I spiralled after rejections. To my critique partners and friends from the querying trenches- THANK YOU. I’m so grateful to the friends I made along the way who helped me keep my sanity in this wild world of publishing—special shoutout to Melinda Dwyer.


See the link above to get full access to a list of writing resources. Here are some of my faves: Scrivener, OneStopForWriters(Emotional Thesaurus), Discriptionary (How to Describe Everything), Emma Darwin’s Blog- This Itch of Writing


Querying Tips

  1. Don’t send in batches. Response times are so slow. It’s just not worth it.

  2. There is no need for extra personalisation. I added personal notes to the agents who requested my full before officially querying. I did not for the others. There’s simply no time, and it makes no difference in my experience.

  3. Rejections: Try, sulk, try again. Last year, I wrote an article on how to move on after a rejection. I hope it helps.


If you have any questions about the querying process, I’m happy for you to DM me on Twitter. I’m currently diving into edits while prepping for a fall submission.

Send pixie dust!


P.S. If you'd like to see more of my writing, I have a suspense thriller, HIS DARK REFLECTION, available for free on Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. Here are some Goodreads Reviews.


ABOUT THE BOOK

LOVE . SECRETS . MURDER

Mote was keeping secrets when she married Jack. So was he.

When the single shot that takes their son's life blows open all they've kept hidden, they have to face their worst nightmares alone.

Their daughter, Ara, remembers one thing from the night her brother was killed. She knows who pulled the trigger.

She knows Mote is sleeping in the same bed as the man who killed her child.

She knows something is off with the man pretending to be her father.

And she will get her revenge.


And here is the link to my newsletter if you'd like to hear more from me and get updates for more posts about my publishing journey.


-xoxo

Marve.

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