Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Happy Agentversary to Meee

I realized last night on Twitter that Jan 1 marked my third anniversary as an agent. Woohoo!  Here's how it happened:

I had been an unpaid intern and reader at another agency for a year, but they hadn't wanted to let me actually start taking on my own clients. It was OK though, as they were a grownup book agency and I really wanted to work at an agency that specialized in kids books. So when I met Andrea and the gang in Summer of '07, it was a perfect match.

I hung around ABLA for several months, reading like a madman, working closely with the other agents, especially Andrea and Laura, getting to know the lay of the land and how the agency worked, gathering up a few first clients by lingering around the Blue Board and asking in locked blog posts. Then January 1, 2008, at the stroke of midnight, my bio "went live" on the website. It was funny -- I remember it exactly because I was babysitting, and the kids were asleep so I was checking email... and all of a sudden at like 12:02 I got QUERIES.  12:02!! On NEW YEARS! I checked the website and LO, there I was. (I will admit, I definitely did a happy dance.)

Andrea had warned me that I should not expect to sell a book for the first year that I was an agent. Some new agents do well straightaway, of course, but mostly there is a bit of a learning curve and it takes several months or even a year to get up to speed, meet tons of editors, and start selling. And even when you do start selling, it can take many months to get a contract and get paid, etc, so you have to be prepared for it to be a lean business, especially at first.

I had a project that I was super-duper excited about called FLASH BURNOUT.  It was a 'boy book' but with definite girl appeal. It was gritty and funny at the same time. I loved it!  (still do, in fact).  The author, LK Madigan, had been a critique partner of mine way back when I thought that I wanted to be a writer myself. I loved her book then, and I told her so, but she (because she is gracious and lovely and wouldn't be presumptuous) thought I was just being nice (me?) and basically had to have her arm twisted to actually query me. But she did, finally, and that was going to be the first project I sent out into the world.

I did a lot of research about who to send it to, but I had a gut feeling that one place in particular would love it. That was Houghton, and in particular, the editor who had brought Barry Lyga's books to print. If she "got" Barry, I thought, she'd "get" Lisa. I was confident.

But I still didn't think that I'd get a call in less than two weeks. Nor did I think that the call would be at 6:00 am (editors don't always remember about west coast time). Nor had I planned out anything to say if such a call were to come.  So this was how it went down (remember, I am BLEARY-EYED, having been awoken from a sound sleep).

Me:  [totally asleep, croaking voice]  "hh'looooo?"
Editor:  "Hi! I am calling from Houghton Mifflin... is this... Jennifer?"
Me: [false awakeness]  "YES! HI! HOW ARE YOU!" 
Editor: "Well thanks. So I loved FLASH BURNOUT."
Me: "yay!"
Editor: "And I want to make an offer" [proceeds to rattle off numbers]
Me: [searching through blankets for nonexistent pen] "ok, could you possibly email that to me? I don't seem to have a working pen at my desk here..."
Editor:"Sure thing"
Me: ....
Editor: ....
Me: "Umm..." o.O
Editor: ....
Me: "OK, so... forgive me, this is going to sound silly but... err... what do I do now?"
Editor: "Mmm... probably you should talk to your author."
Me: "AHHH! Yes, right. OK!"

And that book became not only the first book that I sold, but also my first AWARD-WINNING book, and the start of this whole crazy ride.  (The picture is of FLASH with its Morris Award finalist sticker - in fact, it ended up with the gold, I just couldn't find the image. BUY IT.)

I just did some quick calculations. I currently have 28 clients. (5 of them I picked up in 2010).  I've sold 55 books (not counting foreign sales, audio books or film options). 15 books have been released, and 10 more are slated to come out by Summer 11.

All in all it has been a great few years, and I look forward to an even more amazing stuff to come, because I work with the MOST talented and interesting and surprising group of authors ever.