Agent Appreciation

Over at the , (The DUFF, Fall ’10) came up with a great idea: Unofficial Agent Day.

For those who don’t know (mostly because I’ve been very remiss in actually talking about how I acquired an agent), I’m represented by Sarah Davies at the Greenhouse. And let me just say, I am a weird, flighty girl in need of some fierce grounding, and she is a perfect fit.

Before she became an agent, Sarah was the publishing director of Macmillan Children’s UK. Meaning that in addition to having an unparalleled knowledge of the business, she’s what’s known as an editorial agent. And also British. Sometimes when she calls, I like to pretend that I’m talking to Adelle DeWitt from the television show Dollhouse. Yes, I really am that nerdy.

There are so many things that I love about Sarah—she’s competitive, focused, but she’s also compassionate. And patient. She took me on in September of 2008 and my book didn’t even go out on submission until May of 2009, because one condition of representation was a pretty big revision. When I said she was an editorial agent, I actually meant genius.

I realize now that I never did get around to talking about The Call, so here is an abbreviated account:

I’d been making a sort of general effort to be more methodical, so when my YA manuscript was ready for submission (or so I thought), I sent out an initial round of eight well-researched queries. Right away, I started getting requests for partials and fulls, which only served to further my conviction that the book was ready.

Then Sarah called me out of the blue one day, just as I was about to leave for the airport, and told me that she’d finished the manuscript and wanted to talk about it. After behaving like an inarticulate loon, I got it together—mostly—and we talked about the book. We talked about everything that needed work and everything that was poorly-developed and confusing, and by the end of the call it was clear that what I’d written needed a lot of work and the only solution was to do a comprehensive revision.

Then, I put my suitcase in the car, got on a plane, and went to a wedding.

A few days later, I got another offer of representation from an agent I’d been coveting for a long time. The second agent was very enthusiastic about the manuscript and only suggested a few minor changes, after which, it would be all set to go out on submission. But all the things Sarah had talked about had taken root in my head, and the previously-ready manuscript didn’t seem so ready anymore.

At that point, there were still several agents reading. In an uncharacteristic display of resolve, I sat down and pulled the manuscript from consideration. Because I knew right then, unequivocally (and those who know me will appreciate how exceedingly rare that is), that I wanted Sarah to be my agent.

Were there times during the Big Revision that I was tempted to yank my hair out? Yes. Did I drink more coffee than is decently good for anybody? Again, yes. Did I ever, at any point, kick myself and wish I’d gone with someone demanding less work? No, I did not. Because the entire time I was drinking coffee and despairing, I never doubted that Sarah was absolutely right about everything.

She helped me overhaul my book, then shepherded me through the whirlwind of an auction that was a direct result of her hard work as an agent, but also as an editor. She assuages my fears, answers my questions, and always keeps me informed about what’s going on.

Sarah Davies is my agent, and she is absolutely wonderful.

10 thoughts on “Agent Appreciation

  1. Yay!!! Happy Agent Day to both of you! Sarah read my full ms back when I was querying, and although we didn’t correspond that much, she seemed so wonderful and savvy. Congratulations! Can’t wait to see your book on shelves!

    • Sarah is awesome like a British rockstar! Only, not like an actual British rockstar. Just that she’s British . . . and awesome . . .
      Also, looking at your blog, your agent experience seems pretty much on par with mine–someone who loveloveloves your book enough to make it better! Which I’ll admit really scared me at times, but which turned out to be so invaluable in the end. Good luck on submission (sounds like it’s just around the corner)!

  2. Happy agent day to both of you. I love this story. I think it can be tempting to go with the easy route sometimes. But if the goal is to write the best book and present your characters in the best light, then sometimes the harder/more work route is the best. I am many steps away from garnering an agent. But I want one who loves my characters, wants others to love them, and we are both committed to writing the best story.

    • I think this is so, so true. I’ve been an inveterate slacker for most of my life, but in the last few years, I’ve reformed a lot. Learning to actually apply myself didn’t happen overnight–but by dribs and drabs, it did happen.
      I knew Sarah was the agent for me because she liked what she saw in the manuscript enough to care that it wasn’t its best. I think that five years ago, I just wouldn’t have appreciated that. I wouldn’t have understood the difference between 80% and 100%.

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