Getting Lucky: How I Got an Agent (plus a giant giveaway!)
Two things you should know: I wasn’t going to tell this story, and if I could give you all a plate of my hot chocolate chip cookies, I really would.
A few weeks ago, I shared my exciting news that I’d gotten a literary agent, and you were generous with your happiness for me. I wanted to thank each person who left me a congratulatory comment, but the comments section yells at me with warning messages when I try to leave a duplicate reply, and I don’t know 70-something ways to say, “Thank you so much. Your support means everything to me.”
But you know I can find a way to subvert the system.
So when several people asked me to tell the story of how it happened, I decided I ought to set aside my fears of sounding braggy and just tell it. And I figured I’d lavish you with gifts while I was at it because nothing says “thank you” like fresh chocolate chip cookies, but free books come close. (More on that below.)
This is the story:
I thought it began the week I got back from the Killer Tribes Conference. My inbox was stuffed full, but one email jumped out at me: It was addressed from Rachelle Gardner, the literary agent I’d had my eye on for a long time. The literary agent who was reputed to be the best in the biz. The literary agent who represented big talent like Rachel Held Evans and Jamie The Very Worst Missionary, Sarah Bessey and Elizabeth Esther. The literary agent who, last I’d checked, wasn’t accepting queries. And now, apparently, the literary agent who wanted to talk to me.
At lunch with my friend Jeff during the conference weekend, I had confided in him my crazy thought of contacting her. But my proposal was unfinished because when I freak out about things, I opt to simply not do them, and, anyway, she would never know who I was; a query from me would be the height of ridiculousness. But Jeff said no. He said I should do it, said that she probably did know who I was and that if she didn’t, she should. And that dude has helped me feel braver than I am about a million times over, so I resolved to do it when I got back.
But I never got the chance. This lady had clearly done her homework: Not only did she know my blog, she knew the number of kids I have and the correct pronunciation of my name. She said she loved my writing and wanted to know if I’d like to have a talk, that perhaps I had a few books in me. As it turns out, I do.
When we talked on the phone a few weeks later (a delay caused by a holiday and busy schedules, not, as I’d dreaded, because she’d realized what an utter fraud I was), I could tell from the laughter and meshing of thoughts that this was going to be something really good. I don’t want to hawk my work; I don’t want to make a sales pitch of myself; I just want to write, more than absolutely anything. But this other business has to be done, and for a person like me, that’s scary. But not for a person like Rachelle.
At a writers’ meetup on Shawn Smucker’s cross-country tour, I admitted that despite my incremental improvement in which I successfully pitched myself as a speaker for Killer Tribes, the idea of going the traditional route of attending workshops and conferences to pitch to agents, editors, and publishers terrified me. Paralyzed me, even. And my friend Chris said, “Well, then you need someone to do it for you.”
And in an industry of work-your-ass-off-for-probably-nothing, this seemed like far too much to ask. But that’s exactly what I got. And if you feel like I’m bragging, I have to just tell you: I can’t brag about something that is all grace. And as I looked back on this crazy gift of a moment, I realized that it didn’t begin in that week back home– it had been a lifelong journey.
It began when I was born with a little gift, recognized and encouraged by my preschool teacher, who told my mother there was nothing wrong with my eyesight– I just huddled close to my paper out of intensity for my work. It was stoked by the strong and gentle whisper of my grandmother who has a gift for seeing gifts, and it was developed by studying literature and grammar and the history of the English language. It was strengthened by late hours and long years of editing the work of other writers, and it was blossomed by stepping out to share my own writing with a world that I had no reason to think would care.
Most nonfiction writers have to create giant-pain-in-the-ass proposals; they have to query agents; they have to pitch ideas; they get rejection upon rejection upon gawddamn-tiring-rejection. They rarely have agents– never mind highly reputable ones– approach them just to see if they might have any books in them. So you might rightly say I got lucky. But when I look back at the path I’ve traveled, I see it designed with intention and guided with grace by the One who gifted me from the start. And so I just marvel and smile and offer up humbled thanks, because as far as I know, God doesn’t eat chocolate chip cookies.
In order to thank you for your support and encourage you on your own journey, I’ve asked several of my writer friends to help me put together the biggest giveaway TOL has ever hosted! (This isn’t a giveaway where I ask for anything promotional in return, but if you’d share this on Facebook and Twitter just to help reach as many people as possible, that would be wonderful.)
For the next 24 hours (until Saturday the 19th, 8am EST), please help yourself to the free ebooks offered below by clicking on their titles.
I will select the 14 other gift winners based on your comments here. Please let me know which one(s) you hope to get and why.
And, finally, so I might learn how I can encourage you in future posts, please tell me your biggest fears or questions about writing.
Starting Over by Michael Perkins- unlimited copies, free for 24 hours
Starting Over “A Manifesto On Being Yourself” is a small “handwritten” eBook about being true to yourself and the voice you have been given. This is a book about not following formulas when creating art. This is a book about being yourself. (From TheHandwritten.com)
A Manifesto on Manifestos: A MANIFESTO by Knox McCoy- unlimited copies, free for 24 hours
A Manifesto on Manifestos: A MANIFESTO is a magical journey of discovery across the land of manifestos that shows us not only how to write a manifesto, but some other really important ideas that I’d rather be vague about so as to increase expectations and widen the net of potential readers. (From KnoxMcCoy.com)
Building a Life Out of Words by Shawn Smucker- unlimited copies, free for 24 hours
“There are times when life doesn’t turn out as you expected. Then there are times when life punches you in the gut, takes your wallet, and leaves you hanging upside down by your toenails.
2009 was one of those times for me (the gut-punching kind). My construction business faltered after the housing bubble burst, and my wife and I found ourselves in $50,000 worth of debt. Then came the toughest decision of our young lives: we left the community we loved and moved into my parents’ basement in search of a simpler life.
Part of the change included laying aside my aspirations for wealth and taking up the vocation of my dreams: I would try to make money writing full time. This is the story of my first year doing exactly that.
I would try to build a life out of words.” (From Building a Life Out of Words)
The Writer’s Manifesto by Jeff Goins- 5 free copies to selected winners
The Writer’s Manifesto is a small eBook about getting back to the heart of writing, intentionally written to be read in one sitting. It’s a call-to-arms for artists and authors alike to kick the addiction to accolades and write for the sake of writing.
This succinct manifesto is a challenge to fall back in love with your passion, giving you permission and freedom to create not for the applause, but for a higher calling.
The Writer’s Manifesto will leave you feeling confident and affirmed not because of what you’ve done, but because of who you are–a writer. (From Amazon.com)
You Are a Writer by Jeff Goins- 5 free copies to selected winners
You Are a Writer is a book about what it takes to be a writer in the 21st Century.
Author Jeff Goins shares his own story of self-doubt and what it took for him to become a professional. He gives you practical tips for freelancing, how to get published in magazines, and what it takes to build a platform that brings the gatekeepers to you.
This journey of becoming a writer begins with a simple but important belief: You are a writer; you just need to write. Readers will learn the importance of passion and discipline and how to show up every day to do the work. (From Amazon.com)
A Path to Publishing by Ed Cyzewski- 3 free copies to selected winners
After publishing his first nonfiction book Ed Cyzewski’s inbox was flooded with publishing questions from friends, family, and complete strangers. As his replies grew longer and the questions continued, he wrote A Path to Publishing in order to share his lessons about the publishing process with new writers.
A Path to Publishing is a big-picture guide for nonfiction publishing hopefuls. Beginning with mental preparation for writing and building a platform, Cyzewski helps readers develop their ideas, write regularly, pitch a proposal, and market their work. Through accounts of his experiences, a series of case studies, and action steps, each chapter moves readers toward the final goal of becoming published writers. (From A Path to Publishing)
“I haven’t seen a single more helpful resource for writers hoping to enter the publishing fray.” -Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent, Books & Such
Nonfiction book proposal evaluation from Ed Cyzewski- one review for one selected winner
Ed offers communications and editing services to small businesses and individuals with specializations in web site copy/blogging, e-newsletters, proof-reading, book proposal evaluations, and nonfiction book publishing.
He is offering an incredible gift to one of my readers today– a free evaluation of your nonfiction book proposal, up to 10,000 words. He says this service is valued at $300, but I can tell you myself, it’s priceless.
Please grab your free stuff, tell me which of the other gifts you’re hoping for and why, and share with me your writing fears and questions! (And don’t forget to share the goods with your friends.)
UPDATE: The 24-hour giveaway has ended, but please visit the authors’ sites to continue to get copies of their books. Some are still free with a newsletter or blog subscription, and the rest are available for very reasonable prices!