...so, anything new?

29 Apr 2020

Hello again, world!

It’s been almost three months since I last updated the ol’ blog, and, well…what a three months we’ve all had! Reading my last post from February 6, I now think, “oh, you sweet summer child.” Early February Kaitlyn had no idea what was coming. She was just excited and nervous about the Pitch Wars showcase!

Late April Kaitlyn has aged eighty years since then.

I’ve thought about writing a new post many times, but kept putting it off for one reason or another. Right after the showcase felt like too soon, because I was in the middle of the whole querying of literary agents process. Right after I signed with an agent, I thought, well gee, if I write about this RIGHT NOW do I sound like I think I’m this old, wise querying expert when I haven’t had an agent for two minutes? Then the pandemic hit the U.S. and writing about my own unrelated life updates felt exceedingly stupid.

At the same time, no one needs Kaitlyn Hill’s COVID-19 thinkpiece. And good things have happened for me since I last wrote, and I want to share them before I forget all the details. So today, I’m going to share my How I Got My Agent story and try not to feel bad about the world being on fire all around me. I’ve seen people encouraging each other to share good news and be excited about the exciting things even in the midst of chaos, so I’m trying to take it to heart. So if you will, rewind with me to a simpler time we called February 7, 2020…

**brrrrrzztttt rewinding noises**

Yay! Young Adult entries in the Pitch Wars showcase went up in the wee hours of Friday morning. Agents who had signed up to participate had until Monday night at midnight to comment on the entries they were interested in and request more materials from the authors. Mentors were told about agent requests as they happened, and could pass that info on to their mentees (like me) so that weekend was a lot of me sitting around pretending not to be glued to my phone, waiting for texts from Auriane or Susan.

I was very happy with the amount of requests I got in the showcase! I couldn’t see the actual comments/what each agent was requesting (full manuscript, first 50 pages, etc) until comments closed on Monday, so in the meantime, I was preparing all of my query emails to go out and saving them in my drafts. Many of these queries were to agents who I knew had requested something from me, but others were “cold queries,” meaning the agents either were not participating in the showcase or had not requested from me, but I still wanted the chance for them to see my work.

Monday night is a bit of a blur, but I think I stayed up late to see the comments as soon as they became visible? And immediately sent a bunch of middle-of-the-night emails with the requested attachments? That sounds like me. I’m sticking with it. And then, I waited.

Because of the nature of Pitch Wars, things can happen more quickly after the showcase for a lot of writers and agents than they normally would in the querying process. I received a few rejections in the first few days, when ordinarily I might not hear back for weeks to months, but because my queries had “Pitch Wars” in the subject, they’d get bumped to the top of reading piles. I also received a few requests for full manuscripts after I’d sent the first 50 pages, or whatever amount had been requested. As mama once said, querying is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get. What? My mama didn’t say that?

Anyhoo, then came *dun dun dun* FRIDAY…when I got my first email from an agent that said, in essence, “hello, I read and really enjoyed your manuscript and would love to hop on a call and talk more about it.” !!! This blew my little low-expectations mind. In Queryland, a call usually means that the agent is seriously interested in working with you, whether they’d like to talk about you revising and resubmitting your work (R&R) or they’re offering to sign you as a client. You hope for the latter, obviously, but unless they say in the email, “this is an offer,” you can’t be sure. So we scheduled the call for a few days later and I tried not to make any sudden moves or blink too hard lest I wake up from the dream in the meantime.

Now, I know that a lot of people think they are awkward on the phone, but I am awkward on the p h o n e. This is true of calls with people I actually know in real life, let alone with strangers who I feel obligated to impress while my dream career hangs in the balance. So to say I was nervous for my first call is an understatement, but surprise of surprises, it went well! They were so, so kind and enthusiastic, telling me all that they loved about my book, all about the agency, their working style, etc, and answering every question I could possibly have and then some. It went on for about an hour, during which they also clarified that it was an offer of representation! Wow, I was so excited. I asked for a little over two weeks (industry standard) so that I could let other agents I’d queried know I’d received an offer and take the time to make a decision, and they were super nice and fine with that.

From there, I returned to the ol’ Sent Messages folder to “nudge” the other agents who had part or all of my manuscript. I sent a brief email to each basically saying, “Hello, I know you’re busy but I have an offer and have to decide by x date so if you could let me know if you’re still interested by then that would be so lit k thx byeee.” (Not an exact transcript of the emails.) And from then on…CHAOS REIGNED.

But in a mostly positive way. Some of the responses I received were very kind “step-asides”—”congrats on your offer, thanks for letting me read your work but it’s not the best fit for me, good luck to ya,” that kind of thing. It was so bizarre to me how not-painful rejections became the second I had an offer in my pocket. Like, I got to a point of wanting to say thank you to the people sending me rejections, as it would mean less of a decision for me to make in the end. But in the most amazing turn of events, I also got a number of other offers over those two+ weeks. I was genuinely shocked every time a new one came in, not even actor-at-an-awards-show-who-everyone-knew-would-win shocked. Because you really do not know how people will receive your writing! And I feel like so much of everyone’s writing journey is learning to expect rejection and take it in stride. So to suddenly be seeing the opposite, several times over, was wild.

This also meant more phone calls in which I was a super-weirdo and the agents continued to be the kindest, calmest professionals. Really, everyone I talked to was incredibly nice and it was so interesting to hear different ways these real-life industry people had responded to something I wrote, and I’m beyond grateful for that experience. It became more difficult with each call to know what I was going to do and I had the most champagney of champagne problems of having OPTIONS when it came to choosing an agent. In spite of having experienced many rejections in my writing career thus far, I felt so torn up about having to “reject” anyone else in turn. And then I would mentally tear myself up even more for agonizing over this when I was lucky to have any offers in the first place, yada yada, being in my head is fun!

Ultimately, my mind kept going back to one agent. I weighed the pros and cons of everyone, and they all had so much going for them, but there was an extra level of connection and feeling understood—in my writing and as myself—that I had with one agent over the others, on top of her demonstrated ability to be a rockstar agent for her authors. I was already having thoughts like, “huh, I wonder what ___ would think of this idea,” and I received the nicest messages from her authors and coworkers that kept reaffirming all of the best impressions I’d gotten from our call. It was clear by the end of the decision period that I knew which direction I wanted to go in, so I sent the emails to all the relevant parties…

…and MUCH CELEBRATION ENSUED! I signed with Laura Crockett at Triada US at the beginning of March, and I’ve been so happy with that choice! It’s obviously an incredibly strange time to kick off the next stage of one’s career, but still feels like a dream come true. Throughout March, I worked on a few more edits to my manuscript with Laura’s guidance, which was its own kind of fun and exciting. I loved reading her comments and feedback and feeling, over and over, the sense of “you get me!!” After we were both satisfied with those changes, my manuscript went out “on submission” with editors at various publishing houses, and that’s where we are now. It’s similar to querying, but the end goal is a publishing contract instead of an agent. So. Cross your fingers and StAy TuNeD?!

Publishing is a long, complex process, and at each stage, I have so much fear of screwing it all up, of jinxing myself, of doing or saying The Ultimate Wrong Thing that’ll send me back to square one. Add to that the extra layer of, y’know, global pandemic and massive change to every aspect of life as we know it, and it’s…a bit stressful! But on the other hand, I almost can’t spend as much time obsessing over my writing career because I’m too consumed by obsessing over the end of the world and my own existential dread, so. Calling that a “bright side” seems a bit bleak, but perhaps you can relate with your own stressors that have now been minimized by The Big Stress.

I hope everyone is staying as safe, healthy, and sane as you can out there! As my workplace is closed and I sit at home with no clearly defined responsibilities, I am truly, more than ever before in my life, taking it day by day. I’ve been reading a lot of books (even more than usual, if you can believe it), doing puzzles, cross-stitching, and hanging out on our brand new deck that my talented boyfriend built. My depression is back at it in a bigger way than it’s been in a long time, but I also know that I’m in the most extremely fortunate position, all things considered, and I don’t take that for granted.

catch me in my new Hammock Station all day long
catch me in my new Hammock Station all day long

What a wild, twisty, wonderful, terrible, bizarro ride this year has been already. I have so much to be thankful for amidst all the uncertainty, including you, dear reader, and everyone who has encouraged and supported me in writing and in the pesky task of being Kaitlyn. So thank you!

Hopefully this was a pleasant read and I don’t sound too obnoxious talking about surreally excellent things that have happened for me when everything else is what it is. I love and appreciate you, and can’t wait to get closer than 6 feet apart when it’s safe to do so once more!