The Claw, er, The Call…

This is the post I honestly despaired of ever writing.

Three completed books and two years stumbling in and out of the query trenches brought me to this moment. Finally!

Yes, I’m about to throw another Toy Story reference at you. Here it is…I feel like one of the aliens. Except that bratty Sid plays no role in my story.

If you’re reading this and you aren’t a writer, then you may have no idea why anyone would want/need an agent. Or why agents aren’t lining up at writers’ doors/inboxes offering to represent them. They stand to make some cash if they sell the book, right? Or can’t a writer just “hire” an agent?

Trust me when I say – that’s not how it works.

A decent agent receives a deluge of a few hundred query letters from writers, EVERY WEEK, in which the writer describes her awesome manuscript and anything about herself she thinks might hook the agent (namely previously published work). Out of those queries, the agent might ask for a few partials or even a couple of full manuscripts to read.

The overjoyed writer says a prayer, or lights a candle, or whatever, and fires off the submission. And then waits. And waits some more. Most of the time the agent writes back a couple of months later and says “Thank you, it was very nice, but I didn’t fall in love with it enough to offer representation.” Or something to that effect. The typical agent will actually offer to represent only a few people during a year. She hopes (usually) that these authors will be “career” writers, not just one book wonders. A busy agent might have thirty clients. Period. No room for more. Until somebody dies. And even then she’ll keep representing that author’s estate, trying to make more money for that estate, and of course herself.

An author wants an agent because, with the exception of smaller presses, publishing houses will not even read a query from an unagented author.  The publishers rely on agents to filter, or gate-keep. And to find what the publishing house editors have told the agents they want. So, for the most part the only way to get a book into readers’ hands without an agent is to self-publish, or query a small press. Self-publishing and small presses work out very well for some authors, but I prefer to go the traditional route, at least for now.

Of course having an agent does not guarantee getting a book deal from a publishing house. There’s a whole lot of submitting to editors, gnashing of teeth, chewing of nails, ranting at anyone who will listen, and eating of chocolate. Yes, writers do a lot of waiting. And eating of chocolate. Agents probably do too. Mixed in with frantic bursts of revising, synopsis-writing, etc.

So, now non-writers and writers alike will understand why I am delighted to announce-


I’ve been doing a lot of this…

The Backstory-

Yes, I entered a bunch of contests this fall. I got some requests, but no offers.

I mailed out a few small batches of queries.

I got a “revise and resubmit” with a verbal intent to offer for TENDRIL. Then from a different agent I got an actual offer, also for TENDRIL. After a whirlwind of querying and follow-up “nudging” a week or so later (stating that I had an offer), I got a bunch more requests. Eventually I ended up in that enviable, but unexpectedly difficult, position of having more than one really good offer. There are still agents who have fulls, but didn’t get back to me by the deadline I set.  And I also have a few partials out there for FOOLISH.

On December 22, I accepted the offer from Stefanie Lieberman at

Janklow & Nesbit Associates in NYC.

Until today I kept rereading her emails to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

But today there was something outside my front door.


and inside the envelope was the contract…

53 thoughts on “The Claw, er, The Call…

  1. CONGRATS! I’m so happy for you — how cool does that look waiting for you at your doorstep 🙂

    What an experience. And it sounds like you played it perfectly, too. Awesome!

    Now, we all have hope, lol. More stories for us once you’ve recovered, please 😀

  2. I’ve been dancing over it all this time, Rhiann. It’s awesome to see the post finally up. Congratulations again!! It’s so exciting!!! 😀

  3. So, so happy for you and TENDRIL! I knew it would happen in a matter of time, and your time came! Yaaaaaay! A huge congrats to you!

    • Thank you. It’s really amazing to me how supportive writers are of each other – given that the business itself is pretty harsh and competitive. But I am SO glad that we’ve got each other to ride the highs and lows with. Please ignore grammatical faux pas in previous sentence 🙂

  4. I’m sure you remember the feeling of having submissions hanging out there when you read these types of posts and announcements. It’s a strange mixture of elation for the person, uplift from knowing it really does happen, longing for the waiting to end, and dread in knowing that the percentages aren’t getting any more favorable. But hope really does glimmer through the wash of emotion. So thanks for sharing.

    This is a really good breakdown of the process for the non-writers in my life. I think I’ll start referring the link to those who are confused. I’m so happy for you, Rhiann! 🙂 Congratulations!

    • Yes, I recall those feelings very well-but you know the percentages only improve when another writer’s book takes off. More book-buying on the part of the reading public means more book-buying on the part of pub houses, and more offering on the part of agents. That’s how I see it anyway. Success for any one of us only improves the odds for the rest of us 🙂

      • Good point! I certainly didn’t mean to imply that the success of other writers reduced my chances. Just the state of the marketplace (the slow crumbling of brick & mortar booksellers, the flood of poorly edited self-pub work in ebooks, etc.). I heartily agree that more good books can only help. I can’t speak for anyone else, and don’t mean to speak for you, Rhiann, but if I’d decided to self-pub three years ago, my books wouldn’t be anywhere near as worthy of being read and recommended as they are now. They would’ve been part of the aforementioned flood.

        So besides congrats and thanks for the inspiration, I owe you thanks for sticking with it through the vetting process, and for being a force for quality in publishing. 🙂

        • What I said is true-but it’s also true that because there are only X number of publishers, X number of agents, who can take on X number of clients, at any given time, it’s easy to feel depressed while watching others get “chosen” (in the words of a Toy Story alien). So, I’m not trying to deny those feelings either. They are valid. Yes. My first book in its first 115,000 word version was not publish-worthy. And I needed CPs, betas, and agents to tell me so. And to suggest some ways to fix it 🙂 Self-publishing has produced a glut of bad books and some awesome ones-it’s just really hard to know which is which until actually reading them.

  5. That’s SO awesome Rhianne!! I’m really happy for you. God, you must be so excited. And more than one offer??? Wow. I have to admit I’m jealous–but not in a bad way. In an “I’m now inspired” way. CONGRATS!!!!

    • Yes-funny thing how having one agent want you makes you suddenly more appealing in the eyes of other agents… Haha, I’m glad you’re inspired -go kick some query-butt!! 🙂

  6. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so, so, so very stoked for you! see, i told you it wouldn’t be long (remember you commented to my ‘the call’ post, saying you wished you were posting about getting an agent?)! and…love ‘the claw’ reference, feels so true. biggest congrats…can’t wait to see what happens next! 🙂

  7. Truly there’s no one I know online more deserving of an agent. We like to say “let me known when your stuff gets published,” but in all honesty I can actually say, I look forward to reading it!

    • That’s the nicest thing anyone could say. And I mean it when I say the same goes for your historical fiction. Even though I’ve always been more of a Cavalier-fancier. And now you probably hate me…

      • *collects ye axe and choppynge blokke*… seriously though, well done! You say you’ve written 3 books and now got your first agent, I take it that the agent is repping for the latest of the 3? They say almost nobody gets their first novel published.

        • Yes, the last of the 3.Basically came excruciatingly close to getting an agent with #1, had a traumatizing experience with that. Didn’t really query #2. Have been revising both #1 and #2 along with writing TENDRIL (#3). Agent will read both #1 and #2 at some point and decide whether they’re marketable, need further revision, etc. #1 is paranormalish (Salem witchcraft tie in) so it may not be the right time for that one. #2 is YA Contemporary so that might work.

  8. Pingback: Stacey Heather Lee Blog » Blog Archive » One Lovely Blog Award

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