My huge news: I scored a literary agent!

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I can’t believe I get a chance to say this but … I HAVE AN AGENT.

For writing.

As in, I’m one MAJOR step closer to publishing a book AND I have the best possible partner (for me) with whom to do it, Rachel Ekstrom of Irene Goodman Literary.

Rachel is funny, whip-smart and incredibly good at explaining the hyper-crazy world that is publishing. The second I picked up the phone to answer her call, I could just hear in her voice how much she believed in me and my manuscript, DEAD MEAT. (Yes, I’m aware that sounds like a really funny title for a high-raw vegan’s manuscript, but you’ll see why it’s called that in a bit.)

And, amazingly, I got to PICK my agent, which is not nearly as glorious as it sounds.

It was downright horrible, actually, because I love every single one of the four agents who offered representation.

Every single one.

They all believed enough in me and my writing to offer to be with me for a whole career. I mean, I hated telling any of them no because I think they are wonderful and fabulous and that any of them could have (or would have) sold my book to a publishing house. I love you ladies, and if you’re reading this I hope you know that.

That said, there was just something about the rapport I had with Rachel and her infectious enthusiasm that told me in my gut that she was just right for me. And I’m very, very excited to work with her.

Now, the story of how I got my agent? That can basically be told in two equally awesome days: A Thursday and a Monday (yes, a Monday).

But first, I’ll start with a little contest called PitchWars. Put on by Brenda DrakeYA Misfits and a bunch of very talented and awesome people in the publishing business, I learned about PitchWars sometime in November.

The basic premise: 30-some-odd “mentors” in the publishing industry (writers, editors, interns, etc.) were going to be open for applications from non-agented writers who wanted to learn a thing or two and get attention of participating agents. Each writer was allowed to apply to three mentors. Each of the mentors posted what they liked and didn’t like and what category they were looking for (entries were divided into Adult, New Adult, Young Adult and Middle Grade). Each of the mentors could pick ONE writer and two alternates to mentor for the second phase of the contest, which was an agent round, where the writer’s first 250 words were posted along with a short pitch of about 50 words.

There weren’t a ton of “Adult” spots (I think six out of the 37 possible spots), but I thought what the heck, I might as well try. I really didn’t think I’d be chosen. Rather, I thought maybe I’d meet some more members of the online writing community and that would be fabulous enough for me.

I did get to make some great friends … but I also was chosen for a spot. 

I absolutely couldn’t believe it. There were thousands of entries (though there were multiples of everything because you could submit your entry to up to three mentors), but somehow I’d made the cut, getting chosen by the lovely Rebecca A. Weston.

I sent Becca my manuscript in early December, giving her about six weeks to take a look, get me her editorial opinion and for me to make her changes before the PitchWars agent round which was held a Wednesday and a Thursday, January 23rd and 24th.

During this time, I stopped querying, which means I wasn’t actively sending letters and sample pages to agents. I figured, I had plenty of fulls out and then I’m going to be in this contest, I should hold off.

So I did. And I did … until one day I was completely bored at work and decided to start to research agents on my lunch break, figuring that if I didn’t get many requests from agents during PitchWars, that I should already have a list ready and be able to ship my letter and pages out to new agents once the contest had ended.

While I was working on my list, there were three agents who I couldn’t wait to query, so I did, because I just couldn’t hold off. Out of those three, one immediately requested a full, one immediately requested a partial and it was a no for the last.

The next week was the two-day agent round of PitchWars. I was lucky enough to get five requests, including one from Rachel. The very same day — Thursday — even before Rachel had requested a full of my manuscript through the contest, I received an email from the agent who’d requested my full a week before during my random/bored at work querying. She wanted to talk on Monday.

I was thrilled, but tried to couch my enthusiasm a bit because the woman had just had my manuscript a week. I was convinced she probably just wanted to talk about possible revisions, not actually give me an offer. We set up a time and I spent the weekend trying to figure out how I’d answer any questions she had.

Sunday night, I checked my email after the kiddo went to bed and sitting in my inbox was a note from Rachel. She’d only had my manuscript since Thursday night. It turned out she wanted to talk Monday, too. I threw out a time later in the day and emailed her back, not sure if she’d see it before the morning. But she got right back to me and we were on to talk.

Suddenly, I had two agents calling me the same day who had no clue about each other.

This is important to me, at least, because normally if you get a call from one agent, you give all the other agents who have your manuscript a week to get back to you on if they want to “compete” for you. They’re motivated by the fact that someone else likes you and move you up in the to-be-read file because they want to make sure a good one isn’t getting away. Which totally makes sense, right? But here I had two very good agents who loved my manuscript enough to call me up without knowing a thing about if I was getting major interest from anyone else. In a word: SQUUUUUUEEEEEE.

Amazingly, my first Monday call didn’t start with a request for a revision, it started with an offer.

I couldn’t believe it. I was totally flabbergasted and probably didn’t make sense for the rest of the phone call and I still had Rachel to talk to that day.

With shaky fingers, I sent out my “I have an offer” emails to the agents who had either my full or partial — all but to Rachel, whom I figured I could tell myself.

Rachel started her phone call off with an offer, too, and I started shaking again, unable to believe my luck.

Here I had a second agent who’d had my manuscript for very little time and who didn’t know me from Adam and wanted to sign me. She was so enthusiastic about my writing and story that I kind of felt like the phone call couldn’t be real. I mean, how could anyone be so excited about my writing? And someone with so many connections and who knows the mystery market so very well? I mean, WHAT?

I was in such a great mood that once I stopped shaking enough to go out into public, I went shopping and then running. On my little trip to one of my fave Lawrence stores, I bought myself a very fitting clock, I think.

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Tuesday morning, the responses from the other agents began to roll in. Some folks “bowed out,” while others said they’d get back with me. I ended up with two more agent phone calls/offers that week — and probably sounded just as much as a skittish space alien as I did on the phone with Rachel and the very first agent.

Now there were four very talented people in the industry interested in my book? And two of them offered without even knowing about other agent interest? WHAT?

If there really is an alternate universe, I felt like I was in it all week.

It had to be too good to be true.

But it wasn’t. It’s reality. And I have the paperwork from the Irene Goodman Literary Agency to prove it.

So, what happens next? Now DEAD MEAT goes on submission to various publishing houses. And I just keep my fingers crossed and hope it sells so that eventually, maybe 2015 or so, it’s an actual, real book.

Usually in announcement letters like this one, writers post “query stats.” I’ve got mine below, along with some thank-yous, and then I’ve put the only little bit about my manuscript that Rachel saw during PitchWars before asking for the full thing. Yep, what you see below is all she read before plucking me from the ether and devouring my book in a weekend. As you can see, it’s not much, and it’s pretty gross (sorry) … but it’s changed my life.

Query Stats:

Queries: 38

Partials: 7

Fulls: 16

R&Rs (Revise and resubmit): 2

Offers: 4 

Big thank-yous to my critique partners, beta readers and mentor — Kristi, Joy, Julie, Christy, Nicole, Laurie, Coleen, Randy, Sam, Amanda, Sarah, Becca — my friends and family, especially my husband Justin, who spent endless hours entertaining the kiddo so I could write, and to all the agents who considered and offered on my work. I achieved a HUGE life goal last week and I couldn’t have done it without any of you. Thank you!

NAME: Sarah Henning
MENTOR: Rebecca A. Weston
TITLE: DEAD MEAT
GENRE: Foodie Thriller
WORD COUNT: 100,000 

PITCH:

When a sadistic killer begins butchering South Florida’s hottest chefs, Detective Ellis Cash and ex-cop-turned-culinary-school-professor Chase Bowman wade through a veritable stew of knife-wielding chefs, vindictive food editors and ice-cold investors as they race to find the culprit before he incinerates the Palm Beach restaurant world from the inside out.

FIRST 250:

Funny fact: Human flesh sears just as easily as lamb. Crisp skin on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.

Not that anyone would be eating this bit of flesh any time soon.

It’d been seared, strangled and baked off the bone.

Plus it was mostly raw.

A good portion didn’t make it into the well-salted cast-iron pan on the stovetop for a nice cheek-fat sear or into the oven cavity for a good off-the-bone roast. No, the majority of the meat was rigid, sprawled on the floor in the middle of a kitchen in one of Palm Beach’s hottest eateries, bookended by sky blue garden clogs and a face that was now just another anonymous crust on the bottom of a hard-working oven. 

But the face wasn’t the worst part, believe it or not.

No, the worst was the neck. Maybe twelve hours ago it was a stout eight inches in diameter, bent over a computer screen balancing the books after a successful dinner service. Now, it was at best a constipated hourglass, a muddy hash of vocal chords, windpipe and whatever’s to be found in an Adam’s apple.

I swallowed hard, my arms crossed against the hum coming from the hallway—a payroll’s worth of restaurant workers milling behind yellow crime scene tape, all wanting to know when clean up could begin. Just so they could start a late lunch service a
nd go back to earning tips the size of my car payment.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “My huge news: I scored a literary agent!

  1. Congrats, Sarah! This is awesome news. Let me know when we can write an LJW story about our new Lawrence author and the new (to me, at least) genre of "foodie thriller" 😉

  2. Thanks, Katie! I’ll be sure to let you know if that ever happens … IF I don’t just keel over right then and there. P.S.: It’s really probably not technically a "thriller" but I didn’t have room to write "a foodie mystery that will make you as hungry as it makes you want to lose your lunch." 🙂

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