How I Got My Literary Agent: Vicki Leigh

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Vicki Leigh, author of CATCH ME WHEN I FALL. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

GIVEAWAY: Vicki is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

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Adopted at three days old by a construction worker and a stay-at-home mom,
Vicki Leigh grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio where she learned to read
by the age of four and considered being sent to her room for punishment as an
opportunity to dive into another book. If she couldn’t be a writer, Vicki would be a
Hunter (think Dean and Sam Winchester) or a Jedi. Her favorite place on earth is
Hogwarts (she refuses to believe it doesn’t exist), and her favorite dreams include
solving cases alongside Sherlock Holmes. Vicki is an editor for Curiosity Quills
Press, and is represented
by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.
You can find her on Twitter,
Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube. Her first novel
is CATCH ME WHEN I FALL (Oct 2014), book one of the Dreamcatcher series.

My road to finding my agent is a bit different than most, an exciting journey that took me to cloud nine with a terrible bout of whiplash. I took a route that many might not recommend, a risky one that could’ve had catastrophic consequences. But let’s start at the beginning.

ONCE UPON A TIME

In January 2013, the idea sparked for my upcoming Young Adult debut, CATCH ME WHEN I FALL. I’d shelved one story by this point, having received multiple rejections for what I now realize was a horrible manuscript, and was anxious to begin something new. As someone who suffered from vicious nightmares, writing from the point of view of a character who protects the living from them was both exciting and therapeutic. For seven months, I poured my heart and soul into my book, and after multiple rounds of revising via the help of my fantastic critique partners, I sent out my first queries.

(What are the best practices for using social-media to sell books?)

BREAK INTO TWO

In July 2013, a week after I emailed my first group of agents, a fairly well-known pitch fest began—PitchMAS. When the event opened to entries, I quickly sent in mine, hoping that maybe, by some fluke, my manuscript would stand out amongst all the other fantastic ones. For weeks, I obsessively watched my email, received a couple rejections from the agents I’d queried, and then something amazing happened: out of all the people who entered PitchMAS, my book was chosen to be featured on the website, on display for agents and editors to see.

I stalked my entry like an overprotective parent watches their kid on the playground. Partials and fulls were requested of me by agents and editors alike, and by the time PitchMAS ended, my entry had the most requests in the entire contest.

DARK OF THE NIGHT

But as it is with every story, my happy ending wasn’t without thorn bushes. Of the eleven or twelve agents and editors I sent materials to, the majority of them passed. Rejections came rolling in from the rest of the agents I’d cold queried prior to PitchMAS, and soon, my jubilant mood dampened.

Then I received a Revise and Resubmit from Alison Heller, an acquisitions editor at Curiosity Quills Press. I absorbed her notes like paper towel soaks up water, and applied all her suggested changes, including re-writing my ending.

And she loved it.

(Why you should only query 6-8 agents at a time.)

By November 2013, I had a contract from Curiosity Quills Press. But when I scanned through the document, my heart raced. How was I supposed to know what I was doing? I’d never seen a publishing contract before. Immediately, I knew I couldn’t do this on my own.

That night, I emailed Alison to let her know I was interested but would like to seek assistance in negotiating the contract, and then I emailed a few more agents—including Sarah Negovetich, the lovely lady who would become my publishing soul mate.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER

Within just a few days, I heard from Sarah. She loved my query and wanted to read my full manuscript. I kept Alison abreast of the timeline and held my breath as I waited to for Sarah’s response. Would she love it, or would I have to do this alone, after all?

Then a few days later, Sarah replied: “I’d like to set up a call.”

Cue fainting spell.

For probably an hour, Sarah and I chatted. She had loved my book, and she told me all the reasons why. Then she asked questions like: what I planned for the rest of the series, what other story ideas were waiting to be written, and where I saw my career in the next five to ten years. But through the whole conversation, I couldn’t stop thinking: Sarah hasn’t actually said she wants to represent me.

I was so nervous; my words didn’t come out—people who know me well can attest that I’m usually very bold and opinionated—and the fear that she’d think I’d be boring to work with sprung to mind, intensifying my anxiety.

But something I’ve learned about agents since: they love to talk. By the end of our conversation, when she finally did offer me representation, I knew Sarah was the one for me.

THE END

Every path is different, and no way is the best one. Would I recommend querying agents and editors at the same time? Maybe not. But I don’t regret it for one minute, because, while it was terrifying not knowing whether my adventure would end in success or failure, my choice brought me to Sarah—and made one of my biggest dreams come true.

Be confident. Never give up. And never be afraid to put yourself out there. Value ingenuity. You never know where it’ll lead.

GIVEAWAY: Vicki is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.

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