I’ve never participated in speed dating, but I imagine it’s similar to the agent pitches. You get 10 minutes, no more or less, to make your mark. In May of 2015 I attended my first conference, the Chicago Writers Workshop in Arlington Heights, where I met my agent.
I signed up to meet four agents that day. Each was from a different agency and I had researched all I could on them. The first agent loved my idea, requested a full with two minutes. The second agent told me just as quickly she was not interested and didn’t find my story plausible. Marcy was my third of the morning and I was determined to impress her.
My pitch was memorized, smile rehearsed, and I was prepared to speak with confidence. I introduced myself, sat down and started to tell her about Speechless before she threw me a curveball.
“I don’t want to hear about your book yet.”
Is this a test? Isn’t this a pitch session? Is this a test?
“I want to hear about you. I want to know if we would work well together.”
Never saw that coming. Marcy wanted to know about me, before she heard a word about my manuscript.
We started talking about our common backgrounds in education, hobbies, and where we spent time outside of work. She told me about her years as a librarian, I told her about what a typical day looks like and how my boys are a big part of that. I’m certain 8 of my precious 10 minutes were part of that conversation and I’d be lying if I said I wondered if the time keeper was going to bounce me out before I even mentioned Speechless. Marcy heard more about my family and then politely responded, “All right, tell me about your book.”
My 10 minute pitch squeezed into our remaining time. It was enough to hear the magic words, “full manuscript, please.”
I sent the full later that week and eagerly refreshed my email. A few months later, Marcy responded with a lengthy reply.
She told me she loved it.
She told me it was beautifully written.
She told me this was not an offer of representation.
I read that line six times.
It took me a while to get past it, and take in the rest of her response: the feedback on why it was not an offer.
Marcy told me her thoughts on the main character and where he fell short. There was a paragraph on two side characters with backstories I had not fully realized. She equally commented about the flow of the piece and where it could be stronger.
She was absolutely right about all of it.
I spent the next few months doing some of the larger revisions on Speechless, focusing on the main character and how the changes I made to him would impact the piece. About a year after meeting Marcy, Speechless won a contest and I was awarded with 2 months of mentoring by writer Judi Lauren. I shared with her Marcy’s feedback and some of my struggles to further develop a few areas of the manuscript. Judi gave me amazing guidance and I soon would soon have a very polished manuscript to present to agents.
Prior to entering the contest, I had signed up for the Chicago Writers Workshop, the same conference where I met Marcy. One year later, I returned and was going to pitch a new batch of agents.
Marcy was in attendance again and I wanted to thank her in person for her feedback from our meeting a year prior. It was so valuable to me and it greatly helped shape Speechless. I spoke to her before the day started and it was not at all what I expected.
She was glad to see me…but was wondering where my revision was for her.
I couldn’t believe it. I thought her not offering representation was a hard no. I thought her feedback was just her being a professional and going out of her way.
We sat down for a few minutes and talked it over. I explained how being new to all this I was not aware she was still interested. She was very forward with me that she was waiting for the revision, and wanted to work with me. She just wanted the areas addressed before offering representation. We talked about how I was in a mentoring opportunity and it was too valuable to the revision process to walk away from. We agreed when my time with Judi as my mentor was over, I would send her a full draft.
In July the day arrived to send my revised manuscript. I expected to wait a few weeks or months for a response, which is pretty standard. Marcy offered me representation within three days. I accepted immediately.
Through this process I sat down with 8 agents through pitch meetings, and had email correspondence with a few others. Each was very professional and a pleasure to interact with, especially the ones not interested in my manuscript. They were also wildly different from one another. There were three things about Marcy that I was drawn to immediately and why I knew she was the right fit for me:
1. She wanted to know about me before my work
2. She didn’t sugar coat anything
3. She understood where I wanted to go with my writing and could push me
The last one is so important to me. Marcy completely understood where I wanted to take the reader and why. She believed in what I was trying to do with this manuscript and that made me believe in her. It was an easy decision to sign with her and Folio Literary Management.
My advice to those querying… don’t overlook the opportunities of conferences and contests. Yes, they require more effort (and sometimes money), but you will meet professionals in the writing community that can offer invaluable advice. I know not everyone has the chance to meet their agent in person, I was lucky enough to have sat down with Marcy twice before signing. I’m so grateful our paths crossed.