Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The calls (editor AND agent!)

How I got my Agent
Ashlyn Chase

The very first time I pitched to an agent, she asked me if there had been any interest in my story. I was so green I had no idea what she meant and had to ask. She said, “Have you queried any editors who wanted it?”
I probably tipped my head and frowned in confusion as I said, “I thought that was your job.”
Out of the mouths of 40 year old babes…
After submitting my partial, I didn’t have to wait long before I received a rude rejection, twice, for the same book—even though I hadn’t resubmitted it. Needless to say, I never submitted to that agent again.
Years later, the very situation that first agent was hoping for arose. I had sent my proposal to an editor and received “the call!” She wanted to offer me a contract…not just a contract, but a series contract for three books!
Naturally I did exactly what they tell you not to do. I screamed, said, “Yes, oh yes, oh yes!” I was lucky I stopped short of offering to pay her an advance.
I had e-published several books successfully without an agent so decided to save myself the 15% and negotiate the deal myself. I had the wonderful editor send me the fifteen page contract and realized I was in trouble. I thought I was fairly intelligent, so why couldn’t I understand the damn thing? Parts were in legalese (which I do not speak) and other parts were downright counterintuitive.
Suddenly I needed an agent.
But where to find one at a moment’s notice? I had given up on the very idea of agents and had no one in mind. Fortunately when I turned to my RWA chapter for help, someone who had an agent she could heartily recommend said she’d put in a good word for me.
I received a good news/bad news email shortly after that. Her agent’s stable was full (bad news) but she worked with another agent who was looking for clients. (Good news. Great news!)
I sent off a query, mentioning the contract offer along with a blurb, my qualifications, and contact information.
Right after that we had the ice storm of the century. Our power was knocked out for a week. I had a cell phone, but as luck would have it we lived in a dead zone. Terrific.
I couldn’t call her. Couldn’t email. And I couldn’t get my 2 wheel-drive convertible to cooperate and let me out of my 550 foot driveway. I didn’t know if I’d find power out in the big, wild world anyway. Usually when we have storms like that, the entire Northeast gets buried.
A couple days later, my husband managed to buy a precious generator. The roads were clear enough for him to go to work, but it was still Monkey Island up here and I had to babysit the generator so no one would steal it. (Yes, there were generator thefts in usually civilized New England.)
My husband managed to reach a dear writer friend of mine long enough to give her a message from me, asking her to call the agent and tell her that if she was trying to get in touch with me, I was cut off from civilization, but I’d get in touch soon! Really, I would.
Somehow communication got scrambled and she gave the agent (who had been trying to call) my cell-phone number.
As I said, I live in a dead zone. Well, to be precise, half of the house gets spotty reception, the other half is dead, dead, dead.
I was taken by surprise when my cellphone actually rang one day. I grabbed it and charged to the spotty side of the house, just knowing it was the agent calling. It was. I jumped over furniture and the cat, rushing to the south-facing window. All we managed to say to each other was “Hello” before we got cut off.
I thought I was going to burst a neck vein.
The following day, my husband chained the generator to a lally column in the garage so I could leave the house and get to a donut shop with electricity and free WiFi. I plugged in my elderly laptop and was relieved when it whirred to life. I emailed the agent, explained what had been happening and didn’t care if I had to sit there all day. I was going to wait for an answer.
Fortunately, she understood and still wanted to represent me! Yahooooo! My terrific, patient agent Natanya Wheeler not only explained the contract to me but negotiated the fine points a bit here and there. She more than earned her percentage and continues to.
So, doing things backwards isn’t always a bad thing, i.e. getting an editor first, then adding an agent to the equation. It worked for me. If you live in a warm climate, it might even be easier. Strange Neighbors series. Book 3 The Vampire Next Door to be released August 1st!


  1. Ash, this is just too funny! You need to put it in a book! Congrats on the sales and agent!!! And your hubby deserves a big hug too. :)

  2. I love the weather that keeps us home, usually, but the idea of days without electricity and internet...? What does it say about me that I can easily go for those days without hearing a human voice, but really feel the lack of a blinking cursor?

    Great story, Ash, and a happily ever after for the readers.

  3. I was in the same intelligence challenged place you were when it came to an agent. Wasn't that her job? Funny, funny story...I'd love to have a little of that cold right now. We're way past thirty days of 100 plus weather. It was only 102 the other day and we thought we had a cold front.

  4. Good story, Ash! The whole "generator theft" part has me visualizing some kind of Mad Max, post-apocalyptic situation. I can see it now - you and Mel Gibson (the young, cute Mel Gibson, of course) lashing the generator to the post...

  5. That's such a cool story. LOL babysitting the generator!

  6. Grace, I totally know what you mean! If it wasn't for frequent trips to the post office, I'd feel like a groundhog.

  7. Oh, Carolyn! Ugh! I can't imagine 30 days of heatwave! We only had about a week of it and my plants barely made it.

  8. We're so glad we bought the generator! We also have an electricity we can power up some electronics without fear of surges. LOL

  9. I have been enjoying all the stories on getting the "call" and yours didn't disappoint, Ash! Thanks for sharing and here's to many, many more successful calls!

  10. Wow! Talk about dedication! She's lucky to have you.