*taps mic* Hello? Is anyone here?
I haven’t written on this blog in 6 MONTHS, but now you know why– after feverishly working on a novel, I now have a literary agent!
If you’ve been following this blog or my Youtube Channel for a while, you know that this is something I’ve been working on for a few years now, and I feel so blessed that this is actually happening.
I posted a video on my channel about this (you should watch after you read here!) This post will be going more in depth about backstory and the road from me starting my first novel to landed getting an agent (and in true ‘How I Got My Literary Agent’ blog post fashion, there will be plenty of GIFS.)
Let’s get started!
So, backstory: I’ve been writing ever since I was a little girl. Literally. In the 4th grade I won the Best Writer award for my classroom and in the 5th grade I won for my school. In my Senior year of college, I won the Most Promising Journalism Student for the Mass Communications class and an article in my college newspaper won Best Sports Story for the state!
(Don’t take this GiF seriously haha. I’ll jokingly say writing is the only thing I’m good at. Besides cooking.)
It wasn’t until my Senior year of college that my interest for Creative Writing picked up again– I tried to change my minor to this last minute, but to do that I’d had to stay an extra semester in school (blah). I graduated with a degree in Mass Communications with a Concentration in Print Journalism, and a Minor in Sociology.
After college, I got a job as an Internet Editor for a local news station, and I stayed about a year before I wanted to try Freelance Writing full time. During this time I discovered Booktube, started my channel, and fell in love with YA novels again.
To force myself out of the house sometimes and make a little extra money (Freelancing is no easy task for a number of reasons that I’ll probably talk about in a future video or blog post), I got a part-time job at Anthropologie, where I got the idea for my first novel.
The idea hit me so fast and hard, I took a notebook to Chipotle on my lunch break and wrote everything down. I made a video about it, and soon I started writing like the wind. Like 4-5 hours before or after my work shift sometimes. I finished this novel in about 2 months, edited it myself, let my best friend read it, and started sending it out to agents. I didn’t edit or polish this one enough, but I didn’t know it at the time.
The thing is, I did get full requests off of this manuscript, but in the end, those agents all said more or less the same thing: My writing was good, but the story needed work.
So I went back to the drawing board.
I went to my first writer’s workshop, the Carolina Writing Workshop, met some agents and writer friends. I pitched my novel to an agent there, bought some books on writing, and hired a Freelance Editor to look over my book again. (I didn’t know of any beta readers at this time. I was still new to the writing world!) I also did a few pitch contests. When I queried it again, I got some more partial and full requests, but ultimately it fell flat. I didn’t actually query that many agents ( I queried 50 in all, which is nothing in the publishing world, but like I said, I was new and it felt like a lot!) but I felt like I queried all the agents that I was really interested in. I started to see the book with new eyes, realized my own problems with the plot, and decided to shelve it and work on something else.
Later that year, I decided to do NaNoWriMo. A few months before, I realized that I wanted to devote most of my time to novel writing, and a little less time article writing, which meant I had to get another job. This job was perfect: the people were friendly, I had my own office, and I could make my own schedule as long as I hit a certain number of hours per week. Perfect writing conditions.
I was playing with a Middle Grade novel idea and a New Adult novel idea. I asked my best friend which one I should pursue for NaNoWriMo, and we BOTH agreed that the New Adult one was what I should be working on. So I did.
I wrote like mad during NaNoWriMo: getting up before work, working into the late night, cracking almost 10K words a day, 4-5 hours at a time, coffee on coffee. I loved that novel so much and it was so fun (and stressful!!) working on it. On November 30th, dangerously close to burnout, I won NaNoWriMo with it.
That spring, I went to the Aspiring Authors Workshop and learned even more about writing from amazing writers and authors, like Victoria Schwab, Dhonielle Clayton, and Maggie Stiefvater. Mostly everyone here was writing YA, and I started to feel that tug to write YA again. Nevertheless, I took what I learned and applied it to my novel.
I edited it myself, had two beta readers this time, and started querying during #DVPit. I got some requests during #DVPit and afterwards, but the problem with this novel was placement: my Protagonist was too old for YA, but too young for Adult. New Adult is such a tricky space, and agents responded saying they liked the story, but felt like it would be a hard sell. A few agents told me that I should really look into writing YA. I love this book and don’t consider it completely shelved yet.
While querying Book 2, I was writing a short story about a Black Girl, Southern, Best Friend Group. It was originally for a contest, but after writing it I felt like I wanted to add backstory and make it a full fledged novel. I applied for the Author Mentor Match. You had to apply with a YA novel, so I applied with my first novel and got accepted! After talking with my mentor, we decided it would be a good idea to move forward with this new story, by turning it in to a novel and taking elements from my first YA manuscript.
I thought about doing it for NaNoWriMo, BUT I moved from South Carolina to New York City for a new job last October, and it seemed impossible to be able to commit to NaNoWriMo with everything else going on.
Meanwhile, I was battling extreme homesickness. I missed everything about the South. It seemed like people outside of the South only saw the bad things about it, and I wanted to showcase the good things. I took all of these feelings and started writing Book 3.
The Turning Point:
One rainy morning, I was feeling a little discouraged about writing and asked God for a sign about whether or not I should continue or give it a rest for now. While writing this novel, I tweeted this, just to keep myself accountable and share the excitement of what I was working on.
So, y’all, I’m writing a thing. Black Girl Best friends in High School. Young Adult. Coming-of-Age Story. Watch this space!
— India Hill (@booksandbighair) January 18, 2017
Some agents (and editors!) responded, asking me to please send it over to them when I was finished writing. This was the motivation I needed. I wrote evenings after work, not allowing myself to look on social media once I left my office. I wrote on weekends. I couldn’t devote 4-5 hours a day to writing anymore with my new job, so I had to be intentional with the free hours I did have. I also had to be careful, because burnout is real.
Finally, I sent my manuscript to the agents that responded to my tweet. I figured that this was going to be my introduction to querying, and afterwards if I didn’t hear from either agent, I would move on to the pitch contests and start querying the traditional way. But obviously, I hoped I didn’t have to do this 😉
I heard from both agents within a week, and they both offered me representation.
I was ecstatic. It almost didn’t seem real. I was exhausted from the extensive writing and editing, and my actual day job was super busy this week too, so there was a lot going on. But it happened. I got offers from two agents that I would absolutely be thrilled to work with. I talked to my mentor, my mom, my best friend, my boyfriend, and clients from both agents to figure out whose style of work would complement mine. I did my own research on both agents, from everything from sales history to social media presence, to authors they represent, to clients they represent that don’t have book deals yet. I needed to know everything. And it was tough. Since both agents were amazing, I didn’t want to feel like I was “rejecting” the other.
After hearing from everyone, making my own list of pros and cons and praying about it, I made my decision. I am now represented by Holly Root of Root Literary!!! Holly is a rockstar: She’s Southern, is respected in the business, and her client list is amazing. I love her approach and ideas about my manuscript, and she represents some of my favorite authors (including Victoria Schwab!).
I am so blessed by this opportunity and I know that I have God to thank for it. If you’re still in the query trenches or still writing that manuscript, or even thinking about writing it. Start. Write. Keep Going. Don’t Stop. You’ve Got This.
And for the Numbers People out there, here are the stats:
Manuscripts Written Thus Far: 3
*Stats include contest entries!
Queries Sent: 50
Partial Requests: 5
Full Requests: 2
Queries Sent: 30ish
Partial Requests: 5
Full Requests: 3
Queries Sent: 2
Full Requests: 2
Offers of Representation: 2!