Can a writer find representation with a tweet? Sure! Today we are happy to share the story of how one writer and one agent found each other through Twitter. Of course, there was a lot of work both before and after that tweet…
She Said / She Said: How I Got My Agent
By Dina von Lowenkraft and Kaylee Davis
Dina von Lowenkraft
I got my agent with a tweet.
Well, not really. Everything leading up to that tweet took several years to get just right…
Getting an agent is a lot like finding your life partner. Some people meet in school, some at an event or through friends, some work at it and some fall into it. And some meet online. But no matter how it happens, there is that moment when things just flow together. In our case (since this really is a partnership), it was a question of right place, right time, and being prepared. Agent Kaylee Davis was looking for cyborgs and had tweeted about it with a #MSWL hashtag (meaning ‘manuscript wish list’ where agents say what they are looking for on twitter—check it out if you haven’t already) and I kept seeing tweets with the hashtag #PitMad by my fellow writer friends (a special one-day event where writers can pitch their work to a whole bevy of agents). I hadn’t planned on participating, even though I knew about it, but seeing the fun it was generating in my twitter feed, and knowing that agents like Kaylee were looking for cyborgs and other forms of YA sci-fi, I whipped out my pitch and posted it, in 140 characters or less.
#pitmad YA sci-fi: Sleeping Beauty meets Avatar in a world that pits cyborgs against humans, and Prince Charming is the rebel leader
Within an hour I had several hits asking for the first 25 pages and a synopsis. I waited until the pitch madness had settled, curious to see not only who would request my pages, but also who else they requested pages from. And for the agents I didn’t already know, I researched them. Of the 6 requesting mine, I knew 3 weren’t the right fit and didn’t even consider sending them my pages. Of the 3 left, I was most intrigued by Kaylee Davis.We had already tweeted to each other and I knew I liked her sense of humor and the easy way we communicated. And besides, she has a rabbit – and nothing tops that! So I sent Kaylee my submission. In lightning turnaround time (the same afternoon) she asked for the full. I was at the stables when I saw her e-mail on my phone, but whipped off my answer with a happy yelp (not too loud, though, no need to spook the horses), telling her I’d send it as soon as I got home and that I was fine with the exclusive since I hadn’t yet sent the other agents my pages. What I didn’t tell her then was that she was my number one choice, and I had wanted to get her response first.
In record time after I sent the full, Kaylee e-mailed me asking when we could chat. Funny thing is, this is probably what took the longest to get figured out. Between existent travel plans and the time difference between Europe and the US we only spoke about 10 days later. But by the end of our lengthy phone call, we were both saying Yes! and I had told her she was my number one choice even if there were other agents who had expressed interest. What sold me on her? Her understanding of the themes that I write about and her shared interests in themes like diversity, multi-cultural issues, literary quirks, potential future projects and blobfish. Really. We have discussed blobfish. So when the contract came, I was sure. And I was happy that she wanted to work with me not just on this book, but on future ones as well. I knew she was aware of the issues my manuscript might raise, and she supported me. What more could I ask for? I had found a true partner and felt I had found an agent version of me. And now that I am working with her and have gotten her edits on my manuscript, I can confirm that she really does understand it and her suggestions will make the book stronger.
But what led up to the spur of the moment tweet that got me an agent? I started writing seriously in 2008 and have written several manuscripts since. The first ones that I felt were market ready didn’t even get a personal response when I queried them, let alone any hint of a request for pages. Looking back at that first manuscript I queried, a 160,000-word YA fantasy, I now realize why no one would ever have wanted to tackle it. But I continued. I loved writing and I loved the worlds I was creating. I focused on improving my craft, building my online presence and becoming market savvy. And I learned to start a new project as soon as I began querying, in order to keep my mind off the rejections or non-responses I was sure to get. This was how I wrote the YA sci-fi manuscript I eventually sent to Kaylee. While writing it, I got three offers from small publishers for my YA fantasy Dragon Fire, which was published in 2013 with Twilight Times Books. Because of this, I put the completed and polished YA sci-fi to the side while doing revisions on Dragon Fire, getting my site together and continuing my work as Regional Advisor for SCBWI, a position I have held since 2012. By that time, I knew the tools I needed in order to sell my work and had the synopsis and a couple of pitches already written for the YA sci-fi, even if it was just ‘collecting dust.’ So when the #PitMad event came up, I figured, why not? I wasn’t actively looking for an agent but knew that I wanted one (there are pros and cons to being agented vs being published by a small publisher, a post I have just written for Savvy Authors and the link is http://savvyauthors.com/blog/index.php/three-paths-to-publication-by-dina-von-lowenkraft/ if you are curious to read it).
I was able to pitch my YA sci-fi that day with zero preparation because it was ready to go, even if I hadn’t yet started to query it. And when the request came in, the docs went out, the phone call came and we said yes all within a few short weeks.
But being prepared, working on craft, learning about the market and persevering is what enabled our encounter to happen, starting from the moment I first began to write seriously, many years before that one off-the-cuff tweet that landed me my agent.
I don’t think there’s a magic formula for connecting author and agent, but the story of how I met Dina through a tweet begins with the story of how I met twitter in the first place.
At heart, I’m pretty old school. I love paperback books and writing letters by hand, and living in the moment instead of Instagramming it. But I’d heard only good things about the platform from others in writing and publishing, and I liked the idea of being able to contribute to that community.
The very first event I participated in was #MSWL, and one of the first tweets I added to my Wish List was,
CYBORGS. In YA or Adult. Choice toppings for my cyborg sundae: realistic world-building, diverse characters, sociopolitical commentary #MSWL
I got a great response to it that very day, and was happy to see so many queries continue to come in for sci-fi projects that explored identity, a theme that crosses all the genres I represent and that happens to be intrinsic to Dina’s body of work. #MSWL was a chance to connect with writers on a level even deeper than genre, and where at first twitter felt like a lot of noise, now I was seeing it as an opportunity. Twitter became a space to communicate my professional identity, and I knew I was hooked. I’m a new agent, and I’m very hands-on. I think big-picture but focus on detail. That’s not right for everyone, but establishing this additional channel of communication was helping those people who were looking for me to find me.
For Dina and me, #PitMad came at the right time and place. I loved that it practically flipped the traditional querying process on its head. Instead of receiving a query, synopsis, and the first 25 pages for any given manuscript, everything had to be whittled down to a mere 140 characters. And instead of traditional querying where I would learn about the manuscript before the writer behind it, at the pitch party I had the opportunity to consider the writer first, then learn more about their work.
When I saw Dina’s #PitMad pitch for her YA sci-fi, I remembered from her profile photo- we had talked not long ago about sweater vests, of all things. I clicked through to Dina’s website, and learned more about her professional experiences and personal ideologies. I could tell she was serious about her work, and immediately felt like we connected on a more intimate level. I favorited her pitch and kept a mental note to look out for her query.
I didn’t have to wait long. Dina sent over her query and sample pages right away, and more impressively, the personalization she included was a hint that she’d also done her research and hadn’t just chosen me on a whim. I looked at her first couple of chapters later that day. The two surefire ways I know I’ll request a full manuscript are if 1) I read through all the sample pages and still want more, and 2) If I move on to other things, and find myself still thinking about it. Dina’s submission did both, so I knew there was something special about it. I happily requested her full.
I think I stayed up past 2:00am finishing that manuscript. The next morning and two cups of coffee later, I began the process of coordinating around time zones. When we finally connected on the phone, we talked through it all. We talked about everything from my rambunctious pet rabbit Dash to our mutual love for Cambridge, MA (home of some awesome sweater vests), to Dina’s goals for the manuscript and beyond. Most importantly, I wanted to be sure we shared the same vision. And we did! Dina’s manuscript was one I believed in, and ultimately, she was someone I believed in. I knew I wanted to join her on this journey and work together for the long term.
It might boil down to my offer coming from a single tweet. But as there often is, behind that is a bigger picture full of passion and hard work. Whether you hear stories of writers finding an agent after a day or after ten years, there really is no magic formula. All we can do to is work hard, keep pushing forward, and with a little luck, we’ll make our own magic.
Thank you so much to Dina von Lowenkraft and Kaylee Davis for sharing their inspirational story with us here at Sub It Club! Polish up those twitter pitches. You never know what can happen.
To learn more about Dina:
Visit her website: http://www.dinavonlowenkraft.com
Visit her on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7123641.Dina_von_Lowenkraft
Say hi on twitter: https://twitter.com/vonlowenkraft
To learn more about Kaylee:
Visit Dee Mura Literary: http://www.deemuraliterary.com
Visit her About.Me: http://about.me/kayleedavis
Say hi on twitter: https://twitter.com/Kaylee_Davis_