You may have noticed Rachelle E. Morrison’s great news on our 2015 Year of Success post. She signed with an agent! Today Rachelle is here to share her journey with us. I hope you find Rachelle’s planning, perseverance, and patience inspiring. I know I do!
The Journey to Landing My Agent
It all started with a twitter pitch during Brenda Drake’s #PitMad on December 4, 2014 (yes, you read that correctly. 2014.). I’d just begun querying BLOODBIRD, an adult urban fantasy and my fourth novel at the time, a bit earlier that year but was being very selective about who I sent it to. Mary C. Moore from Kimberley Cameron & Associates favorited my #PitMad tweet, along several other agents and editors, and asked for the query and first 50 pages. At the time Mary was closed to submissions, so I was thrilled to be able to submit to her when I couldn’t previously.
On December 17, 2014 she asked for my full, and I excitedly sent it. Over the next several months I continued to query in very small batches, one or two agents at a time. I did a lot of research on agents I was interested in before I queried. Often times there were ones I liked and respected, but I didn’t think were the right fit for my story or career. I am a strategist and planner by nature (and at the day job) so I had no intention of treating my writing career any different.
On March 5th Mary responded to my full. Her email was kind, she said she enjoyed my character’s sass and the unique basilisk mythology I’d created, BUT…she didn’t feel it was ready. Then she gave me some great feedback and told me she’d love to consider a rewrite of the manuscript. I was overjoyed, guys! I know you’re thinking, “Wait, but she said no.” Well, yes, but she also told me she would be willing to reconsider if I revised. To me, that was a huge win.
I mused over her feedback, batted some ideas around with my brilliant CP, Robin Hammer, and spent the next month and a half rewriting. Then I sent it off to her again and returned to editing another novel I was working on.
On June 11th while I was basking in the sun on vacation in Greece, I received an email from Mary asking if we could jump on a call to go over some notes. You guys, she wanted to talk about her notes with me. I knew this wasn’t going to be “The Call,” but if she was willing to talk through some comments she had for me, than she was still interested in BLOODBIRD! Again, a huge deal to me.
I called her when I was back in the States, sitting at the airport, and waiting for my final flight home to Seattle. We chatted for almost two hours as she asked me some questions and walked me through her feedback. When I got off the phone (and rushed to catch my flight), I excitedly talked through the notes with my Hubs. Then I spent another week musing over her feedback some more and throwing around ideas with my CP.
Over the next couple months I dove into rewrites again, scrapping entire chapters, adding new ones, and working on further character development. In mid-August I sent her another R&R. And then I waited, focusing on edits to a YA Fantasy I wrote after BLOODBIRD, and outlining a new sci-fi novel. Patience is key in publishing, so I like to keep myself busy!
Monday, November 30th I woke up with an email in my inbox from Mary. She said she’d just finished my rewrites and wanted to talk that day! Not notes or feedback. She wanted to TALK! I got excited, I got nauseous, I got worried. I told my Hubs, and as he got excited I asked, “What if she just wants to talk to let me down.” Which makes no sense, I know. An email will suffice for a letdown.
I opened up BLOODBIRD and reread it. And in that moment I realized something. You guys, it’s really good. As writers, we tend to be hard on ourselves and our stories, and I’m no exception, but as I breezed through it I felt more and more excited about my conversation with Mary.
At 7pm that evening I jumped on the phone with Mary to talk. She started by asking me a few questions, and by that point I was so exhausted from work that I felt relaxed and easy with conversation. Then she said the words I have been waiting quite a long time to hear, “I’d like to offer you representation.”
I was speechless for a moment, my eyes might have even welled up a little, and then I pulled myself together and began asking her all the questions I knew I wanted to ask a potential agent. Mary answered every single one far better than anything I could have hoped for. I asked what she liked about my book and she told me it was the strong female MC and unique mythology of cursed basilisks.
There was a moment during the call when Mary said, “I don’t tend to like a lot of violence in my stories, but you write it very well.” I’m not going to lie, that made me beam. I’m not an over-user of violence in my stories by any means, however BLOODBIRD called for more than even I felt comfortable with at times. The fact that Mary appreciated how well I wrote those scenes and valued them in the story made me like her that much more. She GOT my story, her editorial vision aligned with mine and her enthusiasm was very clear.
I WAS OVER THE MOON!
But I still had a few fulls out with other agents. I wanted to be respectful of their time and energy, not to mention that I only queried those I wanted to work with, so I told Mary I would need a week to let the other agents know I’d received an offer. I sent out emails to let the other agents and within a week I had another offer of representation. TWO agents wanted to represent me. I couldn’t believe it! But the reality is that while I liked the other agent a lot, and I appreciated her interest in my story as well, Mary truly seemed to understand my characters and the world I’d built. The feedback she gave for my second R&R really catapulted the story to the place it is now.
On Monday, December 7th, I formally accepted Mary’s offer of representation. The contract arrived in the mail on December 14th, I signed, returned it to her, and it became official! I have an agent!
In total, finding an agent for BLOODBIRD took over a year and a half of querying—I was very selective and only queried 36 agents, and some of those included agents who were interested in my ms from contests and pitch parties like #SFFpit, Pitch Slam, Bakers Dozen, etc.— not to mention a few R&Rs. But I know landed the right agent for me, the right agent for my story and my career, and I’m excited to work with Mary moving forward.
My journey to landing an agent wasn’t quick or easy by any means. Every time I received a rejection (and I have 34 of them for this ms alone), I emailed my CP and lamented, and then I filed the rejection away and kept on querying. We often hear stories about writers landing agents after only a month or so a querying. I think it’s fantastic when that happens! Good for those writers! Sometimes when we hear those stories, it’s hard to remember that the journey to becoming a published author is very different for every single one of us. Mine took a long time, but I never stopped trying.
Finally signing with an agent in no way guarantees a book deal. I still have a lot of work to make that dream happen, but I won’t give up. I am enthusiastic about what the future holds, and I’ll be eager to share BLOODBIRD with all of you some day. More than anything, I’m thrilled to have someone in publishing in my corner, on my side, as invested in my writing career as I am.
Thank you Rachelle for sharing your story with us. Here’s hoping to hear more good news from you soon!
Born and raised in sunny San Diego, California, Rachelle E. Morrison now resides in Seattle where she finds the gloom and rain perfect for the dark, twisty sci-fi and fantasy tales she weaves. When not writing, she can be found reading, dancing, sailing, traveling, playing with her three rescue pups (two pit bulls and a lab mix), and relaxing with her husband. She can subsist completely on coffee, tea, wine, and books. Oh, and nachos. You can find out more about Rachelle on her website. Follow her on Twitter @r_e_morrison.