EVERYBODY! I have some amazing news. Some freaking unbelievable news. I am now represented by Ayesha Pande of Ayesha Pande Literary! As described on their website, “Ayesha Pande Literary is a New York based boutique literary agency with a small and eclectic roster of clients.” And people: I am now one of those clients!
I could not be more excited about collaborating with Ayesha, who has worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years. Before launching her agency, Ayesha was a senior editor at a large publishing house in New York. But what drew me to Ayesha was more than just her reputability; it was her dedication to finding and promoting distinctive, original voices. After reading my novel, Ayesha sent me this email:
I finished reading What The Fireflies Knew this morning and have been thinking about the book ever since. I have this tingling feeling that I always get when a book pulls me in and forces me to push aside all of my plans because I have to finish it; when it makes me weep; and when I can’t stop thinking about it…
And truly, the rest was history. I knew in that moment that Ayesha would be my literary agent, and I had a feeling it was gonna be great!
So what even is a literary agent?
In case you are not familiar with the term “literary agent,” here’s a brief definition:
lit·er·ar·y a·gent/ˈlidəˌrerē ˈājənt/noun
a professional agent who acts on behalf of an author in dealing with publishers and others involved in promoting the author’s work.
Some authors do not work with a literary agent (for a variety of reasons), but as a new writer with some serious goals, it was very important for me to find the right advocate and promoter for my work. And with Ayesha’s amazing reputation in the industry, coupled with her passion for ME AND MY WRITING, I am fully confident that this is the best move for my writing career.
So how did this happen?
To be clear: it wasn’t easy to get here. For other writers looking for an agent, here’s a look at the path I took, and how I eventually landed an agent:
First draft finished: December 31, 2016
First query sent: December 8, 2016 *yes, you read that right, I did this backwards. I sent a query before my manuscript was finished, and to my surprise and embarrassment, the agent requested to read the full! I then spent the rest of that month writing an entire novel. 🙂
Total number of agents queried: 28
Total number of full manuscript requests: 11
Total number of FULL revisions in the midst of all this: 7
Total number of rejections: 26
Then, something unexpected happened. There was an event on Twitter called #PitMad, a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking the tweeted pitch. I had no intention of participating in #PitMad this time around, since I’d done it a few months prior and gotten zero bites. But then I jumped on Twitter and saw all the #PitMad tweets, and I figured, why not.
It’s important to note that right before this, I had entered a phase that I refer to as The Dark Night Of The Soul. You see, I had been rejected too many times. Between query rejections, negative workshop feedback, and countless revisions that still didn’t seem to be working… I was tired. I started saying stuff like:
Maybe this book was never meant to be published, or even help me find an agent. Maybe it was just something I needed to write, for me. My passion project. The book that would be my first, and nothing more.
Like I said, I was tired. I’m not normally the type to give up, but I was giving up. HARD. And that’s when I hopped on Twitter and saw #PitMad. And for some reason, I stopped quitting just long enough to send out three tweets about my manuscript. And the very first tweet I sent was ‘liked’ by two different agents, meaning they wanted to read more!
I immediately sent both agents my query letter, based on their guidelines. And to my surprise, one of these agents, after reading my sample pages, immediately asked to read the full manuscript. I sent it over to her and crossed my fingers, even though secretly, I was expecting the worse (just to avoid the disappointment I was sure was coming again). But then, on June 10, 2019 the unthinkable happened: the agent called me, and offered to represent me! I was stunned, excited, confused, etc. I thanked her and got off the call and immediately called my mentor, who I proceeded to tell about the agent who wanted to rep me and OF COURSE I WOULD SAY YES BECAUSE I LOVE HER! But my mentor, in all her wisdom, asked me to pause, saying:
This will be one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your writing career. Don’t rush it.”
And so, I listened. I took the advice of several veterans in the game and reached out to all the agents/agencies who were currently reading my manuscript, to give them a heads-up that I had an offer, and give them a chance to read/respond if they were interested. I heard back from SEVEN agents who wanted to give my manuscript a quick read! And one of these seven agents was at the agency that I had said from the beginning was my DREAM AGENCY. I hadn’t even submitted to my DREAM AGENT, because I thought I could never get her attention. I had sent a query to an agent at her agency, and followed up on that unanswered query. Thanks to that follow-up, and to the discovery of a connection between my mentor and my DREAM AGENT, I was able to get her attention. And for the second time, an agent offered to represent me. This time, after taking everything into consideration, I said YES!
VERY IMPORTANT SIDEBAR: Yes, my agent knows my mentor. And yes, I was fully aware that having connections was one of the best ways in this industry to get ahead. Did I know that my agent had the connection before I queried? No. In fact, prior to this whole whirlwind, my mentor was mostly just involved in helping me revise the novel. That said: CONNECTIONS ARE EVERYTHING. You don’t have to be a sellout, but you do have to be smart. The right relationships will either make or break you.
So what’s next?
In case you are wondering what happens now (because I definitely was), Ayesha and I are working together to make agreed-upon revisions to my novel. She read it (twice), and sent me some very thoughtful notes on how we can make the story even stronger. Once we get the draft exactly where we want it, Ayesha will be doing her magic to try and get it out into the world. Hopefully, fingers and toes crossed, this will eventually lead to a book deal! Either way this goes, one thing is for sure: my first novel, my passion project, will be the story that brought me together with my dream agent. Maybe nothing more, but definitely nothing less.
So, that’s my story! Thanks for reading, and for being a part of this journey. If you’d like to stay posted on any future updates, please subscribe to my blog via the button below or follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @ AuthorKaiHarris!