I rarely get things right on the first try.
I used to wish I did. I wanted to present a polished version of myself to the world. A version that was innately smart and talented, who could stow away in her little writing cave and emerge with shiny, polished works of brilliance.
I’m cringing at this description now, because who the heck likes that kind of person?! But the allure of perfection is still ever-present. It was certainly present back when I was working on my first book. Despite snippets of advice from authors I admired encouraging writers to leap into the next project, I stubbornly clung to the idea that my FIRST book needed be the one to make it. That I wouldn’t have to go back all the way to the drawing board and try again with a new story.
Six years came and went, with me still toying away on that first manuscript. I kept adjusting aspects here and there, remaining certain that if I could just fix one mysterious thing, everything else would fall into place.
…But it never did. And eventually in swooped my best friend, the second chance.
In the spring of 2016 I had finished yet another rewrite of my first book. I took the next week, read the entire manuscript over, and was suddenly hit with a realization: No matter what I did, the story just wasn’t working. The foundation was off. My eyes were no longer fresh. It was time to move on.
A week or so later, I embarked on my second book. Everything that seemed stubborn or impossible about the first book gave way in this process. The first draft emerged fast and fluidly, as did each revision and edit round. Book number two landed me a spot in a competitive mentorship program. When it was time to query, I ultimately received eleven agent offers.
And that’s the story of how I got my agent.
Ha! Just kidding.
That’s only the first part of the story, the story of how I got my first agent.
You might think that spending more than six years in the land of rejection and reworking book number one gave me a healthy mindset about my abilities and limitations as a writer. Unfortunately, the whirlwind of book two instilled me with an ego that seemed to (at least temporarily) wipe all those great lessons away.
As I made my decision about representation, I focused far more on the sales numbers, stats, client lists, and overall prestige of each agent rather than personal connection or their specific insights of my work. I imagined how impressed people would be upon hearing the name of my agent. I thought about how great it would be to be placed into a category alongside my author idols regarding our specific agency of representation.
All this ego clouded my head, and in the end, I went with a perfectly lovely agent who was not the right fit for me or my book. The feeling that I had made the wrong decision came shortly after the announcement, and only solidified over the next couple of months. When my first agent left their agency to join another and I had to sign a second contract to follow them, I decided to remain behind. I cut myself loose from everything I had worked toward, and was once again searching for a take two.
While continuing to quietly work on my second book alone, I began to realize that one of the eleven offering agents’ notes were especially spot on with what I was trying to do in the story. I tentatively reached out to that agent, wondering if she would be willing to take a second chance on me and my book. I sent her a revision that I felt made the narrative much stronger. I crossed my fingers tight.
She wasn’t into the revision.
BUT this was an agent interested in second chances. She talked with me on the phone about taking the story in another direction. She waited patiently while I wrote up a synopsis based on our conversation. She offered representation based on that old draft combined with the new synopsis. I had found my perfect working partner in Lauren Spieller of Triada US.
After signing, Lauren and I got to experience the wave of second chances again and again. The excitement over book number two waned for both of us, and we turned to the next project in the pipeline. When we sent the new project on submission and received several enthusiastic R&Rs from editors, we rolled up our sleeves and took another stab at the target age range and concept. That project ended up being my debut, THE DERBY DAREDEVILS series.
In the end, I’m so glad it’s taken me multiple tries to climb each rung of the publishing ladder. I’ve learned valuable skills in craft, patience, and perseverance. And what my “How I Got My Agent” story means I get to definitively say is that my agent did not just sign a book. She signed me—a writer willing to try and flub up and try again.
This cycle still holds true as we head into rewrites on my current work in progress. In the past, I might have been embarrassed to admit I was rewriting my latest work from scratch. But I don’t mind starting over.
I actually think the second (or third, or fourth…) time is the real charm.
In addition, the second book in the Derby Daredevils series is set to publish on September 15, 2020. Visit Kit’s website to preorder and for more information!
Kit Rosewater writes books for children. Before she was an author, Kit taught theatre to middle school students, which even a world-renowned cat herder once called “a lot of work.” Kit has a master’s degree in children’s literature. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her spouse and a border collie who takes up most of the bed.