The Journey: How I got my Agent

To start, let me say that I’m a huge fan of these particular kinds of blog posts. The journey posts. I loved (still love) reading them because they rarely follow the theme of “OMG, I just wrote this book last month, got my agent last week, and I just signed a three book deal!!!”

No, usually theses post chronicle the long, often difficult journey of the writer involved, and that always gives me hope. Well if you are looking for one of those, you’ve got one! Remember, the primary emotion I feel when writing this post is optimism.

Okay, so here is the WHOLE rundown, complete with stats. Because I know I love reading other people’s stats. Note: I will try to be as pithy as possible, but this post might be a tad long.

Summer 2004
I’ve always loved writing, but this is when I decide to get serious. I have an idea for a YA fantasy novel about twins who are princesses. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. But hey, we all have a twin princess story in us.) I fill an entire spiral notebook with notes.

Summer 2005
Force myself to stop daydreaming about writing and start doing it. I write 30 pages of my YA fantasy novel and decide that I absolutely loathe my main character. Abandon ship!

The Year of 2006
I start and stop several YA novels, never getting past 45 pages. I do, however, complete a young MG novel, and a picture book that has WAY too many words.

Early 2007
I begin a YA epic fantasy that never got a title. I’ve always referred to it as Tristan.

February 2008

I start my lowly blog.

April 2008

I finish Tristan on my birthday! Feel overcome with the sense of accomplishment. I’ve actually FINISHED a whole novel. Also, right around this point I become friends with Kiersten White and Natalie Whipple. We form a crit group, and call ourselves the MoMo’s.

Summer 2008
Slogging through edits for Tristan. I’m feeling like it just might be a quagmire. Besides, I have this other idea pulling at me. After much thought, I set Tristan lovingly in the trunk.

Miss Midas bursts onto the scene. I write it in just over a month, and dive into edits. I’m pretty sure it’s the most brilliant thing EVER.

(In July, I get this idea for a post apocalyptic novel. Seems pretty cool. I make sporadic notes, but don’t pay much attention yet.)

October 2008
I send out my very first query letters ever! I’m SO SO SO excited. Wonder how I’m going to pick between the twelve agents that are going to fight over me.

Queries sent: 44
Partials Requested: 2
Fulls Requested: 4

Offers of Rep: zilch

The agony of querying hits me VERY early on. To distract myself, I start working on my post apocalyptic idea. I give it the awful working title: PAMR. (short for post apocalyptic, magic realism) (even though it’s not technically magic realism. Details, details.)

December 2008-July 2009

Real life takes over. Due to my husband’s work, and various other crazy reasons, our family moves FIVE TIMES, to FOUR different states. Needless to say, writing often falls to the back burner.

But in the space of this time, I:

1. Give up on querying Miss Midas
2. Finish the first draft of PAMR.
3. Give it a better name: Searcher
4. ( 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. ) Edit my brains out.

Searcher takes a lot out of me, but I believe in it. So much. And as hard as it is with the craziness of my life, I’m willing to put the work into it.

September 2009
My first, big Philosophical Journey. (Or so I call it.) Everything screeches to a halt while I ponder many deep and weighty things related to my writing. I wonder if Searcher has what it takes. Think to myself, I was so sure about Miss Midas, and it got canned. What makes me think Searcher will be any different? Contemplate giving up. Thank goodness for good friends who bring me back. (my writer friend Candice, and my twin sister Diana were key here.)

November 2009
I start querying Searcher. The responses feel more enthusiastic this time, but the Querying Despair creeps up anyway. After 3 months, I hit a wall. Clearly, the agents have spoken. This isn’t what they want. Case closed.

I give up.

Queries sent: 39
Partials Requested: 4
Fulls Requested: 5

Offers of Rep: One close call, but nothing sticks.

Winter 2009
Embark on a second Philosophical Journey. It lasts several months. I don’t do much writing.

Spring/Summer 2010
I embrace my childhood love of mermaids, and start writing Deep. It’s fun and diverting, and goes pretty quickly. Within a few months, I’ve finished, and gone through a several rounds of edits.

July 2010
I start querying Deep. This time, instead of feeling excited and giddy, I’m kind of sick to my stomach.

Within a month, I give up. (I know. I know! Believe me, I know. Well . . . I will come to know. (Keep reading.)

Queries sent: 17
Partials Requested: 2
Fulls Requested: 1

September 2010
Thus begins the 3rd Philosophical Journey.

I do A LOT of thinking. (Are you sensing a theme here?) I reread my novels. I talk with my very good friends. And I come to a very, VERY important realization. Two, really. I discuss my thinking in greater detail in this post, but in a nutshell:

1. I have been WAY too hard on my own writing.
2. I gave up on querying WAY too soon Every. Single. Time.

I realize I owe it to myself to keep trying. So . . . I start querying Searcher and Deep again. (Disclaimer: I did look into it, and never found anything that said “DO NOT query two books at once,” however it gets tricky. As you will see in a minute.)

Quick stats:

Queries sent: 14
Partials Requested: 2
Fulls Requested: 3

Queries sent: 8
Partials Requested: 1
Fulls Requested: 4

And then . . .

November 16th, while I’m on vacation, Molly Jaffa requests the partial of Searcher. Two days later, she requests the full.

Monday morning, November 22, I’m sorting laundry (glamorously) when I hear my cell phone ring. When I see the area code, my heart freezes for a split second, but I tell myself that it’s most likely a telemarketer.

It’s Molly Jaffa. Offering representation. *cue celebration* I spend Thanksgiving weekend feeling VERY thankful.

And THEN, on the last day the other agents had to get back to me by, another agent emails me wanting to set up a phone call. (And while I try not to play that game, she’s a pretty big time agent from a pretty big time agency.) *stunned* She loves my book, and while she does want to see a round of revisions first, she is essentially offering. BTW, did I mention the book she read was Deep!

So then come a few days filled with a mixture of panic, nerves, happiness, and disbelief. I find myself with a big choice to make. In spite of my daydreaming about picking between agents during my Miss Midas days, having to actually face the situation is very nerve wracking. I have a stomach ache for three days straight.

But, as you all know, this story has a happy ending (, or a happy new beginning!) I picked Molly Jaffa, and I couldn’t be happier.

So there it is, folks. If you read this whole post, I commend you! It sure was fun to write. It makes me really grateful. I’m grateful that while I had periods where I didn’t want to think about writing AT. ALL., and giving up seemed like the most sane thing to do, I’m truly glad that I never did. And I know things don’t always work out, storybook style, but I do believe that things only started to really happen when I was truly ready inside. When I truly believed I could succeed. And THAT is your dose of optimism for the day. Hope you enjoyed it. 🙂



  1. Kara Mustafa on December 9, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    My journey took a long time as well, so I love stories like these!! Congrats again 😀

  2. Natalie Whipple on December 9, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Ah, the philosophical journeys. Good times:)

  3. nkrell on December 9, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Congratulations again!! So exciting! I love to read these posts. Hey, I’m a twin too, except she’s in UT and I’m in GA.

  4. KLM on December 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Yay for you! And for all your thinking. I had a similar realization in 2008 — about giving up too soon — and that realization was largely informed by reading blogs and visiting writers’ forums. I saw how many people were querying tens of dozens of agents and getting tons of rejections, but they kept going. I can think of at least three writers who I’ve followed, watched how they queried for 6, 12, 18 months before landing an agent and a book deal. It put my own whining in perspective, I tell you that much. I vowed to soldier on, no matter what.

    BTW, fair warning, Molly reads hers clients’ blogs. It’s like Santa is always watching, so be good. 🙂

  5. Janet Johnson on December 9, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Congratulations! So very cool! I love reading these stories, too. They always make me smile and give me the determination to keep going.
    I met Molly last October, and she was a lot of fun. I think you got a good one!

  6. Melissa on December 9, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I love reading “journey” posts, too. It gives me hope that *one day* I can join the ranks of THE AGENTED;)

    Congratulations again! You’ve worked long and hard for this and I’m so happy for you!

  7. Krista Ashe on December 9, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I’ll say this in a non-stalker way, but I’ve followed your blog for awhile…I loved Photo Shop Fridays. So, when I started seeing you on AW and following your blog, I was really hoping and praying that you would make it.

    This is a great story, and one that even with me on sub right now, it does a heart good!!!

    I queried 3 different projects over a 9 month period…with the last project only querying 3 months that landed me an agent.

    I wish you much success and a quick submission process!!!

    You are very, very inspiring, and thanks for being honest enough to share this journey warts and all!!

  8. Colene Murphy on December 9, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Wow! I love journey posts too. They always have hope in them. Congratulations on your success!!!

  9. Janine on December 9, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks for the post :). It seems like the journey to get an agent, then the journey to get published…both are often SO hard, and you hear about the overnight successes, and geez. Thanks for this post. Also, way to go!!! I’m super excited for you.

  10. Natalie on December 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    It sounds like you’ve come a long way. And how flipping AWESOME to have 2 novels almost ready to submit. I’m still trying to finish #2. 🙂

  11. Renee Collins on December 9, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Kara-I think a long road makes a stronger writer. I hope so, anyway! 🙂

    Natalie-lol, yes. My trademark. You know them well. 🙂

    nkrell-Yay twins! My twin sister lives far away from m too. It’s so hard!

    KLM-So true! It seems like the majority of writers go through a low period, where they feel like giving up. We can really all be there to support each other.

    P.S. Thank for the warning about Molly. I’m now going to go through and make sure my grammar in this post is correct. 😉

    Janet-Yes! That’s how I always feel reading them. 🙂

    Melissa-You will! I can’t wait to read your post one of these days. 😀

    Krista-Thank you so much for the kind words!! I appreciate it so much.

    I did wonder if I should air my dirty laundry, as it were, on my blog, but I decided to do it because I have always been so grateful to come across those kinds of posts when I’m feeling low.

    Colene-Thank you again! 🙂

    Janine-Yeah, I think the overnight successes get a lot of attention, but they are the very small minority. We, who struggle, make up the vast bulk of writers out there.

    Natalie-You know, I haven’t really thought of it that way, but it is pretty nice!! Thanks! 🙂

  12. Chantele Sedgwick on December 9, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Congratulations!! That is so amazing. 🙂

  13. Shari on December 9, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I love, love, love posts like this. There’s just nothing like following along on a writer’s journey from that first novel all the way through to representation (and beyond!). Your story inspires that very optimism you feel and reminds us all to never, ever give up on something we can’t imagine not having in our lives. Thank you for that, and congratulations again! 🙂

  14. Patti on December 9, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    That is a great journey and gives me hope and also makes me want to write more books.

    Congratulations again.

  15. Caroline Starr Rose on December 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Congrats! I subbed several books at once and was told by one agent it wasn’t done. Oh well. Landed with someone who gets my work.

  16. Jill Hathaway on December 9, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    LOVE these posts.

    And it’s funny you came to the realization you were quitting querying too early… I read your stats and I was like “What???? That’s NOTHING!!!!!!!!!”

    I didn’t retire DTY until 100 rejections!

  17. Abby Minard on December 9, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Oh this is wonderful- it gives all of us so much hope! Even when we’re down, posts like yours can bring us up because we know it can happen. Thanks so much for sharing your journey, and congratulations!

  18. Sara Raasch on December 10, 2010 at 3:11 am

    I LOVE reading posts like this too, and I’m SO FREAKING THRILLED I can finally read yours!! Molly Jaffa is so lucky to have you 😀

  19. Miriam S. Forster on December 10, 2010 at 3:31 am

    Excellent! I like your timeline. 🙂

  20. Jessie Oliveros on December 10, 2010 at 3:40 am

    Wow, you not only had to choose between agents…you kind of had to choose between books! That’s amazing. And you have two books that are obviously incredible. Merry Christmas to you.

  21. Renee Collins on December 10, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Chantele-Thank you! 🙂

    Shari-So true. It just shows that the people’s whose books are on the shelves started in our exact spot once.

    Caroline-Yeah, I figured I might be on the edge. I didn’t query any agent with the other book until months later, but still. It’s tricky. I wouldn’t do it again. 🙂

    Patti-I know the feeling! That’s always how reading “journey” posts make me feel.

    Jill-lol, I know! I am thoroughly ashamed *now*. Truly, I was a big wimp when it came to querying.

    Abby-It seriously makes me so pleased that I could offer a bit of inspiration to someone. I’m glad to do it. 🙂

    Sara-hehe, thank you!!! I still remember yours. You introduced me to The Book of Love song. (Which I still enjoy. 🙂 )

    Miriam-Thanks 🙂

    Jessie-It did feel a bit like I had to choose between books, which was HARD. In the end, Molly read both books, so I didn’t actually have to choose. We decided to go forward with Searcher after all. 🙂

  22. Mary Campbell on December 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Wow two offers on two separate books – the agent you chose should be happy – she getting two wanted books from you. Congrats again. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  23. Candice on December 10, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    You are awesome! I love the Philo-J’s!! I’m glad I could be part of them! I am seriously, seriously excited for you! Have I mentioned that once or twice? Really, I’m just happy to know you. 🙂

  24. Renee Collins on December 10, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Mary-Thank you! It was kind of crazy! (Mostly in a good way. :))

    Candice-Philo-J, lol! That’s awesome. I’m going to refer to them as that from now on. Well, I owe you for the (many) times you’ve walked me away from the cliff edge. (And the FAB crit of Searcher) Basically, you rock. 🙂

  25. Kasie West on December 10, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    That is an awesome story. It brings me hope. 🙂

  26. Hayley on December 10, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Great post! I love these ‘author journey’ posts, too. I haven’t started querying yet, but I know it’s going to be crazy stressful…stories like this are inspiring, and the more I read them the harder I want to work 🙂

  27. Jade on December 11, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    You give me so much hope. Thanks for sharing and congrats again!!

  28. Myrna Foster on December 13, 2010 at 7:14 am

    I love these kinds of posts. Congratulations!

  29. Renee Collins on December 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Hayley-Querying can be crazy stressful, but it can be very exciting also!

    Jade-Aww, I’m glad! Hope is vital in this industry 🙂

    Myrna-Thank you!

  30. blue seahorse on December 16, 2010 at 11:49 am

    That was just a lovely read! 🙂 Good to see that things can turn out our way if we pursue them with the required vigor!! ^_^

  31. C. N. Nevets on December 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I have a second novel about 30K words in so that I’m hopeful that diving into that will distract me from the stress of querying, just a little.



  32. Tara Maya on December 17, 2010 at 12:39 am

    I love stories like this too. Thanks for sharing!!

  33. Elizabeth Prats on December 18, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Awesome, wonderful, super entertaining post 🙂 I love hearing these stories and feeling how you felt just recently myself, this really gives me a nice dose of optimism. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing, hun!

  34. Renee Collins on December 18, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Blue Seahorse (love that name, btw)-Yes, I really believe that!

    C.N. Nevets-haha, it’s hard, but it does work! Making progress on one book will help you from getting too wound up emotionally with querying.

    Tara-Thanks! I enjoyed it. 🙂

    Elizabeth-Thank you! I’m glad to hear so many of us writers share the same struggles along the way. 🙂

  35. Jenn Johansson on January 6, 2011 at 4:55 am

    Sorry I’m arriving to the party a little late, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to say CONGRATULATIONS! I’m so excited for you, Renee! 🙂 🙂 🙂