It’s happened. It’s finally happened! I have signed with Claire Anderson-Wheeler at Regal Literary. She’s the perfect fit for Hooligans in Shining Armour and I’m so excited and honored to be working with her.
It’s been an epic saga of a journey. I’ve spent months preparing query materials, writing and re-writing the beginning, fine-tuning my query and synopsis–all while sitting on my hands to stop myself from just putting it out there until everything was absolutely ready. Oh, and then there’s the two other novels I’ve written and queried with absolutely ZERO requests that taught me boatloads both about writing and querying :P. And the three other novels tucked away in a virtual secret vault that will never see the light of day.
So here’s the story leading up to THE CALL…
I started playing around with ideas for Hooligans after a trip to Northern Ireland in July 2011, researching and learning more about the Troubles. I wrote a few scenes here and there, but that was about it because I was feeling a bit disillusioned with writing after aforementioned failed query attempts with previous novels.
Then my husband was offered a temporary job in Singapore. We made the big, bold decision to move to Singapore in August 2013. We left our house and my job behind and YOLO’d (yeah, I went there). Anyway, since I was the trailing spouse, I decided to dive back into writing. Within my first week of moving to Singapore, I went to my first meet-up for the fabulous, wonderful, inspiring Singapore Writers Group. So many amazing writers from all over the world! I left that meeting and started writing literally that night. Well, actually it was morning by the time I got home. This lead to months of research on dialect, history, culture, and current events in Belfast and countless hours on Google Maps streetview to capture setting. I read a bunch of books by Northern Irish authors. Four months later, I had a draft and my first beta readers…followed by major revisions. And tons more research. Then I worked up the courage to read a bit of it at the Singapore Writers Group meeting in December 2013. Which was terrifying, because there are so many skilled writers, many of whom are from the UK.
I survived, but then decided my next mission needed to be finding readers from Belfast to ensure cultural and linguistic accuracy. And do even more research. I reached out to the Belfast Writers Group and found a reader, who then also got me two teen readers. I also got a Belfast development editor and copy editor from EPANI. All of this completely altered my manuscript. I would be nowhere without all these awesome people.
Tons more beta readers from the Singapore Writers Group. More re-writes. More research. More re-writes. Seriously, I have 26 saved versions of Hooligans in Shining Armour on my hard drive. There were so, so many times where I was like, you know what? Let’s just call this one a draw and shelve it. Or start it on fire.
But I stuck with it because my beta readers believed in me and I loved my characters. Then I found out about Pitch Wars, a contest where you compete against other writers to get mentors to help you whip your manuscript into shape for an agent round. I did it, if nothing else to test out my query materials. I got my hopes up and sat glued to the twitter feed hoping for clues that I’d been picked. I wasn’t, even though several of the mentors I submitted to were like, you’ll probably get an agent someday. Sadness….
I then entered a few other contests: #PitMad (a few likes, no further requests),Nightmare on Query Street, #PitchSlam. Nothing. I met tons of new writer friends on Twitter (probably added 500 followers), found new critique partners, got into an amazing critique group through SCWBI Belgium, tested out and honed my query materials, but got no requests.
After all that I said, nope, no more contests for a long time. I’ll query traditionally after Christmas. But then one of my fabulous new writer friends (who I met on Twitter), Kate Foster, said–well, tweeted–“Sarah, you need to do #PitchMAS.” I was like, ughhhhh no, no more Twitter contests. But I already had tweets ready to go, so I didn’t really have an excuse. I set up my TweetDeck and let it happen. Nothing for the first several hours and, since I live on the opposite side of the world, I went to bed. When I woke up, I had two favorites. One happened to be Claire. When I looked her up and read her bio, I realized, wait a minute, I recognize this agent. I went to my ridiculous agent spreadsheet that I’d spent months adding to and, sure enough, she was in it. And high on my to-query list because she’s Irish and seeks to represent manuscripts with strong narrative voice and contemporary themes. So I sent her my three chapters along with a, “hey I really wanted to query you anyway!” And then a few days later, my first ever request for a full!
And Christmas and New Years came… After that, I started hardcore querying the agents in my ridiculous spreadsheet. Finally. I also stalked Manuscript Wish List. Within a few days, I had some more partial requests. Then last week I got THE EMAIL at 9 pm my time, which basically said I really, really liked Hooligans, let’s talk. I frantically emailed all the agented authors I’d met (you guessed it, mostly through contests) and asked for advice on questions to ask and what to expect. Three hours later….
Claire was very excited to represent me, loved my characters, and totally got everything I was trying to do with Hooligans.
Since it was a Twitter pitching contest called #PitchMAS I feel like this gif is just a must…
I had a week to decide, so I contacted the two agents who had partials and all the agents I’d queried and not heard from. This lead to three more full requests that were looked at by Monday. And lots of very nice responses from other agents. It was a painful weekend. I really felt in my heart of hearts that Claire was the perfect fit, but that I should keep an open mind. The other agents ended up politely passing, so then I shot Claire an extremely excited email that basically said I love you please represent. I wanted to go with Claire because of her enthusiasm and connection to Hooligans and her commitment to client-agent relationships for a career. I also felt that we clicked personally. And now it’s official!!!
I’ve been writing since I was twelve. I’ve been querying agents on various projects for the past six years. There have been so many times I wanted to just give up, especially with Hooligans (seriously, I wanted to print it and start it on fire at many points), but my husband and my writer friends believed in me.
I took breaks from things when I needed to, and I never let myself be defeated by self-doubt. I am constantly working to make myself a better writer.
And now some Sarah stats:
Number of novels I’ve queried: 3 (two with no requests at all)
Contests entered: 5
Queries sent: 27
Full requests: 4
Lessons learned: thousands
And now for some more celebration gifs…