I started writing back in 2000 and worked on 2 manuscripts in 7 years. It took me that long because I was working full time. I queried my second manuscript and got back good feedback from agents but it was clear I needed to do major work on it. But before I could go back to revise it, the idea of for Prophecy sprung into my head while I was stuck in traffic on the beltway. I remember trying to write frantically on bits of paper as my car was crawling along. That book took me 5 months to write and then I got my first agent fairly quickly. We went on our first round of submissions and got back a lot of requests for revisions. I took a year revising but at the end of the year, my ms was so different from what my first agent had signed on for and we decided to part ways. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the best thing that happened to me.
For my second agent search, I did things differently. First of all, I found your blog which was a godsend. I read every single agent spotlight interview and started compiling a new agent excel spreadsheet based entirely on what I like to think of as compatability factors. What books had the agents repped, what were their likes and dislikes, how did they come across in their interviews, etc. The Agent Spotlight series helped me create the perfect list of agents to query. Instead of doing a mass querying, my second time around, I was extremely cautious of who I queried. I made sure I knew everything I could about an agent before querying them. And I queried in very small batches. I was fortunate to get a lot of full requests and by having staggered my queries, I was able to get some feedback from agents that rejected my ms. Of the agents that rejected me early in the process, every single one of them gave me back useful comments that I used to revise my MS. In fact, two wonderful agents gave me detailed comment letters that I will always be grateful for. Because it was after I made the last of these revisions and sent out new queries, that I got four offers of representation. But the key to this was taking my time, not rushing the query process. And in many ways I was very lucky because most of the agents asked for and read my full quickly. The offers I got were all from amazing agents, but I ended up signing with Joe Monti for two reasons - first, we talked on the phone for 2 hours that felt like 20 minutes, and second, he already knew how he wanted me to revise, and even though they were big revisions, I knew he was right.
So then came six more months of heavy revision before I finally heard the news that we were ready to go on submission. And then after what felt like years of writing, revising and waiting to get to this one moment, a week later I had an offer of a lifetime.
When I got my publishing deal, I had a sort of a flashback of all the long years I'd been writing. It was like a montage of memories filled with the naysayers and the well wishers and my moments of both incredible highs and depressing lows. I don't think there's a writer alive who didn't think of quitting at some point in their careers. It's a difficult business. But at that moment, as I gratefully accepted my offer, I was thankful for every single one of those moments. The naysayers made me determined to prove them wrong and the well wishers supported me through good and bad times.
So thanks Casey for all your hard work on the Agent Spotlight series! I wouldn't have found my amazing agent without it!
Thank YOU, Ellen, for sharing your story with us. I seriously cannot wait to read the trilogy!
If you'd like to read more about Ellen's path to publication and her deal announcement, click HERE. If you'd like to read a little interview with me, head on over to her blog. Ellen can be found at the following places: