Finding the right agent is critical to your writing career, but it can be a difficult journey. When my Twitter buddy Elyssa Papa recently announced she'd signed with an agent, I thought her journey to representation could help others. So I decided to start a series of guest posts, and Elyssa agreed to be my first interview.
Eventually, I'll confess my own wacky story of how I accidentally met my agent - twice! But first up, read about the steps Elyssa took to successfully sign with the agent of her dreams.
Welcome, Elyssa. Please tell us a bit about yourself, what you write, and your agent.
Thank you, Vicky! It’s a pleasure to be invited to be part of this interview series. I’m a former high school English teacher, a chocoholic, and live in upstate New York.
I write light, sexy contemporary romances that have deep emotion under the sparkling humor. The name of my book is AS YOU WISH. It’s about a jaded rock star determined to make amends with his estranged family during the Christmas season and falls for an optimistic florist; it’s set in Burlington, Vermont.
I’ve recently signed with Kimberly Witherspoon of Inkwell Management. I’ve been a finalist in three contests with my first book. My blog is: http://www.elyssapapa.blogspot.com/, or you can follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ElyssaPapa.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing all my life, but it wasn’t until three years ago that I became serious about pursuing publication. It’s thanks to the Eloisa James and Julia Quinn Bulletin Board and the Avon Fanlit competition in 2006 that I really started believing that my dream of being a published author was possible. I also met great friends in Fanlit and two of my critique partners---Tiffany Clare and Maggie Robinson (both of whom are debut historical romance authors in 2010)---on the EJ/JQ bulletin board. Tiffany Clare met our third CP, J.K. Coi, at a local RWA chapter meeting.
Along the way to representation, did you change subgenres?
Well, in the Fanlit competition, all the chapters were in the Regency era. The historical voice didn’t fit my voice. I started writing contemporary romances at this same time, and it all clicked. I knew Contemporary Romance was the subgenre I was meant to write in.
How many books did you write before signing with your agent?
I’ve written two books prior to AS YOU WISH.
What steps did you take to find your agent?
I owe it all to my frend, Sara Lindsey, who is a client of Kim Witherspoon's. Sara's debut historical romance, PROMISE ME TONIGHT, releases Feb 2010. Sara read the first chapter of AYW and emailed Kim to be on the lookout for my query. Long story short, Kim requested the full and is now my agent!
How did you go about researching agents?
I used Agent Query, Publisher’s Marketplace, and RWA.
What were some of the most important characteristics you were seeking in an agent?
The most important characteristics for me in an agent were: someone who “got” and loved my voice, would be an advocate for me and my work, and who would help me grow my career. I think it’s important to make sure you know as much as possible about that agent before signing.
Did you have more than one offer of representation?
Kimberly Witherspoon is my dream agent. Of course I was going to sign with her! Kimberly was also the first agent who called; even though AYW had eleven requests overall---there was no question in my mind whatsoever.
Now tell us about the day you got the call saying I'd love to represent you!
I got the call on August 12th. The previous day, I’d received an email from Kimberly’s assistant asking to schedule a call. I was nervous and excited.
Kimberly began talking about the book and how much she liked it. She started talking about one of the characters, and I remember thinking: Oh my god, she really read my book. At one point I asked, “So does this mean you’re offering representation?” That’s how much of an out-of-the-body moment I was having. She replied yes and that I was her client. I repeated, “OMG!” about three or four times and said how thrilled I was. It was the best conversation of my life!
Who was the first person you called/emailed after getting the agent call? How did you celebrate?
I called my parents, then I called my best friend/critique partner, Tiffany Clare. We started squeeing, and that type of excitement continued throughout the day as other friends and authors learned about the news. I celebrated by eating a few chocolate chip cookies and happy dancing.
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for writers seeking representation?
Write the best book you can, and one that comes from your heart. Push yourself constantly and set writing deadlines for yourself. Know when to put a book away---and keep on writing. Surround yourself with a support system. And last importantly, believe in yourself!
Elyssa, thank you so much for sharing your great story! We're all anxiously waiting for your news of a first sale!