Friday, December 9, 2011

"An Agent's Inbox" Success Story!

So excited to share our first “An Agent’s Inbox” success story with you! Amber Plante recently signed with Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, Ltd., after Ms. Plante took second place in July’s round of “An Agent’s Inbox.” I heard the good news via Twitter several weeks ago and asked Ms. Plante if she’d be willing to give us a little behind-the-scenes peek into how the after-contest action went down. She graciously accepted, and this interview is the result!

Check out Ms. Plante’s winning entry, then check out the interview.

KV: What did you think when you found out who The Agent was? Had you already considered querying Ms. LaPolla?

AP: First, let me just thank you for hosting the ‘An Agent’s Inbox’ contest. I entered on a whim, and it was such a great opportunity. I’m new to the social-media-writing scene, and this community has been so inviting. :)

It was like blind-auditioning for a movie role you know you’ll never get--and learning that, not only did you get the part, but Steven Spielberg is your director and Ian Somerhalder is your love interest.

I’d queried Curtis Brown at least three other times before entering ‘An Agent’s Inbox’--so it was a flattering shock to hear such a venerated agency was interested in my writing. I just kept thinking, ‘Wow, me? Really? OK… let’s do this.’

KV: How long did you wait to hear back on the partial? What did Ms. LaPolla say when she did get back in touch?

AP: It was about five weeks from the initial e-mail. In her response, she said my book was a lot like Ender’s Game, and that she’d love to keep reading.

KV: I think we’d all love an agent to compare a manuscript of ours to ENDER’S GAME:) But I digress.

How long did you wait to hear back on the full? What did you do to keep yourself busy?

AP: Sarah was very busy, and I completely understood. I was so thrilled I had her attention, she could’ve spent the next year reading it over without a complaint from me. In the end, I think it took her eight to nine weeks. To her credit, she sent me a reassuring e-mail after the six-week mark to let me know she hadn’t forgotten.

After I sent the full, I did my best to forget about the whole thing. I didn’t tell anyone about the contest, or Sarah’s interest. That helped--there was no pressure or expectation from friends or family. I also started a new book (or two) in a different genre and, in all, tried out some new ideas and techniques.

I got her e-mail on Oct. 30--the day after a storm dumped two feet of heavy snow on New England. Living in the middle of the woods an hour north of Boston, we lost power for days. My husband, my two little boys and I were huddled up at my parents’ house in front of the fireplace.

I wasn’t expecting an e-mail, so when it popped up on my smartphone, I gasped and froze. This was it--the big moment where I just knew she would tell me she liked it but, in the end, wasn’t interested. My husband came behind me and rubbed my shoulders for support. I opened it…and nearly passed out. No, I’m serious. Flooding relief and excitement.

KV: When Ms. LaPolla contacted you to discuss representation, did she e-mail you first or just skip straight to the Call?

AP: Can you imagine if she would’ve just called? Yikes! Thankfully, she gave me a day’s heads-up about scheduling a time to talk on the phone, which gave the adrenaline a chance to wear off, and gave me time to stop strutting around like I’d just won an Oscar.

KV: Tell us a little bit about that first conversation. Were you more excited or nervous (or both)? If you had some time to prepare, did you put together some notes, or did you just let the conversation develop? And what kinds of things did you two talk about?

AP: Would it be boring to say that I don’t remember? Think of that Katy Perry song: It’s a blacked-out blur, but I’m pretty sure it ruled.

In preparation, I re-read all of our previous correspondence, made sure my phone was charged, booked a conference room at my office and sipped a mug of peppermint tea, counting down the minutes until C-time. I played off cool and collected fairly well, at least to my co-workers.

Then, I spent the whole call trying to sound professional-yet-approachable. I took notes on her suggestions and the next steps. I was petrified Sarah would decide, mid-conversation, to hang up on me and move on. But of course, she was excited and sweet--I later realized that this was as much a job interview for her as it was me. That still astounds me, but it’s the truth.

In all, I remember her assurance that she loved the book, had very high hopes and couldn’t wait to get it out there to publishers and, eventually, readers. That was the most important part.

KV: I think that’s a really important thing to remember: Once an agent decides to make an offer, things become just as intense and nerve-wracking on the part of the agent as on the part of the writer. Like you said, that first phone call really is like a job interview for both parties. Great point.

Obviously, you decided to accept Ms. LaPolla’s offer of representation:) What about her impressed you?

AP: The reputation of Curtis Brown is stellar, of course, but overall I enjoyed Sarah’s enthusiasm for the book; it reminded me why I wrote it in the first place! The book was meant to be a thrilling techno-romp through Europe on the heels of a badass teen-girl spy, and she really embraced that premise for all the fun it offered.

She’s also a talented editor, which is important to me (being an editor myself). When you write, you get so close to your own material that you can’t see its larger faults anymore--Sarah is that trained, fresh set of eyes I need, and her help shaping the beginning of the book and its tone has been amazing. You need someone who’s willing to tell you when you’re wrong, and I couldn’t respect that more in Sarah. Also, she and I think alike--her Twitter feed always makes me smile.

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?

AP: My advice is that you can’t stop trying. If you stop, you’ll fail. As long as you keep moving forward, you’re making progress, and that’s something of which you can always be proud. Keep telling yourself that you’re talented, you want this and that, in the end, it will be enough.

Thanks again, Ms. Plante, for sharing your success story with us. We can’t wait to see how the story develops from here. Good luck with MANAS!


Vicki Tremper said...

Wow, congrats Amber! This was a great interview, Krista. I loved the behind the scenes view for when this someday happens for me.

All the best to everyone still in the query trenches, and to Amber as she moves forward with MANAS (which sounds awesome, btw)!

Kelley Lynn said...

Congratulations Amber! It's so wonderful to hear success stories

Sarah LaPolla said...

I feel dreadful that I made you wait that long!! It sounds terrible. But in my defense, manuscripts I want to offer on do require extra time and consideration. I'm just happy you put up with me! :)

Maggie Hall said...

Congratulations to both of you--and to Krista for helping it happen!

Janice Sperry said...

I love seeing people's dreams come true! Congratulations. I hope it comes out soon. Anything comparable to Ender's Game is on the top of my to-read list.

Pam Harris said...

Congrats, Amber! So glad you've joined the "family"--and your story sounds AWESOME! :)

amber said...

Thanks, everyone! Sarah, you were absolutely wonderful, and it wasn't all that long to wait – I promise! Like I said, I would've waited another few months if the end was the same :)

Cassie Mae said...

Wow!!! Awesome and amazing and all those other words that can't do it justice! Congratulations!!!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Vicki, fingers crossed someday comes soon!

I like hearing success stories as well, Kelley.

Good to hear from you, Sarah! And it's good to know the positive responses take a little longer than the negative ones.

Maggie, when I saw the news on Twitter, I felt as proud as a mama with a newborn baby:)

Janice, that comparison intrigued me, too. Sarah needs to sell that story quickly so the rest of us can read it!

Pam, I hope you said that with an Italian accent:) (I've never seen The Godfather, but from what I understand, they talk about "the family" a lot...)

Ditto, Amber. Waiting a couple of months to hear back on a full is nothing - especially if it's a "Yes!"

You took the words right out of my mouth, Cassie Mae:)

Myrna Foster said...

Congrats to everyone involved! Thanks for sharing the happy! :o)

K. M. Walton said...

HUGE congrats to you, Amber! Sarah is, hands down, the best agent alive, and every single day I thank my lucky stars I'm with her! I'll second Pam's welcome.

I really enjoyed reading your whole story.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

My pleasure, Myrna!

Thanks for stopping by, K.M. I love how supportive agent mates are.

Unknown said...

Hugs and kisses, Amber! You totally deserve it. I'll be looking out for more of your successes :)

And thanks, Krista, for providing the op!

Blazer67 said...

What a fabulous interview, Krista. Congrats, Amber on this wonderful success story. Sarah is one of my favorite agents and I can't wait to hear about your future together.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I love your point about moving forward! Great interview, ladies! Congrats, Amber!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

I thought you might like this blog post, Lora:) Thanks for stopping by!

Thank you, Kirk! When I heard the good news on Twitter, I was as excited as Amber! (Okay, maybe not quite:) )

It's good advice, isn't it, Amy? Sometimes I feel like the Energizer Bunny of querying, but as long as I don't give up, that's kind of a victory in and of itself.

Sierra Gardner said...

Wow - congratulations Amber! This has always been one of my favorite features on Krista's blog and I'm so glad it worked for you! I have to say I'm a little envious - Sarah is absolutely my dream agent =)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Sierra, thanks for stopping by to add your congratulations! I'm so glad it worked out, too. I mean, the feedback's really nice, but an offer's an even better outcome of these "An Agent's Inbox" rounds:)

Suzanne Warr said...

Congrats to Amber, and thanks for an awesome interview! That's so exciting to see an offer come about from the contest!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

I thought so, too, Suzanne! I was grinning from ear to ear when I saw the announcement on Twitter:)