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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Ashlyn Chase

How I got my Agent
Ashlyn Chase

The very first time I pitched to an agent, she asked me if there had been any interest in my story. I was so green, I had no idea what she meant and had to ask. She said, “Have you queried any editors who wanted it?” 

I probably tipped my head and frowned in confusion as I said, “I thought that was your job.”

Out of the mouths of 40 year old babes…

After submitting my partial, I didn’t have to wait long before I received a rude rejection, twice, for the same book—even though I hadn’t resubmitted it. Needless to say, I never submitted to that agent again. 

Years later, the very situation that first agent was hoping for arose. I had sent my proposal to an editor, and received “the call!” She wanted to offer me a contract…not just a contract, but a series contract for three books! 

Naturally, I did exactly what they tell you not to do. I screamed, said, “Yes, oh yes, oh yes!” I was lucky I stopped short of offering to pay her an advance. 

I had e-published several books successfully without an agent, so decided to save myself the 15% and negotiate the deal myself. I had the wonderful editor send me the fifteen page contract and realized I was in trouble. I thought I was fairly intelligent, so why couldn’t I understand the damn thing? 

Suddenly I needed an agent.   

But where to find one at a moment’s notice? I had given up on the very idea of agents and had no one in mind.  Fortunately, when I turned to my RWA chapter for help, someone who had an agent she could heartily recommend said she’d put in a good word for me. 

I received a good news/bad news email shortly after that. Her agent’s stable was full (bad news) but she worked with another agent who was looking for clients. (Good news. Great news!) 

I sent off a query, mentioning the contract offer along with a blurb, my qualifications, and contact information. 

Right after that we had the ice storm of the century. Our power was knocked out for a week. I had a cell phone, but as luck would have it we lived in a dead zone. Terrific. 

I couldn’t call her. Couldn’t email. And I couldn’t get my 2 wheel-drive convertible to cooperate and let me out of my 550 foot driveway. I didn’t know if I’d find power out in the big, wild world anyway. Usually when we have storms like that, the entire Northeast gets buried. 

A couple days later, my husband managed to buy a precious generator. The roads were clear enough for him to go to work, but it was still Monkey Island up here and I had to babysit the generator so no one would steal it. (Yes, there were generator thefts in usually civilized New England.)

My husband managed to reach a dear writer friend long enough to give her a message from me, asking her to call the agent and tell her that if she was trying to get in touch with me, I was cut off from civilization, but I’d get in touch soon! Really, I would. 

Somehow communication got scrambled and she gave the agent (who had been trying to call) my cell-phone number. 

As I said, I live in a dead zone. Well, to be precise, half of the house gets spotty reception, the other half is dead. 

I was taken by surprise when my cellphone actually rang one day. I grabbed it and charged to the spotty side of the house, just knowing it was the agent calling. It was. All we managed to say to each other was “Hello” before we got cut off. 

I thought I was going to burst a neck vein. 

The following day, my husband chained the generator to a lally column in the garage so I could leave the house and get to a donut shop with electricity and free WiFi. I plugged in my laptop and was relieved when it whirred to life. I emailed the agent, explained what had been happening and didn’t care if I had to sit there all day, I was going to wait for an answer. 

Fortunately, she understood and still wanted to represent me! Yahooooo! My terrific, patient agent Natanya Wheeler not only explained the contract to me, but negotiated a nicer one than I had. She more than earned her percentage and continues to.

So, doing things backwards isn’t always a bad thing, i.e. getting an editor first, then adding an agent to the equation. It worked for me. If you live in a warm climate, it might even be easier.


NOTE: In addition to being included in the weekly drawing, one lucky commenter on today's post will receive a copy of The Werewolf Upstairs.


9 comments:

Maureen said...

What a story. You must have been going crazy trying to get in touch with the agent and that first agent sounds like a real witch!
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

Ashlyn Chase said...

LOL. I was definitely a little nuts those first few days.

Ash

MiaMarlowe said...

That's the kind of thing that's hysterical later, but horrible to live through. Glad you found an agent who believes in your work.

I can't say enough good things about my agent, Natasha Kern. She's so much more than a contract negotiator. She's my mentor, cheerleader and Mother Confessor. While my head is down in the current WIP, Natasha is thinking strategically, planning my career 5 years down the road.

The right agent is like having a personal superhero. (Ditto for the right critique partner, Ash!) Love your WEREWOLF UPSTAIRS!

Ashlyn Chase said...

Thanks, Mia! Very nice of you to stop by. (grin)

Yes, one of the things I love about my agent, Natanya, is the cheering in my corner. When my folks passed, I thought I'd lost all unconditional support. Not so. I've just found other people who cheer me on. (Like you!)

Hugs.

booklover0226 said...

ARGH! I would have gone crazy during that ice storm. It's great everything worked out well.

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

wanda f said...

Wow I would have have driven myself and everyone in my family nuts until I was back in communications with the outside world lol.I have been stranded before due to snow and ice had to spend three days two nights at my work because the roads were to bad for me to drive fortunately we had internet cell phones and lots of junk food lol
flanagan@mebtel.net

Ashlyn Chase said...

Oh, God, Wanda! What a nightmare! Or maybe I'm thinking of my own old job. I worked in a psych hospital and they offered us open beds during blizzards. I braved the elements!

Sherry said...

Your cell phone service sounds just like what my Mom has. I'm glad everything work out for you.

sstrode@scrtc.com

Christine H said...

Wow, I would have gotten out somehow or my husband would have and taken me to a hotel! lol I'm so happy she waited to hear from you and it's worked out so well!!!

chirth7@yahoo.com

Hugs, Christine