Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Good News with a Side of Humble Pie

As an aspiring writer, I've read a few "Getting the Call" blog posts over the years. They were always gave me hope that one day I'd climb out of the slush pile myself like a zombie from the grave.


To pay-it-forward, I'm writing about my experience of "the Call" from the perspective of someone who got three Calls.


This is not a situation I expected or prepared for, but it was an experience I learned a lot from and I want to share the lessons I gleaned from it with you.

The first call I got was from Danielle Bailey from the Seymour Agency (Nicole, her boss, had something come up at the last minute). Danielle told me they both really enjoyed the concept of my picture book, but felt it needed further development.


To be honest, a part of me wondered why they were so interested in a picture book that "needed" more work, but I was happy they enjoyed the story enough to offer representation.

A part of me wanted to say, "YES!" right then and there, but I knew enough to ask for some time to inform other agents about the offer of representation so they could have a chance to do the same. So, immediately after getting off the phone with Danielle, I sent out an email to all the agents who were interested in the story. Two more agents asked to have phone calls and so I set up times to talk with each of them.

Agent #2 was a joy to speak with and knew some writers I was friends with. When we got to talking about my picture book she told me it was unique and interesting, but... (why is there always a but!?) she felt something was missing and I needed to push the story further.

Now, I must admit, when Danielle told me the story need work, a part of me got a little prideful and said, "How can a book that has so much interest from agents need more work? Obviously, the story is good enough as is because people are interested in it."

Yeah, stick a pitch fork in me. devil

Obviously, I had gotten on a high horse with all the attention my story received and let it go to my head, but thank goodness Danielle and Agent #2 deflated my ego balloon.


The next call was actually a follow-up call from both Nicole and Danielle. With my new insight into the fact that my story wasn't perfect even though people liked it, I had a much more receptive attitude to their feedback.

The last call before making my decision was with Agent #3. Can anyone guess what she said about my picture book?

If you said she thought the story was fun, but needed work, then give yourselves a pat on the back or even better your favorite snack. Go ahead! You deserve it!

Cupcakes for everyone!

After these three Calls, I finally understood the vast difference between story potential and execution. Whereas before I got the Calls, I thought an agent offer equaled a good story, I came to realize this is not always the case. Agents don't only offer representation for polished, publication-ready stories. They also look at the potential of a story and when they see a manuscript, even a flawed one like mine, they can look past the bad and the ugly and see the good seed under all that dirt.

If I had only gotten one "call," I might not have realized this important difference and had a much bigger ego about my story. Thankfully, the agents who talked to me made sure I had a triple dose of humble pie to go with my "Good News." And for that, I am very grateful because everything they said was right-on-the-money. My story did need more work.

So, here's one piece of advice:

Check your ego at the door before, during, and after "the Call". Just because someone likes your story enough to offer representation, doesn't mean it's ready to be submitted or published. It means the agent(s) sees something in your work that they believe will bear fruit.

It's up to you to put in the work and nurture the story seed so it yields something good.


  1. Many agents will ask for a revision *before* offering representation. These three agents offered, even as they told you you will need to revise. This is a vote of confidence if I ever heard one. Good job, Joseph.

    1. Thanks, Mirka! Although I should clarify that one of the agents did want to see more revisions before offering representation, but I felt pretty sure we would have eventually arrived at representation... but that could have been Mr. Big Ego whispering in my ear ;)