Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sweating and Stammering and Handling THE CALL: How Kelsey Sutton Broke the Rules

I still remember the moment I read that e-mail from Beth, the way my heart pounded when I scanned those words. It's the sentence every writer hopes to get from an agent.

I'd like to schedule a call

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Now, everyone probably has different reactions to this call, but I'm going to be honest with you guys: I was sweating the entire time. And it wasn't hot in that room. At all. And I'm not a sweater; when I get nervous, I usually have to go find a toilet or a baggie or a bush to puke in, like I did the day of the Romeo & Juliet play in high school. (I shudder even thinking about it. Romeo was a slobbery kisser.)

But when it comes down to it, there's really nothing to be nervous about. Keep this in mind when or if you get the call. The agent is contacting you because she loves your work, and she believes in your abilities. She wants to take you on as a client. And I think that some of us forget that agents are people, too - they're just as excited as we are, and maybe they're a little nervous, too.

Anyway. I technically got the call on the night of January 4th. Beth and I had been e-mailing, and I informed her that she could reach me after 5 p.m. But I failed to tell Beth that I'm one hour behind her. So she called at 4 p.m., New York time, and I wasn't even home. When I did get home, though, and played her message, I remember despair curling in my stomach, and disbelief filling every core of my being; I missed the call.

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I e-mailed Beth right away and told her that she could reach me at noon the next day. (I set aside the time during work, because there was no way I was going to miss the call again.) She called at exactly 11:58. I know this because I was sitting in the conference room, staring down at the little screen on my phone. My heart was pounding and I was sweating and butterflies were all aflutter in my stomach and I thought I was going to be sick. But I answered, cool as a cucumber, "Hello?"

I'd prepared a list of questions (three pages long!). I've read before that you should keep this from the agent, or at least sound like you're not reading from the page, but I just told Beth that I had put together a list and wanted to go over it with her. Which we did, and Beth had great answers for everything. We were on the phone for about an hour, I think. We talked about my book some, about the way she does things, and our goals. She had some questions for me, too, of course, and I remember at some point during the conversation I blurted, "Okay, you ask!" Like some kind of cave woman. Sigh. Oh, well.

Okay, so I broke even more rules here. I've read that you're supposed to inform the agent that before you accept their offer of representation, you want to think about it for a few days. Basically, though, I told Beth that I would like to contact one of her clients and ask them a few questions, and after they got back to me with all their praise and adoration, I would accept her offer. I signed that same day, because the client quickly got back to me with exactly that. Honestly, Beth was the only agent I wanted to sign with - there weren't any others in the picture, no one to inform that I'd gotten an offer. It seemed to me that there was no point in delaying the dream.

And that's it. That was how it all came about. Funny thing - I was so nervous I have trouble remembering the specifics.

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Kelsey Sutton has done everything from training dogs, making cheeseburgers, selling yellow page ads, and cleaning hotel rooms. Now she divides her time between her full-time college classes and her writing, though she can also sometimes be found pounding out horrible renditions of Beethoven on the piano and trying bizarre drinks at her local coffee shop. Kelsey lives in northern Minnesota with her dog and cat, Lewis and Clark. She is represented by Beth Miller of Writer's House, and her debut YA novel SOME QUIET PLACE is forthcoming from Flux in 2013. You can add it on Goodreads here!

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