Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Getting the Call: Jeffrey Nicholas

This is a fun post because I get to help welcome an new writer into my agent family! Jeffrey signed with my agent, Sarah Negovetich otherwise known as Lady Awesome. Enjoy this dose of inspiration!

Of Piranha Plants and Tabasco Sauce...

...or, How I Got My Agent.

I read more than a few how-I-got-my-agent posts while I was querying, and they were usually helpful, always interesting. Here's mine...

I’d seen a new agent listing on and sent off a query and sample chapters to Ms. New Agent. A few weeks later, Ms. New Agent sent a nice reply and requested the full manuscript. I laughed manically then sent it off. I waited. And (cue the foreshadowing) I started another story. I waited some more. I nudged. I waited. One morning, I had emails from two agents. The first was the agent who’d made the full request. She complimented the manuscript but said she didn’t quite love it enough to represent it. Instead, she’d forwarded it a colleague, Sarah Nego; that’s who the second email was from. Sarah’s email stated she really enjoyed the story, but that it needed a little work and she’d be happy to look at it if I made the revisions. Short of an offer, this was about the best possible response I could have gotten. Naturally, I revised. I resent to Sarah and put in my obligatory wait time. When she got back to me with a very kind rejection, I was disappointed. “But I made all your changes!” I wanted to say. “Now you have to make me an offer. That’s how it works.” Well, that’s how it works sometimes. Other times, like this instance, the agent says, “I enjoyed it, but it’s not quite for me. If you write anything else, I’d love to take a look.”

It wasn't the response I’d wanted, but it was still a positive one. And it just so happened that I had another story about ready to go. I gave it one last tidy up and sent it off to Sarah. I queried a few other agents. I got another request for a full. I waited. I watched a lot of Twin Peaks.

One nondescript Monday morning my day was brightened by a short email from Sarah: “I really enjoyed this. Do you have time to talk?”

We set up some time to chat that evening and I spent the rest of the day convincing myself that there must be some other reason, aside from offering representation, that she wanted to talk.*

So that night, I fueled up on coffee and episodes of How I Met Your Mother with my wife while trying not to think about my impending doom—I mean, phone call. When Sarah did call, she jumped right in to some great feedback about my story. I’ve always thought it a bit surreal to hear someone talk about your characters as real people; it’s even more so when that person is a literary agent—and she’s actually saying nice things about them. Sarah made interesting comments, like, “Put some Tabasco sauce on your characters,” and, “Include more video game references.”**

I dutifully took notes as Sarah talked and I waited for the other shoe to fall (“Um, Jeff, do you realize that the entire middle third of your manuscript is written in Wing Dings? Rejected.” Click).

The shoe never fell. Sarah offered representation. I stumbled through a list of The Call questions that I got early that day from my good friend, the internet.

The whole thing seemed too easy, like it shouldn’t be happening. Of course, ask me my feelings during any point of the process leading up to that call and I’d say otherwise. Maybe it’s just the fact that when you do get that offer, it makes everything else that came before it seem worth it (and all that effort and stress and waiting suddenly seems insignificant).

So the next morning at work, I sent “Offer of Representation” email notifications to every agent I’d queried and hadn’t heard from within the past three months. I also sent a nudge to the other agent who had my full, who assured me he’d read and get back to me quickly. By the end of the day, I had two other full requests. By the next morning, I had another.

I now had Sarah’s offer on the table and fulls out (with promises of quick turnarounds) to four other agents. After years drudging through the query trenches, everything was suddenly moving so fast.***

After the dust of that crazy week settled, I decided to go with Sarah for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which was the great references some of her existing clients like Michelle gave her. I'm now happy to be able to count myself among them. And while Sarah develops a pitch and editors list, I'll be busy splashing that Tabasco sauce over my characters.

*Sarah and I had a good laugh about this later. She’d basically be the worst agent—no, human—ever if she scheduled personal rejection phone calls.

**There was even talk of a fire-shooting piranha plant. More than anything, I think this is what sold me on Sarah.

***If anyone is thinking of using the “Offer of representation” email to speed the process and perhaps drum up some extra demand for an outstanding manuscript, please, resist the urge. Let alone the ethical side of things, you may be forcing an agent into giving you a No. More than one agent I nudged responded by saying they didn’t have time to review it that week and bowed wishing me the best of luck.

You can find Jeffrey at his blog or on twitter with the handle @jnwrites


  1. I love this. It's like fiction, with the twist in the middle, where you think Sarah Nego is going to offer rep and then she doesn't! But of course, since he's awesome and had another MS in the works, our protag gets to ride off into the sunset...erm, into the submission trenches.

    Thanks for the post Michelle, and lots of luck to you and Jeffrey. Did I mention I LOVE success stories like this? :)

  2. Thanks! I was happy it worked out too :)

  3. Great story!! Congratulations, Jeffrey! Success stories are so, so refreshing - like a shot of positivity in the middle of a gray day.

  4. Oh this is fantastic! Congratulations Jeffrey! I'm very happy for your success. Thanks for posting this Michelle. Getting a chance to read about one of an author's greatest dreams come true is such a refreshing and wonderful thing! I adore "The Call" stories because they're all so different from others, but always end up happy. I hope to read another. I love them.

  5. Many congrats! Jeffrey's story sounds so similar to mine, well, except the part about getting the offer. But this post gives me hope! Best of luck on submission!

  6. Great story!! Congratulations, Jeffrey! I really love this.
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