I Have an Agent!

Friends, I am beyond thrilled to announce that I am now represented by John Jarrold of John Jarrold Literary Agency! Whew! Typing those words has got to be one of the more surreal moments of my life. The journey has been a long one – and is nowhere near over (still gotta publish that book) but this is a significant milestone, one I’d began to doubt would even happen.

Shall I regale you with the journey? Yes, I shall. Indeed, I shall.

In the Spring of 2018, I was scrolling mindlessly through Twitter when I came across a tweet by Stephen King. He had retweeted a video of Tomi Adeyemi (she of Children of Blood and Bone fame) unboxing the author copies of her book amid tears of joy, with the caption “Isn’t this terrific?” Two things happened to me then: 1) I recognized Tomi’s name as Nigerian and 2) the fact that Stephen King, an author I’ve read and adored since my childhood, was celebrating her. It was a wake-up call for me, that if she could do it …

See, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and had written several novels in secondary school, even cultivating loyal readers among my classmates. After graduating secondary school, I queried a thriller and a horror novel, but I didn’t know what I was doing; they were first drafts and they stank, and my poor heart could not handle the rejections after all the love and adulation of my friends, so I put writing on hiatus for a while.

Spurred by Tomi Adeyemi’s success, on July 1 2018, I started the first draft of the book that got me my agent. Six months later in January 2019, I had a complete draft. I jumped into a second draft almost immediately and was done by May. Then, with the high of completion, I cobbled together a query and synopsis and fired them off to ten agents.

The rejections poured in.

Words like “wasn’t right for me” and the stale, impersonal language of form rejections flooded my inbox. But at this time I had already been active in the world of short stories and had received so many rejections that they did not bite as hard (you could say I neutered the beast). So I shrugged my shoulders, confident that I had a good story, and fired off the next batch of queries. Over the course of the next two months, rejections trickled in, and though I had neutered the beast, it was, unbeknownst to me, a regenerating beast, and it sank its freshly grown canines into my neck, and injected the nectar of doubt into my bloodstream, so that I started to think: maybe I’m just not good enough. Maybe the book is trash. Maybe

An email in my inbox. Another rejection.

But this wasn’t another factory-manufactured form; the agent said something along the lines of “while your credentials (read: short fiction publications) are impressive, I didn’t feel drawn into these sample pages to request the full manuscript.” I had a eureka moment. The query and first few chapters are very important, the first step in piquing an agent’s interest. So I went back to the drawing board, perused the internet for winning queries of popular books and modeled my query after them. I also completely rewrote the first chapter.

By September ending I participated in Pitch Wars and out of four mentors I chose, two requested my full manuscript. I was thrilled! My query and first chapter worked! I sent out my manuscript to both mentors and spent the next month in a haze of dread and anticipation, hoping one of them – or both! – would pick me.

They didn’t. But one of the mentors got back to me (which she absolutely didn’t have to) and gave me detailed feedback. At this point though, I was emotionally and mentally drained. I contemplated abandoning the project altogether and moving on to anther one.

But this story. THIS STORY. I believed so much in it and I think, in then end, that was all that mattered.

I decided to give it one last try. From January to March 2020 I rewrote the first 1/3 of the book (about 35,000 words) and on March 8, sent out the first batch of queries. One day later I got a full request. Two days later, a partial request; one week later, a full from the agent who requested the partial. Boy, to say I was excited would be an understatement. But as this was my last hurrah for this project, I did not wait but kept sending out queries.

On May 18th, I sent John a query and he replied a few minutes later (not an an autoreply) that he had received it and to touch base if I hadn’t heard from him in two weeks. That was a first. The next day he replied that he had “thoroughly enjoyed these sample chapters” and asked to see the full (what??? oh my God??) Upon receiving the full, he replied that he would be in touch within seven days.

Friends, two days later, on May 22nd, I recieved an email:

Dear Tobi
Just finished – I love it.  And I would be extremely happy to represent you.
I love the story, the characters, the feel of the book, your voice…

I could hardly believe it. This thing that I’d dreamed of for so long was finally happening. I emailed John straight away with my questions, to which he promptly answered with infectious enthusiasm. Then, per the rules of the game, I told him to give me one week to give the other agents with my manuscript the opportunity to bow out or counter-offer. Most respectfully bowed out, but one agent got back with the kindest rejection. She enjoyed the book, but didn’t feel enthusiastic enough to champion it.

Hey, no hard feelings.

So, with a wide grin on my face, I emailed John a signed contract. I am so excited for this new step in my career, and can’t wait for the world to read what I have cooking.

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