Purrrgatory, or, How I came to have an agent – the short version

I’m sorry I’m not sorry for the cat gifs. And the needless* cat pun in the title. I really, really like cats, and it is a somewhat damning love for reasons you will discover. And yes, this really is the short version.
*Not as needless as it may appear – explanation post pending.
July 2013
Met The Agent at my creative writing course showcase. Despite only being about halfway through my first draft of my first novel The Cartographer’s Daughter, I send her my submission within a week of talking.
Mistake counter: 3
The Agent requests the full ms two weeks later. Too panicked to celebrate, I send excuses-laden email asking for two months’ grace to actually finish the darn thing polish the manuscript. The Agent probably sees straight through my grovelling, but through the kindness of her heart, she agrees.
Mistake counter: 4
Write. Eat. Sleep. Write. Eat. Sleep. Repeat until…holy hotcakes, Batman – first draft of first novel done! Feel feelings. Make friends/family read and suggest edits. Edit. Eat. Sleep. Edit. Eat. Sleep. Edit.
Mistake counter: still 4, though maybe I deserve an extra half point penalty for the sheer stupidity of what I was trying to do. 4.5
Send the polished draft. Attempt to re-engage with relationships, usual sanitation etc. Get an email back two weeks later (I sense a pattern) to arrange a meeting. Could this be The Meeting?

cat_image6The anticipation is killing me-ow!

…no, but it is hugely energising. The Agent and her junior agent (Agent A) talk through their thoughts, and suggest edits. I largely agree with their suggestions, and knuckle down to the second draft.
Mistake counter: 5.5
January 2014
Finish the second draft. My novel grows from 56,887 words, to 105,306, and back down to settle at 68,223 during this time. Send to The Agent and Agent A. Receive an email from The Agent to say Agent A is taking over the reins as she is really ‘championing’ my book. Feel even more feelings – someone is ‘championing’ my book!
Mistake counter: 5.5
Meet Agent A on Valentines’ Day, wearing red. It doesn’t quite have the desired effect, but I do leave with more edits. At the end of the meeting I woman up and ask if representation is on the cards. She says maybe if the next draft is good enough, and that I am welcome to approach other agents. I get the edits done within two weeks (67,349 words) and send the revised ms to Agent A, and three more agencies, including one with a Big Fish Client.
Mistake counter: 6 (another half point penalty)
Big Fish Client agency requests full, then a meeting. Meeting is politely postponed three times. Attend creative writing course weekend retreat. First speaker is an agent from an Established Agency. In the Q&A session, I ask what the protocol should be for applying to other agencies if you are already working with an agent on your ms. He looks shocked. He said if he liked an ms enough to work on it, he thought it was only fair to offer the author some security in the form of representation. Immediately after, I email Agent A and Big Fish Client agency, as well as submitting to six other agents from my Dream Agent list. For the first time in ages, I feel back in control.
Five days later, I have two requests for a full. One is from Hellie Ogden at Janklow and Nesbit.
Mistake counter: 7
Hellie reads my manuscript over the weekend and organises a meeting for the following Thursday. I also speak to another agent that week, but as soon as I meet Hellie, I know. We talk about possible edits, her upcoming marathon and my love-of, and allergy-to, cats. She offers me representation. It sinks in very slowly, until:

h29E3A3B4Me after A LOT of cocktails.

I just about contain the urge to say yes straight away, and take her advice to email everyone else it’s out on submission with, to say I have an offer. (I have an offer!)
I should take a moment to say that this was happening the week between Bologna and London Book Fairs, two of the largest events of the publishing calendar. So it would have been understandable if the agents hadn’t found the time to respond to, let alone read my email. But all but one of them did. And all of them requested fulls. What’s more, all but one of them made me an offer. Including Agent A, who I met again.
I felt completely overwhelmed. I talked to everyone I knew about the decision, and they all said the same. They already knew which agent I should go for: the person I had been gushing about since I met them. It was a real ‘trust your gut’ moment. So, I declined the other offers. Emailing Agent A was surprisingly sad, but I’m learning that it’s a strange quirk of the writing world that although it all feels very personal, it’s mainly business.
Two weeks after our first meeting, I signed with Hellie at Janklow and Nesbit. Here’s the evidence (bin not included):

1044649_294737304017451_3921772827540166293_nStrangely like signing marriage papers.

Mistake counter: -3 (surely signing with a Dream Agent is minus at least ten mistake points?)
Now the real work begins. I can’t wait!