How I Got My Agent & Why You Should Never Give Up The Dream

It’s been over a year since I last posted and what a year it’s been. There have been moments of despair, but more importantly there have been triumphs and those have made all the other stuff seem insignificant.

So, I want to share the journey that brought me here, mainly because I found some much-needed encouragement in reading about the journeys of others and I hope that someone might find that same kind of hope from reading about mine.

I’ve been at this writing thing for a few years now and started out by self-publishing a YA Fantasy novel in 2014. It was a great learning experience, but I quickly realized that the time and resources required to have significant sales were outside my scope. I tried to continue with Book 2 of the series, but the fire had gone out and eventually I decided that I would shelve that project.

The seed of an idea for a new novel had begun to grow at around the same time and I began to play with it, but the more I read about traditional publishing, the more I convinced myself that it would never happen for me.

But then one fine day in April I saw a tweet about DVpit, a great Twitter pitching event created for marginalized authors by the amazing  Beth Phelan of The Bent Agency . It was a week away and it lit a fire under me. I came up with several pitches for the event and began to write furiously.

DVpit came and went and it was the most thrilling and reaffirming experience I ever had. I got 30 agent requests and I was over the moon with joy. Finally I was going to find a agent and then I would get published and everything would be perfect from there on out.

I rode on this high for quite a few weeks, even after the first few rejections came rolling in. By June the rest of the rejections had come in and I ended up with 2 R&R’s, which I guess was better than none. But there was just one problem: I had no idea how to revise the manuscript. I read dozens of articles on revising, anything I could get hold of, but ultimately I was stuck. I entered another couple of Twitter pitch contests, eternal optimist that I am, but none of those panned out either. I was in the worst kind of slump. I had a manuscript which had the potential of getting me an agent, but it wasn’t the best version of itself yet and I was at a loss about how to get it there.

I’d been tinkering around with it for about a month or so, with not much sense of direction, when I found out about Pitch Wars. Read about this fantastic, potentially life-changing event, created by the wonderful Brenda Drake here. My first reaction was to ignore it, not get my hopes high, because by this point I didn’t think I could handle any more rejection. I decided to take a short social media hiatus, just to try and get myself back to a place where I wouldn’t feel bitter and dejected every time I saw book related news. It got so bad that I even avoided the book aisle in my local grocery store. Things were bleak, but there was still a part of me that wasn’t ready to give up.

About a week before the Pitch Wars deadline, I cautiously decided to venture onto Twitter again. I was scrolling through the feed when I saw a tweet by Pitch Wars mentor Natasha Neagle offering a query critique to one lucky follower. On an impulse I followed her and a few minutes later she tweeted that I had won the query critique. That was the moment when I first felt a spark of hope, that maybe there was light at the end of the tunnel.

I sent my query to her and then I waited. I was sure she would say that it was a good start, but there were too many things wrong with it. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long and when I heard back, I was overjoyed to hear that she loved my query and was excited to read more.

But the demons of self-doubt had grown strong over the last few months and until the very last day, I was still not completely sure that I wanted to put myself out there again. But I did. And it was the best decision of my writing career so far. I waited an agonizing couple of weeks to find out whether or not I’d made it. But then I did. And Natasha was going to be my mentor. At last I could stop holding my breath and relax. At least until all the hard work began. But I was more than ready for it. I was prepared to give this manuscript all I had and with the help of my amazing mentor, we had it polished just in time for the agent round.

The agent round was so much more than I’d expected. I had several offers and in the end I chose to go with Hillary Jacobson of ICM Partners, a decision I am so thankful for every day.

The reason for my rambling post is not to whine about how difficult my journey so far has been, because let’s face it, there are people who have faced far more obstacles than I have. It’s so easy to despair and get caught up in everyone else’s success and even be a little envious and wonder when it will happen for us. And it’s perfectly okay to allow ourselves a small pity party, because we’ve worked hard at this and it’s not fair that it’s taking so long. But then we have to shake it off and get back on it. And doing that can be really hard. Because as much as anyone will tell you that rejections aren’t meant to be personal, they really are. And they hurt. A lot. But if we can turn that hurt into drive then we haven’t lost.

So to anyone who is in that place where I was just a few months ago, I urge you: please don’t give up. Because if you do the world may miss out on something truly wonderful. And that would be the real loss.





Author: sabina khan

Sabina Khan is the author of THE LOVE & LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI (Spring 2019/Scholastic) . She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband, two daughters and the world's best puppy.

4 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent & Why You Should Never Give Up The Dream”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this with us! My goal is to publish my books one day, and I definitely don’t want to give up on my dreams again. Thank you for your encouraging words and story.


  2. Sabina:
    I’m trying to be positive and write the book I’ve always wanted to write. Marketable or not comes later. Your story is an inspiration to anyone from the Indian subcontinent trying to break it in this niche. I’m struggling to find a mentor. Any advice?


    1. Nazia, there are several resources for mentorship: Pitch Wars & Writing In The Margins are two that I’m familiar with, but I know there are many more. I do hope that you will continue with your writing and wish you all the best!


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