This has been adapted from my newsletter post, “the most beautiful moment in life” (don’t @ me about the reference, pls). Don’t forget to sign up if you want more blog-style posts!
This is going to be a really surreal letter because I’m typing a lot of things and saying a lot of things that I thought I would never type or say.
As you know, I’ve wanted to see my name on the cover of a book forever.
Here’s my “how I got my literary agent” story, which is kinda like my “here’s my writing journey” story. 🙂 Be warned: this is long and 110% completely self-serving lol. Enjoy!
how do you know I’m not crying right now?
I want you to know that I almost started this with a very pretentious anecdote about how I got a writing award at age 7. I want you to know I heavily considered keeping that in because I wanted to mythologize this, turn it into a story that it’s really not.
I think, at the end of the day, this story is a lot less about sweeping dramatics and sagas, and more about a simple, humble Naija baby girl (that’s me), typing at a computer while she fantasizes about what she’s going to say when she meets Oprah and Issa Rae one day. She’s optimistic because she doesn’t know any other way to be anymore. And she writes fast because she can.
I have been writing forever (see. pretentious writing award at age 7 that I’m sure was just a glorified participation trophy), but I only started writing towards publication in 2012. I wrote my first full-length story, a contemporary adult story, that year while I was in-between jobs. After minimal editing (huge mistake), I was like, “I should get an agent now right??” My story was set in London, so I queried UK agents exclusively, because I was young and naive. (For my non-writing friends: a query is a very professional letter that you send to agents trying not to sound too desperate as you ask them to take you on as a client lol). I got so many rejections. So many lol!! What a humbling experience. I did get one full manuscript request, though, which was nice. It also turned into a rejection.
So manuscript 2 in 2013: a contemporary women’s fiction piece, also set in London (I was obsessed and also I lived there). Queried more UK agents. Actually spent time editing it. Applied for a spot at a full-day writing workshop hosted by Curtis Brown Creative and the London Book Fair. Got in. Spent all day being enlightened. Then got a million and one rejections off this manuscript woooow. Except I did get one full request that turned into an R&R (revise and resubmit) from an agent at Curtis Brown. Hype! They’re a huge agency and the agent’s edits actually did make my manuscript a lot better. In the end, it turned into a rejection.
Okay manuscript 3 in 2015: a contemporary adult/new adult/young adult piece (still unsure of the genre ngl) that was based off these two seconds in a Kpop music video haahahaha. I wrote it and edited it myself, because I now realized editing was important!! I entered the first 5 chapters to be read at a live critique event at The Festival of Literary Diversity in 2016. Terrifying! Never shared my work with anyone outside my family before. My mouth was dry as hell the whole time, I was so nervous. Critique was good though. Started querying, but this time just US and Canadian agents. Also did several Twitter pitch contests, such as DVpit. Also applied to Author Mentor Match and Pitch Wars. Didn’t get into either. Maybe two full requests. All rejections.
SO damn wow okay manuscript 4 in 2016: I wanted to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, where you’re challenged to write a novel in 30 days) because I never had before. It happens every November, and I never had an idea ready to go in time. It’s like October 30 and I’m like, “I wanna do this in two days.” So I sketch out a vague idea about the one subject I can easily write 70k words on in a limited amount of time: being a poor university student. I wrote an entire story about a girl who robs a store to pay for tuition. I wrote it very fast, and then edited it, then entered it into a contest to win critiques, then edited some more, then participated in DVpit at the same time while I was querying. I got so many requests and positive feedback off of this story that I wrote very quickly and very sloppily. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love it, though! I do. It just puzzled me lol. Anyway, five full requests, all rejections aaaah murder me.
Manuscript 5 ok ok ok in 2017: it’s this one, it has to be. I was taking my sweet ass time writing this contemporary young adult novel when I suddenly decided I wanted to enter Author Mentor Match again in the fall. I finished writing and editing by the deadline, submitted, and waited. Ya girl got in. Got paired with an amazing mentor (hi Farrah!). Actually spent more than two weeks editing and revising. Fell deeply in love with my story and its people. Did DVpit again, yay requests, also queried, yay requests. I only have stats for this round because I’ve never kept real tabs on this stuff before: I queried 70 agents and got 8 full manuscript requests. Of those 8, one turned into an offer. (Which spawned another offer and another and another aaah!!)
After much deliberation and crying and stress-tea-drinking and stress-eating (I ate one (1) vegetable, can you believe??), I’m so so SO happy to say I’m represented by Claire Friedman of Inkwell Management!
Her enthusiasm for my YA contemporary COMES AND GOES and commitment to diversity is inspiring and only matched by my own enthusiasm and semi-obsession with my work (not weird, it’s not weird). She was my first offer, which I am really grateful for. It was also my first ever agent call, so I was s w e a t i n g like peak level nervous lmao. But she was really cool through the entire thing and walked me through potential edits and really made me feel at ease. I’m beyond excited to dive back into revisions and reshape the story before taking the next step in my book publishing journey!!
As far as future dreams go, I am also really excited to one day meet Oprah and Issa Rae.
You’re already on my website (which is fresh, like, lowkey didn’t exist a week ago lol) so hi. If you’re asking why my author name is barely pronounceable to half the population, first of all, it’s my Nigerian name, so have a seat, and secondly, privacy reasons, also thirdly, my middle name is the coolest thing I own. 🙂
Okay I’m done it’s done. Believe in yourself and do the work, guys, that’s it that’s all!