3 S.R. Johannes: A fresh start with a new agent!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A fresh start with a new agent!

I have a new agent!

Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary Agency!

This is my dream agency and has been on my radar for years!! Many of my critique partners are with ABLA  so I've heard such wonderful things.

I am so happy to be at another crossroads in my publishing career.

As many of you know, I have had many ups and downs in publishing over the last several years.

Got a great agent. Didn't sell my first book - boo! hiss! (though it got sooo close!)

Wrote another book. Didn't sell that either. boo! hiss! (again close, but no cigar. As my dad says, 2nd place is just the first loser :)

In the spring of 2011, my agent and I parted ways. I was back to square one.

Even though I knew the separation was the right decision, it sucked big time. I liked my agent. She worked hard and did everything right. I'd worked so hard too. At the time, I thought my career was over and didn't write for 6 months.

In the fall of 2011, I finally decided to self publish my books - it was not a strategic decision, it was simply a way for me to move on in my writing. Get my mojo back. I lost some friends over this decision, yet gained many new ones who supported me along the way (esp the Indelibles!). I had nothing to lose. 

I had no idea my books would sell well. If at all. I just tried to put out the best book I could and invested in the product.

2012 became a very interesting year. It was hard, yet I had a blast. Full of tears, frustration, cheers, and some big wins.

Untraceable did great in sales, but on the other side, my beloved middle grade, On the Bright Side, sadly didn't do as well. Even with a great Publisher's Weekly Review! "Johannes kicks off the Starling series with this fresh novel about an angel's peripatetic path to earning her wings...A humorous addition to the angel story genre. "- Publisher's Weekly

Recently, I took OTBS off the market to shelf it for later- a hard personal decision but a smart business decision. And in the end as much as we don't want it to be - publishing is a business. (IE: Middle grade ebooks  just don't sell well. For now.) 

Since self publishing, in 18 months, I have sold approx. over 30,000 copies of my series. I've won several national awards and gained a great Kirkus Review. I've learned a lot about the business and made some wonderful indie friends. I've gained confidence and learned to swallow my pride along the way.

But this has been a very hard road. Self publishing is tough! It's a lot of work, some guessing, and about overcoming many hurdles. I have loved the challenge and plan to continue in some fashion b/c I enjoy it. But sometimes I just want to write again. Leave the business aside for a little.

Not to mention, I missed having an agent. Since then, I have still wanted that one person on my side. The one who believed in me and my writing. My career as a writer not just my books. Self publishing can be lonely and invalidating.

Yet, as I said awhile ago in a post, I want to experience both sides of publishing. This was before Hugh Howey's crazy deal and during Amanda Hocking's traditional success. No matter what some people believe, I personally think traditional publishing offers authors some things that are hard to find in self publishing. And vice versa. So I feel both sides have pros and cons. Both sides are hard. Both sides are sometimes a total crap shoot. Luck and timing is 20% of the battle.

Last year, while the Untraceable series was selling, I started writing a brand new secret series that only a few critique partners knew about. The project I've been really excited about.

Last Nov, I attended the Atlanta Writers Club conference in Atlanta as well as another conference to work the manuscript. If agents are ever in Atlanta or at a conference I'm attending, if I can, I always try to pitch or have something critiqued.  The knowledge I gain in those critiques and pitches is invaluable.

Lara Perkins happened to be in Atlanta along with other great agents. I almost didn't go but some spaces opened up at the last minute. I signed up for a pitch and critique with two different agents.

To be honest, I wasn't even thinking about getting an agent at the time or a few reasons. 
1) I'd given up on that dream.
2) I was planning to self publishing my new book. 
3) Lara wasn't even taking on her own clients at the time. She was working as Laura Rennert's asst as well as the digital manager for ABLA. The other agent, Anita Mum, was the foreign rights agent at Kristin Nelson's agencies. So this conference was just about gaining some feedback.
4) It was ABLA and Kristin nelson agency - those are too good to be true.

But I did know those 2 agencies were on the forefront of publishing and digital publishing so I figured of all the agents, they would understand where I was coming from. And many agents don't take too positively to self publishing.

At the conference, I ended up winning Best Pitch from Lara and Best Manuscript from Anita in the AWC awards (which I almost didn't even attend!!)  They both offered to see the book when it was done. I really hit it off with both of them so I figured "why not" and continued writing.

In late Jan, as I was working to finish the book, an agent I met at another conference requested a partial of my new series. Out of courtesy, I asked Lara, Anita and a couple others I had met if they wanted to read the partial too. They all did.

What I didn't know is that Lara had been recently promoted to an agent and was actively building her client list.

Within days, I had a couple offers for exclusive revisions (on a partial!). But as you may remember, I went through 3 noncontractual revisions with my tween book during the Acquisitions process (only to not sell the book) so at first, I was not too keen on this. But i decide to listen to them anyway.

I went ahead and set up a meeting with the agents and listened to their visions/ideas. I have found you just never know what will work for you in this industry unless you meet people and listen. Still unsure of traditional pubbing. 

After talking with Lara, I realized not only did we click but we had the same vision of the book. Our meeting went well over the scheduled time and by the time I got off, I wanted her to rep me so bad. My husband kept telling me not to get my hopes up - after all they had been dashed so many times and I was doing fine on my own.

Lara and I set up a couple phone meetings in Feb and brainstormed the synopsis and book.  She gave me her editorial notes and talked me through what worked and what didn't.  We really hit it off.

A few months later (after several email exchanges and a couple calls), I sent Lara the full manuscript and she asked for a 2 week exclusive read. I was hoping she would take me on but told myself she prob. wouldn't (b/c I have not had the best luck with agents.). 

I decided that it was either Lara or self publishing. This was my crossroads and this time, there was no downside for me. It was a matter of which path I was moving ahead on. I wasn't interested in querying the world and taking whoever would take me. I didn't want anyone else after working with her on the project. Of course, I didn't tell HER that :) 

There were so many other small serendipitous things that connected us like : she had been to place where my book was set, she knew the history behind my character's name (which no one does), and she's a thriller geek like me (knows them all!), and she is really interested in the news on computers/hacking (my book is a hacker series).

Before the 2 weeks was up, an email popped in my inbox. She said she loved the manuscript, was 1/2 way in, and wanted to talk. I - of course - was still skeptical, afraid she was going to reject me over the phone. Which has happened to me in the past - believe it or not!

Last Monday, we spoke on the phone for 1.5 hours and she offered representation. I immediately said yes. What I love is that Lara was very supportive of my self publishing record and she knows all about digital publishing. 

So I am now with my dream agency. Almost 2 years to the exact date I parted with my first agent.

Moral of the story? 

Keep your chin up and know things can always change at the drop of a hat. 
Keep writing and keep trying. 
And, even when things seem over, maybe it's just a new beginning.

Good luck! :)


Bethany C Morrow said...

I love it, from start to finish. This post was so engaging, I sort of wish it was longer, haha!

Heidi Willis said...

Congrats on the new direction, and the continued success!

Rosalyn said...

Congratulations! This is definitely well-deserved. Thanks, too, for being so honest about your journey. I think it's encouraging for those of us who are still aspiring writers to see that it isn't always easy, rejection doesn't always mean you suck, and that perseverance matters.

Cindy said...

Congratulations! Persistence pays off! Good luck on the continuing journey.

Anna Staniszewski said...

I'm so glad that you found an agent you really click with! Yay! And I have to tell you how much I've appreciated your honesty throughout your whole journey. I think you're absolutely right that there are pros and cons to any type of publishing, and you just have to do what's best for you. Congrats again!

Greg Pincus said...

Congrats, Shelli! And thanks, too, for sharing the story and your thinking here.

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

I am SO HAPPY for you Shelli!!!! You're a talented writer and I know your work will find readers - no matter your path. :) e

Unknown said...


E. Arroyo said...


Anonymous said...

Congrats Shelli. You have thought about your decisions so much, I know this is right for you. Such a talented writer with so many good ideas! I'm glad you'll be able to put your marketing hat aside for a while and focus on those great books.

Cheers to you! Kami

Jessie Oliveros said...

Congrats, Shelli. You really have seen both sides of the coin, and you will be an invaluable resource to others who are deciding to go indie or traditional.

Hardygirl said...


Irene Latham said...

I can't think of another writer who has worked harder than you, Shelli. Congratulations!!

Kimbra Kasch said...

Wonderful story! Thanks for sharing your inspirational tale. . . LOVE IT!

Congrats :D

Michael Di Gesu said...

Congrats on your new agent. And the Andrea Brown agency IS the best, especially for m/g and y/a...

All the best.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Congrats, I just have a good feeling in my bones about Laura. Bet there won't be any hissing in your future posts on this one. Your post has described her so well. her dedication oozes off the screen.

J.L. Murphey said...


Natalie Aguirre said...

Congrats Shelli! So excited for you. So glad you didn't give up on getting an agent. Hope you have a publishing contract to announce soon.

Martina Boone said...

Congrats, Shelli. And thank you for writing this. Your journey has been inspirational all along, and this is just more proof that success comes in many unexpected ways! Your new agent is lucky to have you.

Laura Pauling said...

Congrats, Shelli! So happy for you.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Thrilled for you, Shelli!! She sounds totally amazing. Can't wait to see you shine...well, even more than you already do.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

Thanks everyone!!! :)

Heather Sunseri said...

So exciting, Shelli!! Congratulations! I love how honest you are about your journey. The ups. The downs. I can't wait for this new series. I enjoyed Untraceable a ton!

Jemi Fraser said...

I totally got teary eyed reading this! So, so, so happy for you!! :)

Elana Johnson said...

Congrats, Shelli!

Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of you! :) Never give up.


CJ Omololu said...

I KNEW it! Just saw this - so happy for you!

Pamela DuMond, D.C. said...

Congrats! I know the feeling of wanting to be a hybrid author. I'm glad you've got a great agent that you like and can once again pursue that dream. Good luck!