How Writers Made It BIG - Angie Thomas
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
You've probably heard of Angie Thomas. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, still sits on the NYT's best seller list after 177 weeks!
I don't know if I shouted that loud enough, but guys, that's OVER three years - that's 1,239 days, to be exact.
So welcome, welcome to the story of how Angie Thomas made it BIG (and, can I just say, this woman is a Queen in the YA industry).
The truth is, Thomas--the award-winning and critically-acclaimed author--has been writing most her life, but, like many aspiring authors, she received a lot of rejection.
She even admitted, one of her projects before The Hate U Give received up to 200 rejections, but it was her perseverance that kept her going and it wasn't until she was in her last year of college when she birthed the idea for her debut novel.
"Everyone says that the best way to deal with the roller coaster of querying is to start another manuscript. So that’s what I did," said Thomas on her blog about how she got an agent. (Check it out!)
Then, in 2015, Thomas participated in a Q&A session on Twitter, asking if literary agents would be interested in seeing sensitive current issues--as her WIP was based on the Black Lives Matter movement.
It was Brooks Sherman of Janklow & Nesbit Associates (formerly with The Bent Agency) who essentially said, "Hell yeah! I'd be interested in something like this." (Okay, note that I'm being super dramatic here, and he didn't exactly say that, but he did say that he'd take a look at her project. Again, full story here.)
From there, Thomas received three offers, from three amazing agents, who truly loved her work.
"It's true - every agent isn’t for every writer. I could’ve chosen either one of them and been in great hands, but I went with the one whose agenting style better suits me. It didn't hurt that he was so passionate about my work and as I talked to him, I knew he was The One," Thomas said about choosing an agent on her old blog.
Fast forward, three months after signing, revisions, and submission, Thomas found herself in a lively 13 publishing-house auction! (Holy snap!) Thomas said it was one of the craziest weeks of her life, but she couldn't have done it without her superhero agent.
She ended up partnering with Balzer + Bray, and they wanted her so bad that they tried to preempt--not once, but twice!
In an article by Publisher's Weekly, Bray said, "I was struck from the very first pages . . . [Thomas] painted a picture of this girl, this family, and this community in such an authentic way that I rarely see in YA literature."
Since Baltzer + Bray was so interested, they offered a whopping six figures! Soon after, her work was optioned for film.
And listen, this is only the beginning of the story. Thomas has already accomplished so much since her debut. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books, the William C. Morris Award, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Coretta Scott King Award, to name a few (check out more here!).
From what I've read, Thomas mentioned one of her projects got over 200 rejections (link above). I'm not quite sure what project that was, but you might be able to find it in her archives. I will say, Thomas (when she got an offer on T.H.U.G), had also been working on a MG novel that received a few rejections. However, after revisions (and I believe she was chosen for two different teams for the Writer's Voice), she did end up getting an offer on her MG project. The kicker is this happened while she was also querying her YA project (T.H.U.G), and she ended up receiving offers for both.
Why The Hate U Give worked for Thomas:
First off, Angie Thomas really did pave the way for Black character-driven stories about the BLM movement. She even mentioned that she was nervous to query her project, with the issue being so sensitive. But, by doing so, she opened up the doors for conversations that needed to be had--in the real world and in publishing.
Also, Sherman and PW said it perfectly in their article, "She wanted to write about neighborhoods like hers and the kids in neighborhoods like hers. Before Trayvon Martin and after Oscar Grant, Thomas remembers friends of hers refusing one evening to drive across a bridge separating two neighborhoods in her hometown of Jackson, Miss., because they feared going into the ’hood. But that’s where she [Thomas} lived."
Where are they now:
Thomas released her second book, On The Come Up (which I'm currently reading--so good) in early 2019. Fox 2000 bought movie rights, and word on the street is that they've wrapped up filming not too long ago. Plus, Thomas herself had the opportunity to help produce this film, right alongside George Tillman Jr.
As well, HarperCollins acquired Thomas's third book, announced March 30th, 2020, Concrete Rose. This will be published January 12, 2021.
Concrete Rose is the prequel to The Hate U Give, and follow's Starr's father, Maverick Carter.
For more updates on Angie Thomas, she frequently tweets about her projects and what she's up to here: https://twitter.com/angiecthomas
Advice from Thomas:
On her website, Thomas says, "The key is to write, write, write, and be prepared to re-write, re-write, re-write. Also, read, read, read, especially books that are in the same category and genre as yours. Find good critique partners and beta readers – they can help you see things that you may not notice in your manuscript."
Still have more questions? Leave a comment below.
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