How I Got My Agent: Julie Shepard, Author of Rosie Girl

Julie is giving away one signed, hardcover copy of ROSIE GIRL. Interested in winning? Comment on this blog post or respond to one of our tweets (@WritersDigest) mentioning this article and we’ll send you it! Contest ends July 21.

I was climbing Haleakala in Maui, when a bunch of us got stuck in one of the narrow passageways and … just kidding.

I wish this were how I got my agent—in some rare, exotic way that will make for a great icebreaker at stuffy dinner parties. I wish we had bonded during a harrowing event, during which I sold her on an unread manuscript, and she signed me on the spot.

Instead, I got my agent the old-fashioned way, by much less romantic means, far from any volcanoes on the Pacific Coast. I sent her a query letter, and an assistant replied on her behalf.

This guest post is by Julie Shepard. Shepard has an English degree from the University of Florida and a teaching degree in Middle Grades English.

She lives by the beautiful beaches of South Florida. ROSIE GIRL is her debut novel.

Now, that’s actually the best part of the story. The assistant. Because if writers (especially unpublished ones) are anything, we’re paranoid—filled with fear that our hard-earned work will be stolen from pages still soggy from blood, sweat, and tears. So the reply email was not from the agent, but from someone else whose name I didn’t recognize. I Googled her hoping to find “I am the assistant to Literary Agent X” somewhere in a corner of the Internet. But no.

All I found was tangential information: she was a writer, a reader, a blogger, someone like that. This was good. At least she was a legitimate part of the writing community. But without finding a direct link to the agent, I was still leery. I hesitated, waiting a little over an hour to respond (which is an hour longer than I would have normally waited to send back requested material to an agent). And honestly, I was nervous for days that I had just sent my entire manuscript—my baby!—to a complete stranger who was going to call my book her own and make a zillion dollars off it.

If Ilana Masad—assistant literary agent extraordinaire—is reading this, she’s laughing and calling me a dope. But back then, until I heard from her boss, Leigh Feldman, I was a wreck. Two weeks later, I did. The three of us had a conference call, during which I was offered representation. That was April 2015.

As I write this, it’s May 2017. My debut young adult novel, Rosie Girl, comes out with Penguin/G.P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers in July. This wouldn’t have been possible had I not trusted the validity of an assistant’s request and the power she had to push my manuscript through the gate.

I’ve heard grumblings from some writers, claiming if they’re not contacted directly by an agent, their chances of ending up on the agent’s desk are slimmer. I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Literary assistants are the true gatekeepers. If anything, hearing from the assistant increases your chances of winning over their boss, who now has the endorsement of someone’s opinion they value.

So next time you get a request from an assistant, consider it a gift. I’m really glad I opened mine!

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 2.57.50 PM

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

Freese-HeadshotIf you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at

You might also like:

9 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Julie Shepard, Author of Rosie Girl

  1. karaseg

    Thanks for the honesty in this article. Refreshing to hear that a published author went through some of the same thought processes as we aspiring authors do.
    Would also love to win your book. Good luck with sales!


    Thanks for this. I recently strongly disagreed elsewhere with a writer who insisted assistants were the kiss of death to submissions! Best of luck with ‘ROSIE GIRL’.

  3. CassieBrill

    This article is great. I haven’t started submitting to agents yet, but all the tips I can muster will help when the time comes. It’s good to know not to get discouraged if I get a reply from an agent’s assistant, because it’s actually a plus.

    I’d love to get a copy of the book “Rosie Girl.” It sounds fascinating…a story about a troubled teen who discovers disturbing family secrets while searching for her birth mother. Please enter me in the contest.

  4. hernandeznovels

    I’d be really interested in reading Julie’s query letter. It looks like her style of writing can be humorous, but her YA debut novels seems mysterious and dark. I wonder how she approached her query letter. Thanks!

  5. R. J. Marcott

    Good article. I recently self-published my memoirs (for all the reasons ie. Who the heck is he, and why should I care about his career?) Now that my feet are wet, and encouraged to write more, I’m digging into my first novel. When I reach the point, Encouraged by this piece, I will definitely (or should that be definitely will) submit to an agent. Thanks for the boost of courage. Count me in to win your book

  6. drosevold

    I loved this article! It was so encouraging, upbeat, and laced with humor! Please enter me into the contest for the book “Rosie Girl”. I already know I would like the author’s style of writing!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.