“How I Got My Agent” is a new recurring feature on the GLA blog. I find it fascinating to see the exact road people took that landed them with a rep. Seeing the things people did right vs. what they did wrong (highs and the lows) can help other scribes who are on the same journey. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings.
This installment of “How I Got
My Agent” is by Adrienne Kress, a
writer and actress. She writes books
for children and has a super-cool
website. Click here to learn more
about her book, Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate.
I started writing my novel as an unemployed actress working as a temp in London, UK. When you’re stuck in front of computers all day long with not that much work to do, writing a novel seems logical. As I kept writing, and realized I was really getting somewhere, I wondered if I should try to see how one gets published. I figured it couldn’t be any harder than acting, and, heck, I was already used to rejection.
I purchased The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, and, sure enough, the book said I needed an agent (as one does for acting). In the UK, they don’t want just the standard North American “query letter,” but also a synopsis and first three chapters. I thought this was awesome. When you contact an acting agent, all you send are your picture and résumé, not a sample of your talent. Writing something and sending it to a literary agent was a demonstration of what you could do. And no one was judging me on superficialities like appearance. Huzzah!
I perfected my query and submission package with the help of my parents (former high school English teachers) and sent it out to 14 agents by snail mail. I’d read that it took a while for agents to get back to you. Since I’m the kind of person who works best on a deadline and I’d come to a point in my novel where I just couldn’t finish (probably had around 20,000 words left to write), I figured knowing that I had 4 to 6 weeks to finish the manuscript would help me get it done.
Now this is how amazingly fast snail mail is in the UK. The next day, the phone rings, and it’s Julia Churchill from the Darley Anderson Agency asking for the entire manuscript. Well, what’s a girl to do? First, she panics. Next, she calls her parents in Canada. Then all three come up with a plan: Finish the book in the next three days so I can print off the whole thing at one of those printing places on Friday (it was closed weekends.) So I do. Then I place the manuscript on my fireplace mantle. And stare at it. Until Monday.
Then I walk the manuscript over to the agency. Since the agency was in my neighborhood, I thought it made sense. After all, hand-delivery would save me money, and I could guarantee that it got to its location. Little did I know that this was a no-no, that one simply does not go in person to an agency without being a client or being asked. I knock on the door. A confused girl answers it. I pass her the manuscript, all smiles, turn around and leave. It’s only when I get home I think maybe I should do some research on the agency. That’s when I learn that the Darley Anderson Agency is one of the top agencies in the UK. And I panic. Again. For two months.
And then I make yet another mistake: I decide to follow up. So I call. I didn’t know the general rule of thumb: Don’t call an agent if you aren’t a client or haven’t been asked to. But I call Julia, and she says she’ll get back to me later. She does. She loves the work, but wants me to cut it by 10,000 words and shorten the chapters. Sure. No problem. Gulp. I take two painful weeks and do it. Once more, I walk the manuscript over. This time in the pouring rain. That same girl opens the door. Soaking wet, I pass her my manuscript protected in several plastic bags.
SUCCESS & A PUB
Julia calls on the Friday. Awesome. She asks to meet me Saturday at a pub. We hang out for five hours. She tells me a few more edits she wants from me, but doesn’t offer representation, and we move on to just chatting. Finally I ask her, “If I do these edits and stuff, um … what happens next?”
“I’d like to represent you.”
“Oh, good.” All smiles. In a moment, my life has changed. So many thoughts running through my mind. Must call parents who can’t understand why they still haven’t heard from me since the meeting was scheduled for 6 and it’s now 11. Julia’s all smiles, too. She says, “I always wait to see how long it takes the author to ask that question.” Oh those agents and their wacky sense of humor.