Editors Blog

How I Got My Agent: Anita Clenney

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. To see the previous installments of this column, click here. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

Anita is excited to give away 2 free copies of her novel to random commenters. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Lizzie & Leah won.)

 

    


Anita Clenney grew up an avid reader, devouring
Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books before moving on
to mysteries and romance. Now she spends her days
writing mysteries and paranormal romantic suspense
about Secret Warriors, Ancient Evil and Destined Love.
Her latest book is Awaken the Highland Warrior, a
book the Romantic Times Book Reviews called “A
romantic adventure that’s hard to resist.” Anita
lives outside Washington DC, with her husband
and two kids. See her website here.

 

FACE TO FACE WITH AN AGENT

Like many writers, I met my agent at a conference. It was my first conference. I had flown from Virginia to attend the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America with a friend of mine, since I didn’t know any other writers and didn’t want to go to my first conference alone. I always thought New Englanders were supposed to be a little stiff. Not so. They were so warm and welcoming that I wanted to move there. I wanted to belong with this group. I was amazed at the camaraderie of writers, how supportive they were, and the workshops were great. I had a wonderful time.

So I was standing in line to pay for the books I had bought at the booksigning, and a conversation started about promotion and how much the publisher is willing to do for their authors. A voice pops up behind us and joins the discussion. We turn to face the newcomer, and we notice the name badge. Ooh, an agent. Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency. My friend and I tried to act cool and nonchalant, but we were secretly thrilled. We hadn’t chased the agent down, hadn’t made up excuses to meet her or pinned her in a corner of the restroom so she could hear our pitches, nothing like that. She just started talking to us, and she gave great advice.

“YOU’RE DOING IT ALL WRONG”

I found out I had been doing some things wrong. One thing I knew was wrong, but I up until then I had been willing to take my chances. I had been submitting to editors before the story was polished, thinking I could would have time to fix it before they wanted to see more. Hmmm, maybe that explains those early rejection letters. Christine convinced me that as a new writer I couldn’t afford to continue that way. She requested my full manuscript, right there, standing in line, and when I got home, guess what? It needed polishing. A lot of polishing. Not only that, it needed revisions.

I worked on it for ten months, and then I e-mailed her. Here’s the bad part … and it confirmed her advice. She was no longer accepting submissions. Ack! What was I to do? I emailed her again, trying not to let my desperation show, and explained that we had met in line at the booksigning and how much her advice helped me. She e-mailed back that she remembered me and would make an exception this time. A few days later she offered to represent me.

I ALMOST MISSED THE BOAT…

When I think of how close I came to missing the boat, it’s frightening, because I love my agent and she loves my stories. We’re a great fit. She’s encouraging, supportive, and she’ll get that whip out and crack it if she needs to keep me in line. I learned something valuable that day, and it goes back to what we’ve all heard as kids. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Especially as a writer, whether it’s a synopsis, a partial, a full manuscript, or even if you’re a seasoned author and you can sell on a blurb. Whatever you put out, make it the best it can be.

Awaken the Highland Warrior was the book I submitted to Christine. The story is about a historian who finds a 19th century Scottish warrior buried in the crypt behind her house, but the warrior isn’t dead. I’m getting wonderful reviews, and I just sold out at my first booksigning, which was with Nora Roberts, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kristan Higgins and some other fabulous authors. My agent just beams like a proud mother, making me so grateful that my first conference was several states away with a writer’s group I didn’t even belong to. Maybe it was fate.

Anita is excited to give away 2 free copies of her novel to random commenters. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Lizzie & Leah won.)

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34 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Anita Clenney

  1. Jessica

    Thanks for sharing what you learned. It’s so easy to wave aside some advice and say, that won’t happen to me, or I’ll figure it out when I get to that point, but your story shows how important it is to give due attention to the advice others share with us, even when ut’s hard or inconvenient, or when we’d just prefer to be lazy. Thanks for the reminder to keep working hard and craft our manuscripts into the treasures they can be before we begin submitting.

  2. Alicia

    It sounds like you totally lucked out with your agent. That’s great! I stopped querying agents recently to better my MS. I hope it pays off.

  3. Stephanie Scott

    I think it’s a testament to your writing and probably your personality that you scored an agent the way you did. Even if you started out the wrong way, clearly you were memorable to the agent at the conference for her to make the exception. Good manners and friendliness can go a long way. Thank you for sharing the story!

  4. Anne A

    Thanks for the story! Although one thing I’ve found about paying attention to the writing community, is that fear of "missing the boat". Because I *know* my novel isn’t ready to go out yet, yet I read things online and go places and find an agent I love is looking for just what I have… or, don’t quite have yet…

    I’m trying to just console myself that when it is ready, there will be other boats in port.

  5. Laura Russell

    Anita,
    Your story is heartwarming. Thanks for sharing these great details. And your book’s plot sounds delightful.
    best,
    Laura R laurarussellromance nospam gmail dot com

  6. Tom Bourguillon

    Hi Anita,

    Great post, thanks for sharing. Your story literally – literally– got me out of bed to work on my query letter; my cell phone notifies me of Chuck’s updates. (Hi Chuck.) I’m motivated, as I want your same success on finding an agent that is willing to work with me to make my book a success.

    Thank you and God bless.

    Tom Bourguillon

  7. Alexis Walker

    Anita,

    I was reading a blurb about your book on another site and I have to say it sounds wonderful. I really liked your story about getting an agent as well. I think it is great that you took advantage of an opportunity. I think all of us need to remember to do that :-)

  8. Leah St. James

    Great advice, Anita. I’m so glad you had your second chance, and I can’t wait to read your book.

    Your story reminded me that I need to watch what I say in public! Not only influential industry people could overhear, but potential new readers!
    Leah

  9. Allyson Johns

    Thanks so much for this story, Anita! It just goes to show that you never know who is listening in, or who you might meet accidentally. What great fortune for you! If it could only happen to me, too…

  10. anita clenney

    Diana, I really had a great time at that conference. I’m so glad I went. Smaller conferences make it a lot easier to connect. You can get up close and personal with editors and agents without stalking them. Funny story…my critique partner and I were at Nora Roberts Inn the night before my first booksigning at her husband’s bookstore. That next morning we were alone in the dining room having breakfast when a woman comes in and starts chatting with us. It wasn’t until after we got to the retreat later that evening that we realized we’d had a one on one audience with Shauna Summers of Bantam Dell. Geez. Talk about a wasted opportunity.

  11. anita clenney

    Hi Debra. great to see you here. What I find interesting is that after you’re published, you can get by with far less. Sometimes you can sell on a partial or even a blurb. Once you or your agent can prove that you can write well, it doesn’t take as much to sell.

  12. anita clenney

    Michelle, meeting my agent really made a difference in how I viewed things. Now I realize that agents and editors are just as busy as writers, if not more, and they don’t have time to bother with manuscripts that aren’t in great shape.

  13. anita clenney

    Lizzie, when I started writing I knew nothing other than I wanted to write. I was amazed, and intimidated, by the amount of material out there to help new writers. Establisher writers were just awesome in offering tips. It really makes a difference. Can’t wait for the interview with you, and I hope you love the book!

  14. anita clenney

    Lorena, it’s tough to put your work out there for critism, but once you feels it’s the best it can be, and have others look it over and agree, then send it on. A rejection never killed anyone, and you can learn from rejection. I was pretty lucky. I got published fairly quickly. YOu never know. Make it shine, then just do it!

  15. Kathy Altman

    Wow, Anita, it seems that your book and your relationship with your agent were just meant to be! :-) Thank you for sharing your story, and congratulations to you for having the chutzpah to email Christine back so that you could submit your full after all! I look forward to reading your story!

  16. Debra Key Newhouse

    Anita, I absolutely LOVE your story!! And it’s a good lesson because I was thinking that way also. I promise to have mine totally in order and learn from your experience!

    And since I was lucky enough to win your WONDERFUL novel elsewhere, I’ll remove myself from the contest and let some other lucky souls share the joy.

  17. Anne Gallagher

    What an incredible story. And a great lesson to learn…make sure the manuscript is polished. I’ll take that to heart. Much continued success to you.

  18. Rosalie Lario

    When I think back to the first manuscript I queried, I cringe. I’m glad I did it because it forced me to re-evaluate my methods, but I still secretly fear that someone will remember that craptastic query.

  19. Tracy Brogan

    Amazing how little twists and turns that seem small at the time can turn into life changing events. Call it fate or divine intervention, (or just chatty women being chatty!) things have a way of working out. So glad you found the just right agent. (ps – I’m glad I found her, too!)
    Tracy

  20. Michelle Bourassa

    Thanks for the article, it was interesting and good tips. How I might feel as an agent/editor etc., getting so many submissions, that if the writer doesn’t make the effort to send their polished work, it’s not worth my effort to look at it. And it also shows, that you have to jump on whatever opportunity kismet sends your way, so you have to be ready when it does as well. Glad you didn’t "miss the boat". Am looking forward to reading your book.
    mmbourassa(at)hotmail(dot)com

  21. Lizzie Walker

    Anita,wonderful story and very good tips. Thank you for speaking with me on Facebook today as well. I love the GLA blog so I was definitely going to come here and read your story.

    I already have your book and I can’t wait to read it. It’s wonderful that unpublished authors like myself have access to writers that are willing to share their experiences.

  22. Lorena Rivera

    I loved this! It’s so true that the manuscript needs to be completely polished. I’ve been working on mine for a year now and even though is finished, I’m making sure it will shine at the end. And yet I’m scared to be rejected when I think is the best work I can submit. Writers say they’ve been rejected more than a 100 times! I haven’t queried yet but I’m preparing myself for it. And like you said if it happens thorough whatever circumstance rejected or not. It will be fate. :)

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