“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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk specifics.
My Agent” is by writer Anne Riley
of Birmingham (@AnneRiley). On her blog,
REJECTIONS WERE ONLY THE BEGINNING
After writing three or four books that got stuffed in a drawer, I finally put together something that I thought an agent might like—a young adult novel. I began the querying process sooner than I should have. I’d barely finished the book when I started researching how to get an agent, how to write a query letter, and what an agent actually does. Everything I read told me that this would be a hideously long process, so I started sending out queries before I had completely finished editing the manuscript. I figured it would take months, or possibly even years, before anyone decided to take a chance on me—if they ever did.
After learning how to write a query letter from a very useful book titled Writer’s Market and researching agents online, I compiled a list of agents that I felt I might have a shot with. I started with the easiest submissions first—the ones who asked for only a query letter, and the ones who accepted e-mail submissions. I was meticulous about following their instructions, having learned from Writer’s Market and a variety of other resources that if I gave them something they didn’t ask for, I would be presenting myself as incapable of following simple directions. This would be an understandable turnoff to any agent, and the chances of them even bothering to take a look at my work would be slim at best.
After I sent out roughly twenty queries, I waited. And while I waited, I continued to edit my manuscript. And then the rejections started to arrive. No requests for partials; no invites to send more pages. Nothing. I was tempted to lose heart, but I’d read so much about the querying process that I knew to expect rejection. I figured that if J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Stephenie Meyer could deal with the rejections they’d gotten before hitting it big, then so could I. So I continued to wait, and I continued to receive rejection slips in the mail—if the agent bothered to respond to me at all.
SEND THE WHOLE THING?
Then, one day in mid-January—only a matter of weeks after I had sent out my first query—I opened my e-mail to discover that Alanna Ramirez, an agent with Trident Media Group, wanted to read my manuscript. Not the first chapter, not the first fifty pages; the whole thing. I spent the next forty-eight hours frantically finishing the edits I had been working on (this is why I say that I queried too early). In those 48 hours of controlled panic/excitement, I was actually finishing the story (yes, the first draft of the ending is what my agent saw, and I cringe about that every day) and I was also tweaking some rather sticky plot points that I had added in a hurry. I sent it to her with high hopes and taut nerves.
After a few days, I received another e-mail from Alanna, complimenting my work and asking if we could speak on the phone later that day. I was so thrilled, stunned, nervous, etc., that when she called me that afternoon, I could barely bring myself to answer. Of course I was hoping she would offer me representation, but I knew that she still might not; maybe she was just calling to encourage me and tell me what I could do better with the book.
Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed—she did offer to represent me, on the condition that I would beef up the story (it was too short at the time). We’ve been working together ever since, improving my novel and submitting to editors.