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How I Got My Agent: Billy Coffey

Categories: Breaking In (Writer's Digest), Christian Agents, Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, How I Got My Agent Columns, Platform.
“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.
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.


 

 


      

This installment of “How I Got
My Agent” is by Billy Coffey,
who writes Christian nonfiction and fiction.
His novel, Snow Day, was released
in Oct. 2010 from FaithWords.
Check out
his blog here. His blog is titled
“What I Learned Today.”

TARGETING WORDSERVE

I’ve heard that signing with a literary agent is a more difficult task than signing with a publisher. I’d have to agree with that now. Then, however, things were different. That was when I had fallen for the classic illusion of a novice writer—writing a book is the hard part. Finding an agent to represent it?  Simple.

That fantasy was pushed aside once reality set in. Writing a book, I found, was the easy part. Finding an agent to represent it was nearly impossible. NearlyA year ago, I put the period after the final sentence of my manuscript, Snow Day, and submitted a query to Rachelle Gardner at WordServe Literary. I was a reader of her blog and she seemed like a perfect match for what I had written. In the meantime, I used the wait to research between 30 and 40 more agents who would possibly be interested in representing my book. That turned out to be a wise decision. Having those other potential suitors helped take the sting out of the rejection e-mail WordServe sent two weeks later.

REJECTIONLAND, THEN THE REFERRAL

I spent the next six months methodically trudging through that list of agents, querying and proposal-ing and, most of all, waiting. Quite a few asked for partials. Some wanted the entire manuscript. But all eventually passed.There really is such a thing as a good rejection, which is the equivalent of the most popular girl in school turning you down but still calling you cute. Quite a few of those no-thank-yous resembled that. But there was much less tickle than torture.

I had two things going against me. One was an economy that was persuading publishers to be very hesitant on taking a chance with an unpublished writer. The other was the fact that I didn’t have much of a platform. Many of those kind rejections offered the same piece of advice—do something. Writers can’t simply write anymore. Start a blog. Sign up for Facebook and Twitter. Put your name out there, build an audience, and submit again.  So I put my manuscript in a desk drawer and forgot about finding an agent, concentrating instead on starting a blog and building an audience.

Eight months later I received an e-mail from a new reader who wanted to know if I had a book in the works and, if so, if I had an agent. I answered yes to the one and no to the other, and she suggested she could perhaps talk her agent into taking a look at my manuscript. Her agent just happened to be Rachelle Gardner.

SNOW DAY COMES FULL CIRCLE

I mentioned that Rachelle had already passed on Snow Day, but this kind new reader felt sure Rachelle would give me a personal look. I submitted to Rachelle again and held my breath.  Rachelle contacted me a week later and asked for a telephone conversation. We talked about the book and the direction I wanted to take it, and she asked for the full manuscript and held my breath more.

She e-mailed again three days later. This time, she didn’t want me to call her. This time she wanted to call me. By that time I had met another friend online who had finally convinced me to sign up for Twitter. Rachelle direct messaged me there on the morning of our conversation and told me not to worry, for this was The Call.

I had never heard of The Call before, didn’t know what it meant, but I thought it sounded good. I paced the floor at work all day until my phone rang. Rachelle offered representation right away, and I could finally exhale. Breathing is important for conversation. We’ve since edited Snow Day and it is now in the hands of several interested publishers. Rachelle has been everything I could have hoped for and more in an agent. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.

In the end I got the agent I wanted, though in a nontraditional way. But I think it’s a lesson every writer in today’s market needs to know. Authors can’t simply write anymore. They need some level of exposure and self-promotion. If I hadn’t started a blog and put time in to attract readers, I wouldn’t have an agent. Blogs and social networking can bring people to you who are willing to help you accomplish your dreams. Yes, it can seem like a risk. But one worth taking.

This column is a supplement to a
feature on Billy in the Nov/Dec 2010
issue of WD. Don’t have a sub to WD
yet? Get one now!



 

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3 Responses to How I Got My Agent: Billy Coffey

  1. Nick Saw says:

    Congrats. I am DESPERATELY looking to promote my blog.

    http://www.thestarvingnovelist.blogspot.com

  2. Billy,
    Congratulations on getting the best agent in the business! There’s no "traditional" way to do it anymore. Everyone gets to that particular state via their own route. This is one case where the journey is less important than achieving the destination. Kudos on getting there.

  3. T. Anne says:

    Billy, I stumbled upon this. I love your blog, def. worth the read! Each post is a blessing. Thank you for sharing your networking experience.

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