How I Got My Agent: Delilah Dawson

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Delilah Dawson, author of WICKED AS THEY COME. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. 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 and we’ll talk specifics.

GIVEAWAY: Delilah is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. 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: Melissa Brady King won.)




Delilah S. Dawson’s debut, WICKED AS THEY COME, is a
steampunk paranormal romance (S&S, March 2012) that includes
vampire bunnies, a carnival, a kraken, and a leading man in a top
hat and undone cravat. You can find her author website and blog here.
She’s also a Georgia native, an artist, and an Associate Editor at
Cool Mom



I got my agent the impossible way: cold querying through the slush pile. I have no writing degree, no prior writing credits, and no personal connections to the publishing business. At the time, I spent most of my time at home attached to a baby, had never been to a writing conference, and lived in the deep South, far from where agents and editors roam in the wild. And you know what? None of that mattered a bit, thanks to the internet and a lifetime of obsessive reading.


I wrote my first book, a fatally flawed women’s fiction, in 2009 at age 31. Armed with a copy of the Writer’s Market, I hit Google and immersed myself in the online publishing world. Using QueryTracker, Twitter, blogs, AgentQuery, and the Guide to Literary Agents, I compiled a list of likely agents and began querying just to see what would happen. Amazingly, I received requests, and although no one offered representation, the kindness and advice offered by several agents in their rejections was so affecting that I included them in my debut book’s Acknowledgments. I realized that the book was going nowhere and began writing my second book, a middle grade adventure.

(How long should a synopsis be? Is shorter or longer better?)


By early January, I had vetted my MG query on Verla Kay’s Blue Boards and had a carefully targeted list of agents, most of whom I stalked… er, followed… on Twitter. I remember worrying about how soon after New Year’s I should query, if I had used the right font, whether to greet them by first name or last name, all that sort of thing. I received lots of interest, sent out partials and fulls, and even had an agent email *me* asking for the query. Then one day, I was eating Chinese food for lunch and received this fortune: “Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you.” After lunch, I found a four-leaf clover at the park. And when I got home, I found an email from Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. She liked my sample and wanted to see more. I sent the full and stared at my Gmail account and her Twitter stream without blinking for days. And then I got the email in which she asked if I wanted to chat. YES, KATE, I WANTED TO CHAT. I was thrilled… and terrified!


Talking on the phone with Kate was a dream. She totally got my book and loved it, and she liked my next two book ideas, too. I had queried with a middle grade adventure, but I had a steampunk paranormal fantasy and a YA contemporary in the works. She was interested in all three of them, and that was the best thing I’d ever heard—that she wanted to discuss my career, not just one book. I knew that I had a lot of books in me, and that they weren’t all going to be for kids, and clicking with an agent who represented a wide range of fiction was a dream come true. I received another offer of representation the next day from an agent I deeply respect, admire, and flat out adore, but since I knew she didn’t represent adult books, I went with Kate. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.


That middle grade book didn’t sell. But the steampunk paranormal fantasy I wrote next did—as a romance. Kate helped me get my confidence together to write sex scenes and really up the romantic tension, and I learned the true benefit of having a hands-on agent. That book is now called WICKED AS THEY COME, and it sold at auction in a three-book deal to the Pocket division of Simon & Schuster.

(Learn why “Keep Moving Forward” may be the best advice for writers everywhere.)


Someone once commented on my blog that I didn’t have what it takes to make a published author. That unless I was camping out on someone’s couch in New York, schmoozing with agents and getting an MFA and taking out loans, that I was bound to fail. I’ve never forgotten that post. Any time I thought about giving up, any time the rejections got me down, anytime the revisions seemed too hellish, I just remembered that one person out there thought I couldn’t do it.

And then I did it… from my couch in Atlanta. Now I just hope I can get up to NYC one day and give Kate the big, warm Southern hug she deserves.

GIVEAWAY: Delilah is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. 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: Melissa Brady King won.)



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13 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Delilah Dawson

  1. tpkeane

    I had grown so despondent with querying letters that I almost gave up. I didn’t think that I had what it took to get published, I didn’t have a degree, I didn’t have any contacts, Delilah’s story and mine were almost identical save for one point. I am not yet published. Hearing of her success has given me hope, spurred me on to continue to do what I love. Thank you for that Delilah, you do not know how much it has helped me.

  2. nsayatovich

    Thank you for sharing your story. I live up in ohio and I’m trying to get one recognized and I was depressed until I read your interview. Thank you so much. Congrats on the success and next time I stop by the store I’ll pick up your book. I wish you continued success in the future.

  3. Veggie Val

    Soooo! Excited about your new book, Delilah. No need to consider me in the contest; I have already ordered your book through FoxTale and will see you TOMORROW to get it signed at your Launch Event! I rarely read fiction, but your personal story is compelling to all of us Moms (soon to be Grandmom!) who want to publish their writings. Continued Blessings! ~Val

  4. vrundell

    What a great story! I’m sometimes disappointed reading these because the author says, “well, my project advisor in my MFA program linked me up with an agent…” I, too, can’t stop the work/mom train to take on a program of study–and all my conferences are local, for the same reason. I love that you did your homework and it all paid off…that’s the kind of thing that keeps me trying.
    Best wishes and congrats!
    Veronica Rundell

  5. Cursivenacho

    I needed this today! I am feeling a little guilty as I hear my three year old playing in the next room. I have been in front of the computer to much today typing and researching. Makes me feel hopeful and excited to know that their are other creative moms out there with the need to write. Thanks again for the much needed boost! ….Rebecca
    twitter – @beck1214

  6. J_Low

    That is a wonderful motivation and reminder to never quit despite the naysayers. Thank you for sharing your story and I can’t wait to read your new book!

  7. David Fernandez

    Thanks for sharing, Delilah. It’s heartening to hear that this sort of success is possible, especially for me, considering I’m in the query process and while I’ve had a few requests, I’ve landed no representation yet. Good luck with your work in the future!

    Twitter: DLFwriting

  8. Tammy Denton

    What a great story to tell when you do the talk show circuit. I’ve finished one novel, working on the second and querying the first. I’m getting requests for full and partial manuscripts, but no offers of representation–yet.
    I would love to get a copy (signed-hint, hint) of your book. I’ve been wanting to check out the steampunk genre, but didn’t know where to start. Perhaps, you can be my first!
    Thanks for the uplifting words.
    Twitter: TamSetDen

  9. Nancy

    What a wonderful story! It’s always inspiring when I read that someone’s dreams have come true. I believe that when we fail or things don’t go the way we plan, there is purpose in our journey. Thanks for sharing!

  10. shadesdown2001

    Hi Delilah, first off, congratulations on your success. You mention that you are from the south? I don’t know how far south or close to what coast line, but I am in North Carolina. I am a new writer as well. I did write a children’s book in 2007 but, I had it self published that same year and it flopped straight out of the starting gate so I think it is safe to say that I am “A new writer.”. But, just over the past year, I had decided to dabble in adult fiction and so far, I just recently completed writing my first novel followed by four other adult fiction projects that I am currently working on.

    Reading your story is really inspiring because I am now where you were. I have sent out well over 100 query emails diligently for the past two weeks alone with NO success. Luckily, I have not received any critiquing replies in the denying emails, just a lot of “just not right for us” and “don’t give up,” which I think, hurts just as bad.

    Reading your story just made me realize even more so that it is not an easy world to break into. And now that I have heard that there is someone who has been exactly where I am now and they became successful, I am now inspired, thanks to you, to NOT give up.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you all the best in the future.

    I am on Facebook and on Twitter (@PaulGski) as well, just not as often.


    Paul J. Gorzkowski

    1. right2write

      Congratulations, Delilah!

      This is exactly the kind of success story I like to read about! Best of luck, you deserve it!

      And about that blog comment, how rude (or *jealous*) was that someone to say something like that to you! But isn’t ironic how sometimes the one negative person we encounter or have in our life actually propels us to our eventual success in a way no positive reinforcement would?

      Enjoy it to the fullest!



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