How I Got My Agent: Erin Knightley

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Erin Knightley, author of A TASTE FOR SCANDAL. 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 literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

(Find more romance literary agents for your romance novel.)

GIVEAWAY: Erin is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; 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: Rachel29m won.)

 

erin-knightley-writer-author        a-taste-for-scandal-cover-novel

 Despite being an avid reader and closet writer her whole life,
Erin Knightley decided to pursue a sensible career in science.
It was only after earning her B.S. and working in the field for years
that she realized doing the sensible thing wasn’t any fun at all. Erin
left her practical side behind and now spends her days writing. Her
latest book is A TASTE FOR SCANDAL (Dec. 2012, Signet), of
which New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries said
“This sweet treat of a romance will entrance you with its delicious
humor, dollop of suspense, and delectable characters.”
Find Erin on Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 REJECTION, REJECTION, REJECTION

It was a cold November morning in 2010, and there I sat at the ungodly hour of 7:58 in the morning, my fingers poised anxiously over the keyboard. I had already written and copied the paragraph I wanted to post—I was merely waiting for the appointed hour.

(The term “platform” defined — learn how to sell more books.)

This was to be the start of one of the most unusual methods for gaining an agent I have ever heard of. I was about eight months in to trying to find representation for my first novel, MORE THAN A STRANGER, and thus far I had experienced several close calls, but nothing had quite panned out yet. During those eight months, I had rewritten my book three more times, rewritten my query about a hundred times, and watched my inbox with a frequency that bordered on obsessive. Okay—it was obsessive. I had queried again and again, burning through my list of top agents and marking down the date anytime I received a request or rejection.

Unfortunately, the latter seemed much more frequent than the former.

AN AGENT “SPEED DATING CONTEST”…?

After a string of recent rejections, I heard that agent Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency was holding a speed dating contest. Yes, that’s right – a dating contest to find her next client! The first step was to be one of the first 125 commenters when they opened the contest at 8 am. The very moment the clock flashed 8, I sprang into action, pasting the pre-written comment and hitting ‘submit’ in record time. I waited, heart stopped, to see if I made it. Success! I was in. Now I just had to submit my first three pages, sit back and wait to see if I made it to the top thirty.

I was thrilled when I did. And then I was ecstatic when I then advanced to the top ten, which involved submitting a partial ms. But then… I received an email. Deidre was taking me out of the contest. What?? She said that though she loved my voice, the story wasn’t ready. She suggested I make a few key edits, and if I did them successfully, then she hoped to be able to offer representation.

(Read a full interview with literary agent Deidre Knight.)

Offer representation?? To me?? I danced around the room in a tizzy of delight, feeling for the first time that an agent really saw my potential. I didn’t care if it was only a few weeks from Christmas—I was going to double down and attack the suggested edits with a vengeance. I worked for weeks and weeks, finagling the plot, tweaking the characters, smoothing out the writing. It was painful—God was it painful—but I could see the book getting better all the time.

When I finally submitted the revised book, I was a WRECK. I felt as if my whole future rested in the hands of this, one of the best agents in the business. Days passed, and I waited with baited breath. Would it be enough? Would she be willing to take me, a complete newbie author, on?

THE REVISIONS PAY OFF

As it turned out, it was! Deidre signed me, with the caveat that she felt the manuscript still needed work. The following weeks and months were a blur of hard work. The one major bright spot was when I finaled for the prestigious Golden Heart® award. She claimed she wasn’t the least bit surprised 🙂

Deidre, being the super-agent extraordinaire that she is, expertly choreographed my submission to all the major houses in such a way to get the maximum benefit from my being a finalist. And boy did it work! We received multiple offers within two weeks, with two houses going to auction for me. Now I am a multi-published author with Penguin/ NAL, with my second book, A TASTE FOR SCANDAL, recently hitting shelves in December, and my third book scheduled to be released in September 2013.

Entering Deidre’s contest was a total long shot, and beyond unconventional. Even more so since I didn’t even win it! But it just goes to show that every avenue is worth being pursued. You never can tell when an opportunity will turn out to be your opportunity, so you must go after them all!

And whatever you do, don’t get discouraged. A writer can never be defeated, only challenged. Keep writing, keep growing, keep going—you never know when your big break is right around the corner.

GIVEAWAY: Erin is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; 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: Rachel29m won.)

 


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15 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Erin Knightley

  1. HIllary C.

    Nice to hear a bit of hope on the agency homefront! I keep seeing this theme of combining luck and blindingly hard work. Do you see this as true for your other author friends?

  2. vrundell

    What a great post! Thanks for sharing, and for coming back to cheerlead, too.
    I have often stalked agents’ inboxes, waiting for the exact day they’ll be open for queries. It is wonderful that you found your dream-come-true agent, no matter the unconventionality of it. Contests are supposed to bring these kind of results, so I’m glad to hear a tale that corroborates the myth.
    Best of luck!

  3. evig4

    Love the article! I am in that process right now, and yes, obsessively waiting for each email to come in is….Exciting, thrilling, depressing, excruciating, what a roller coaster ride! Lots of queries, no request yet…. keep tweaking, over and over and over…..sigh. Thanks for sharing, Evelyn

  4. Erin Knightley

    Hi Everyone!

    I’m so glad that my story can serve as inspiration for you guys. Sometimes it’s hardest right before you have that breakthrough – so keep pushing, keep striving! In the oh so poinent words from Rob Schneider in Water Boy: You can do eet!

    1. Erin Knightley

      Oh yes – I definitely believe in spending time and energy getting the query just right. If you don’t get requests, tweak it til you do. If you get lots of requests but nothing after that, than leave the query be and work on the writing 🙂

  5. missnelso04

    This is probably my favorite “How I Got My Agent” article so far. I can feel Erin’s genuine excitement and – when she was discussed how HARD the work was editing and rewriting – I truly felt she busted her butt to make her dream come true. Congrats, Erin. I’m inspired!

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