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How I Got My Agent: J.H. Trumble

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, How I Got My Agent Columns, Young Adult Literary Agents.

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring J.H. Trumble, author of DON’T LET ME GO. 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.

GIVEAWAY: J.H. is excited to give away a free copy of the 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: Tammy won.)

 

 

 J.H. Trumble is the author of Don’t Let Me Go (Dec. 2011
Kensington), a young adult novel about “a gay high school
student, his long distance boyfriend, his straight best friend,
and the underclassman who wants to mend his broken heart.”
It received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
Find his author website here. He is also on Twitter

 

 

FIRST, THE MANUSCRIPTS

I wrote my first novel in a 22-day window between a tubing trip to the Guadalupe River and a trip to Boston. I was bound and determined that this time I was going to do it. I turned to Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) and Chris Baty (No Plot? No Problem) for the motiviation I needed. Then I set a 2,600-word per day goal, neglected the kids and the house, took a lot of walks, played a lot of loud music, drank a few Mike’s Hard Lemonades, and 22 days later I had a 50,000-word manuscript I kinda liked … a lot.

When I got back from Boston, I spent a full month rewriting the novel, fleshing out scenes, sharpening character relationships, figuring out what it all meant, and growing the novel to 70,000 words. By the time I’d finished that process, I had a sequel screaming to be written and I went back to work. Thirty days later I had another 50,000-word manuscript that I absolutely loved.

(What types of novel beginnings get an agent or editor to keep reading?)

THEN THE AGENT

With novel #2 in revision, I was ready to query on novel #1. I chose ten agents I found in Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, and took the plunge. In late October, based on a sample chapter, a top agent requested an exclusive on the full manuscript. A month later, I had my first serious rejection. While he didn’t say what was wrong with my manuscript, what he did say got me thinking again about the feel of the novel and what I wanted to accomplish. The month of December meant another full revision of novel #1. In the meantime, though, novel #2 had grown as well.

On New Year’s Eve, I sent out 35 queries. By now I had pretty much figured out that blogs were a great way to find agents. I’d also mastered the query letter. Requests for partials and fulls started rolling in within hours (yes, hours, and on New Year’s Eve!), along with plenty of rejections. Within three weeks I had an offer of representation. It was one of the most exciting days of my life. We talked by phone a few days later. I loved her. She totally got my work and couldn’t wait to get it out there.

For the next ten weeks I waited patiently, and then not-so-patiently, for my project to move forward. By the ten-week mark, we were no further along than we had been the day I signed. I was not only frustrated, but by now I had lost my confidence in my agent. No matter how much I loved her, I knew it was time to let her go. Terminating my agreement was a tough decision. After all, there was no guarantee I’d ever find another agent. But I knew I had to do it, for my sanity if for no other reason. If my work was good enough, I’d find another agent. If it wasn’t, then I’d just have to get better.

(Writing a synopsis for your novel? Here are 5 tips.)

THEN ANOTHER AGENT

I had been told by an agent that my novels would never be published as sequels. So if I could only publish one, I wanted it to be novel #2. Just as I was preparing to query, I came across an article in the May/June 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. One of the agents interviewed was Stephen Fraser with The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, and he was looking for just the kind of novels I had written. At 5:14 a.m. the next morning, I queried Stephen. At 7:20 he asked to see some sample chapters. PANIC. And at 11:06 he asked for the full manuscript, by snail mail.

For the next three and a half weeks, I waited. No more queries. I played around with novel #1 and novel #3 that I’d written during that first agent wait in the fall, I wrote some blog posts, I made lots and lots of notes about things I would revise in #2 if it was rejected. At this point, I knew Stephen wanted to like my novel. If he didn’t, that told me it just wasn’t ready yet. And then one evening, Stephen e-mailed.

Wow. Seeing an agent’s name in your inbox is scary. I opened Stephen’s email dreading another rejection. His first sentence was “I loved your novel.” I was expecting a “but,” instead he asked if there was a time we could chat about his representing me, if I was still interested. IF I WAS STILL INTERESTED? I still giggle when I read that line. OF COURSE I WAS STILL INTERESTED!!! Trust me, getting an agent is AWESOME! But even better is hearing that someone loves your work. I mean, really loves your work.

GIVEAWAY: J.H. is excited to give away a free copy of the 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: Tammy won.)

 

 

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13 Responses to How I Got My Agent: J.H. Trumble

  1. LadyStarlea says:

    So many things I loved about this blog. The information is highly educational. I never knew you could drop an agent after signing with them if you feel they are not working out. I will definitively take to heart the keep writing while you are waiting. I also never thought to have a second book in the editing phases before quarrying on the first book. I did find it intriguing that you ended up publishing the second book instead of the first in your series.

    This story just proves that finding the best agent takes lots of time, effort and research. I am happy for you to find such a great agent that loves your work. I hope when I am ready for looking for one I too can find a great agent.

    As for your book it sounds great. I am sure it will help many young people out there. I wish something like this was around years ago. Good luck with your stories.

  2. ChrisLKing says:

    Great story about persevering in looking for the right agent. Your passion for your work makes me excited about taking mine more seriously. Sounds like you’ve got a great story on your hands, too! Very timely with the anti-bullying thread.

  3. LovesKangol says:

    Congrats! Sounds like a good novel.

  4. nerdhugger says:

    This was so inspiring to read. I’m glad you got the book published, especially because it sounds like something I’d love to read. :)

  5. LynnFlickinger1 says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience finding an agent and that the first choice might not always be the best.

  6. warrentalbot says:

    This article could not have come at a better time. Today we, my wife and I, are wrapping up weeks of hard work to pull together a full book proposal & query to submit it to our first potential agent. The book is about overcoming fear, which is ironic given the fear in our gut as we prepare to send later tonight.

    Your post fills me with excitement and provides the encouragement needed to make the final push to kick off the wild ride that is sure to follow.

    Thank you!

  7. SBCole says:

    This was a very inspiring story. I may not have had any luck just yet with my ms, but I’m still hopeful that I’ll find that one agent that truly loves my work!

  8. Sara says:

    Your passion for writing and for your own work has motivated me to remember how much I truly love and cherish my own projects. Thank you!

  9. Transitoria says:

    Thanks for the heads up in regard to waiting and waiting and waiting. I wrote my novel, rewrote it, sent it through multiple critique groups and finally started sending queries. I got requests for partial and full manuscripts. While most have answered, I still have two out and the waiting game continues. One is for a partial and the other is the full manuscript.

    I’m still waiting for that email or phone call from an agent, and he/she is going to be amazed that I have another novel written and waiting for them.

    Hope you pick my so I can read your work. I promise to write you a review.

  10. juloed@bellsouth.net says:

    I giggled myself at the giggling part! What a great story – so glad you shared. And it’s a great message to hear that sometimes you get an agent, only to lose (or give up) that agent. Talk about trusting your instincts…

  11. nanroe1 says:

    You followed your dream and made it a reality. Great inspiration.

  12. ChiTrader says:

    Inspiring, J.H. I echo iolerugger’s comments. I’m also seeing the value of having more than one novel in the pipeline. If you wait for the first to either sink or swim, months or years of valuable creative time can be lost by putting your writing on hold. Congratulations.

    Chris

  13. iolerugger says:

    What I loved about this guest column was the love the author had for both novels. It dripped off the page. And I think that’s the most important thing, falling in love with your own work, loving it and believing it before any agent or editor ever looks at it. And loving it enough to want to revise and perfect and keep at it.

    I love the concept – I wish my best friend had a book like this to read when he was in high school and people just didn’t understand. I wish I could’ve given it to him for his birthday instead of knowing he was hiding his pain from the bullying and knowing there was nothing I could do to make it better for him and the boy he loved.

    iolerugger at gmail dot com

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