How I Got My Agent: Jamie Harrington

“How I Got My Agent” is a 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 literaryagent@fwmedia.com
and we’ll talk specifics.



Guest blogger Jamie Harrington runs the blog,

Totally the Bomb, and also is on Twitter.

 

BIG-TIME SUCKAGE, THEN AWESOMENESS

I was totally addicted to World of Warcraft. I played it more hours than I care to admit, and even ran a guild. It was time for me to give the game up. You know, find something else to occupy my free time—so I turned to writing. I have a degree in Literature, and always wanted to be a writer, but I’d never sat down and actually finished anything. The second I started typing my first novel, Warcraft went out the window and I’d found my newest addiction. There was just one problem. My novel sucked. Big time.

I didn’t know this, of course, and queried it anyway. All the while checking out agent blogs, commenting on their posts, and trying to get to know them a little better. I discovered the awesomeness that is Twitter. (Oh yeah, I said it—don’t judge me.) That was the turning point for me. I talked back and forth with authors in the query trenches, chatted it up with a few that were agented or published, and even started making friends with the literary agents. While I was getting to know all these people, I started to see the total suck factor of my book and put it away, where I think it will stay for all eternity.

I’m totally cool with that.

Because then I read this blog post, and number 13 on that list totally jumped out at me. Dude! A YA chick villain. She had to be written, and I couldn’t write the words fast enough. I finished my second book in like a month and started querying.

BREAKING THE RULES

Why? Why did start querying so fast? Shouldn’t I revise first? Try to make it better? I thought I was totally above such things. My contacts from Twitter were really cool and many of them requested to look at the first part of my manuscript. Guess what? I totally wasn’t ready, and all my agent friends told me so. They sent me nice rejections, told me the concept was great but that it felt more like a first draft. (How dare they see right through me like that?!) Some even offered up helpful advice on the revision process and suggested things I should change. I realized that all my social networking and contact making was good for getting people to read my work, but it was pointless if the book sucked.

So I got to work. I revised the heck out of the novel. I changed it from first person present to first person past. I let anyone I could find beta read it, and I read everything good or bad they had to say. It was hard, but I knew it had to be done. The crazy thing is, when I finished the revisions, the book wasn’t just good enough—it was good. I was finally ready to query, but I’d wasted all those letters to those agents I’d made friends with. Rules of querying say you can’t just requery people. I couldn’t break those, right? Wrong.

I broke the heck out of the rules. I sent people letters telling them the truth: That I’d queried way too early and that I sent them a crap manuscript. I asked them to reread it and lots of them said yes. They requested fulls, offered advice on revisions, and many of them got really excited about Sketch.

FROM MULTIPLE OFFERS TO A PERFECT ONE

Finally, one of them said YES! He called me to make the offer of representation. I was standing in Target, my arms full of socks and underwear for my four-year-old. I dropped everything into the cart and walked right out to the car. It was really happening! I wanted to accept right there, but I knew better. I’d been reading agents blogs long enough, and I told the agent I’d let him know in a week. I headed straight home and started e-mailing everyone who had a full or a partial, and a few who hadn’t yet responded to my query that I just really wanted to work with.

They answered immediately from their blackberries and iPhones. I was mailing out fulls like gangbusters. Loads of people had my book, and I’d set myself up to be in the exact position I’d wanted to be in—multiple offers.

I got them, too. I talked to several agents about what they had planned for not only my manuscript, but my career. They all had great things to say, but Victoria Horn of Liza Dawson Associates and I just clicked. She was from a mid-sized agency that was part of the AAR, and I loved everything she had to say. She seemed like the kind of person I really wanted on my team—in control, and willing to stand up for what she believes in. She was perfect. And now she’s my agent.


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9 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Jamie Harrington

  1. Samantha Clark

    Awesome post. It’s great to hear about a success story that started with a struggle, like most of us.

    Congrats, Jamie, and thanks for posting this Chuck.

    Oh, and Jamie, I love that just being yourself and being honest won out in the end for you. Well done.

  2. Theresa Milstein

    You have a great writing style here, so now I’m interested in reading your book.

    Too often, the stories we hear are from writers who landed an agent from their first piece of writing, on the first round it was sent. Hopefully, your cautionary tale of submitting too early, will help aspiring writers. Then you show us how to do it right.

  3. A.G.

    I heart Jamie. She’s such a pleasant presence–and absolutely did everything right in terms of befriending agents and other writers online–and checking in with agents when she had interest. I love her comments. She’s savvy, funny, and articulate.

  4. christina

    Jamie, I so love this! So much of it rings true for me as well, down to the first manuscript and shopping at my favorite place, Target–I can so picture myself walking to the parking lot in a daze like you–LOL!! Thanks for sharing! Gives me hope!

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