“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 email@example.com and we’ll talk specifics.
YA because the whole teenage experience has
somehow been burned into
her memory. Also, because she
years and her students were some of the coolest,
funniest, most interesting people she’s ever met.
She blogs here and tweets.
WRITING AND THE WRITING BIZ
I started my YA novel, Goodbye, Charlie, in September of last year. It was then a novel under a different title and told from the point of view of a character that has since become a minor part of the story. I worked on it every day, dutifully, at the corner table of my local Starbucks, determined to finish it by summer (because it’s hard to work when your kids are home all day on vacation!). So, I wrote, reviewed, edited, wrote some more, and added to that word count each day.
My mornings were dedicated solely to writing, but evenings were dedicated to understanding the business side of writing. I researched how to write queries, the difference between boutique and traditional literary agencies, what was selling on Publishers Marketplace, and of course, agents. I made a list of agents who represented books I thought were similar to my manuscript and then read those agents’ blogs and interviews, took note of their pet peeves, what they liked to see in queries, and any other information I could use to let them know I had done my research. I felt like a stalker, but a well-informed stalker. By the end of May, my novel was at 75,000 and I had a detailed list of agents. I started querying…and waiting.
QUERIES AND REJECTION, AND QUERIES AND REJECTION
I didn’t hear back from the first agent I queried, but the second requested a full, and the third, a partial I was ecstatic and walked around in blissful agony, until the rejections came. I sent more queries, and got more rejections. I dealt with it by sending off another query for each rejection and adding another agent to my list, determined not to get to the bottom of that list and be faced with that what now? feeling. This went on all summer and after a while I could take rejection like you wouldn’t believe.
Near the end of August, an agent requested a full. I sent it on what happened to be my birthday and crossed my fingers for some birthday luck. About a week later, I got an email from her—Are you available for a phone call to discuss the manuscript? I gulped down my excitement and immediately replied. The date and time were set up. The next four days were unnaturally long, so I killed time by scouring the internet for anything else I could find about the agency, the agent, her clients, and how to handle an agent call. And then finally, it was time.
I was nervous and, for all my planning, had no idea how to start. I didn’t want to talk too much; I didn’t want to talk too little. But after some general pleasantries, she got to business and shared what she felt were the strong and weak points in the manuscript, made suggestions, asked me questions, even said my writing reminded her of one of my favorite YA writers!
Eventually, the discussion turned to contracts and when we could potentially shop it around to publishers. I was giddy and couldn’t believe this was really happening which might explain why even after all that, I still wasn’t sure—like, sure, sure—if she was actually offering me representation. I know! But like I said, it was a bit surreal and my brain seemed to have split in two, following her conversation and having my own internal Ahhhhh! Oh my God, is this really happening? Wow, this is so cool! dialogue. Then I caught something like, “if you decide to go with me …” and suddenly I knew, and the world got a little prettier … really!
She didn’t pressure me into making an immediate decision over the phone, but told me to think about it and let her know as soon as possible. Even as I hung up I knew it was a yes because we clicked on the phone and I loved the suggestions she made. I could tell she believed in my manuscript.
The next day I emailed her with a definite yes and that’s how Kerry Sparks from the Levine Greenberg Agency became my agent. Edits soon followed, and I’ve been working hard since, but it’s the happiest I’ve ever been about work. And yes, I did get off the phone and scream and run around the house and dance—you just gotta.
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