How I Got My Agent: Jess Haines

“How I Got My Agent”is a new 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.
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 column by Jess Haines, author of
Hunted by the Others, the first in an urban
fantasy series. Jess also writes short stories
and screenplays, and has experience in
technical writing and editing. See her
website here
, or find
her on Facebook.

For years, I worked writing technical instructions, scripts for internal instructional videos and company policy for a private business. Though the subject matter of my day job is pretty dry and often filled with legalese, I always wanted to write fantasy, sci-fi and horror.

Once I decided to write for professional publication, I knew I had some hard work ahead of me. First thing on the agenda: Write a book! I came up with an idea, put it down on paper, and by June 2008, I had a completed urban fantasy novel ready to go. So—what to do with it?

STARTING OFF ON THE WRONG FOOT

Embarking on a venture to our good friend Google, I searched for literary agents. I sent off a query to the first one that came up. I was a little disheartened by his rejection (which was actually worded very kindly), but I kept going, poking around here and there, sending off a few more queries. At the time, I didn’t realize that you should only query agents who rep your particular genre nor was I aware that things like scam agencies exist. Unwisely, I followed a link to a (scam) agency that came up on my next search. Of course, they accepted me, and I just about flipped my gourd when they said, “Yes! We want to represent you!” Meanwhile, I racked up three or four more rejections from other, reputable agencies.

After the initial “Holy #%^!, I have an agent!” wore off and they recommended a paid critique through a branch of their own agency, I got suspicious and started checking them out. Much to my horror, I discovered they were on a list of scam agencies and immediately cancelled my agreement with them. Okay. Big mistake there.  Brush-With-Death-of-Potential-Future-Career averted, I took a step back to see what I could do to get a real agent and not be such a ditz about this process.

On the bright side, my encounter with the scam agency had me take a look at the benefits of getting a critique done. I invested in a professional critique through The Visions Group (www.thevisionsgroup.net). This was one of the best moves I made throughout the entire process as it helped me to tighten up and focus the novel. Jean Heller also gave me some invaluable advice on what to do, and what not to do to locate and land an agent. FINDING ELLEN

Bolstered by this, I stopped querying and went through the manuscript again, taking time to clean it up. While I did that, I perused more blogs of agents and editors: yours, Nathan Bransford’s, BookEnds, Query Shark, etc. I read over the recommendations and tips from various industry newsletters and organizations. I studied up on what to do, how to format the query, what to include, what not to include, etc, and continued my search for representation around the end of August 2008.

Ahoy! What’s this? An article from the Writer’s Digest newsletter about 28 agents who are looking for writers?  Impeccable timing!

    [Note from Chuck: I put together this article and it comes out every year. The 2008/2009 list is no longer online because some of the info is outdated after about six months. The 2010 list is forthcoming. It will probably be online around December 2010.]

I looked over the list of 28 agents and contacted Ellen Pepus (www.signaturelit.com) with an e-mail query. While I waited for a response, I got going on a second novel. Ellen replied a few weeks later requesting a partial. (Insert happy dance here.) Shortly after that, she asked for the full manuscript. (Insert happy dance here.) In November 2008, she offered representation and sent me her contract. (Insert girlish screams of delight followed by happy dance here.) I’m very, very happy I persisted in my search for an agent, as Ellen just closed a three-book deal with Kensington Press for me!

Jess was spotlighted in the Sept./Oct. 2010
issue of WD. If you don’t have a sub to
Writer’s Digest, what are you waiting for?
Get one now!


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9 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Jess Haines

  1. Anne Wayman

    Congrats Jess – hope the agent does well for you.

    I’m curious. What did the critique service provide you?

    I keep thinking that, for the most part, what I really need to do is set a manuscript aside of a couple of weeks or even a month before I rewrite it.

    Thanks for your story,

    A

  2. Angela

    Great post. I love hearing these stories. Agents are hard to catch, and sometimes it is so hard to keep slogging through rejections and research to find the perfect one. But it only takes one yes, one person to totally get your work and become your champion. I hope people take heart and keep going, because finding the right fit is so rewarding.

  3. Jess Haines

    Hi guys,

    Thank you very much! I’m glad I was able to share this with you.

    Connie and Ken:

    Sorry, but I don’t write young adult fantasy. I’m not sure how that slipped in there. It’s supposed to read "urban" fantasy — think Jim Butcher or Laurell K. Hamilton rather than C. S. Lewis or J. K. Rowling.

    I’ll contact you each separately via email to answer your individual questions and see if there is anything I can do to help.

    Best,
    -Jess

  4. Ken Buckley

    Nice piece, Jess. Revision and editing are critical. "Revision and Self Editing" by Scott Bell is an invaluable companion during this post mortem process. "This Year You Write Your Novel" by Walter Mosley is almost as good as having the author next to you.
    Mine is a Young Adult novel. It took a little research to find the right genre. Even now, I’m a bit perplexed. However, as for the market being saturated, I’ve put so much of my life into this thing, I can’t back off.
    There are plenty of agents out there. This site is an invaluable tool for contacting them. So, I’m sure, once I’ve re-written, tightened, cut, and added a bit more, I’ll find someone who believes I have a good story. Right now, at this juncture, I need a lot of convincing each day, that I do.

  5. connie v

    Thank you so much for providing this inspiring information. I found it so helpful; unfortunately it had a bit of a letdown when after continue my search for an agent that’s looking for children’s book authors. “Sorry, you’re not my type!”. Bummer! I’ve gone through the professionally editing process, and all the steps you’ve mentioned, but it seems like the children market has reached its quota. However, I’m very determined and extremely excited about my story. Any suggestions?

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