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How I Got My Agent: Jude Hardin

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

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. 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.

Jude is excited to give away a free copy of his novel 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.

     


Jude Hardin is the author of Pocket-47, a book
that Tess Gerritsen says “keeps the pace frantic
and the thrills non-stop.” Jude writes hardboiled
detective novels—lean, clean, and bluesy, with dashes
of cynicism and wry humor. He also works as a
registered nurse in a major urban medical center
in north Florida. See his website here.

 

A BOOK DEAL WITH NO AGENT

You want to know the best way to get a literary agent? Publish through a small press and then get a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.

I’m kidding. But, if you can get a book deal with a small press and a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, then one of the largest literary agencies in the world with offices in New York and London will send you a query letter offering representation. That’s what happened to me, anyway. And you know what? I turned them down. That’s right. I sent one of the most powerful agencies on the planet a rejection letter. Now, before you start assuming I’ve completely lost my marbles, let me explain why.

Way back in 2004, when I was working on my first novel, I read an article in Writer’s Digest by a newly-published author named J.A. Konrath. After reading the article, I bought Konrath’s first book (Whiskey Sour), and started following his version of this new-fangled thing called a blog. I liked the book, and I liked the blog. Whiskey Sour was a mystery, similar to what I was working on, and I knew Konrath’s agent had gotten him a six-figure deal for the first three titles in the series.

I did a little research and discovered her name: Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. This was the agent I wanted: my dream agent. If she could get Konrath such a great deal, I felt sure she could do the same for me. I finished my novel and sent her a query, certain that she would jump at the chance to represent me and that fame and fortune would soon be mine. A few weeks later, I received a form rejection. I queried some other agencies, same results.

FROM EDITORS TO AGENTS AND BACK…

I attended a literary conference, pitched the novel to an agent there, and she requested a partial. Yes! I was on my way! But a week or so later I received a detailed email explaining why the book was not right for her. Back to square one.

Soon after that, I became friends with a book editor. She read part of my manuscript and promptly listed numerable problems with the story. I felt that some of those problems were irreparable, so I put that novel aside and started developing a new character. That character’s name was Nicholas Colt. Between my first novel and what would eventually become Pocket-47, I wrote a middle grade novella. I was unsuccessful in finding an agent for it, and I was unsuccessful in placing it myself.

But I had the first few chapters of this Nicholas Colt thing, and my editor friend said she loved the voice. I finished the book, and she announced on her blog that it was “brilliant.” Time once again to search for an agent. My editor friend had a New York agent, and she loved my novel, so the natural thing for me to do was ask her for a referral. I did, and she gave me one, and I sent the manuscript to her agent. He called after reading the first three chapters and offered representation.

I was absolutely thrilled. I can remember his exact words: “I’ll be very surprised if we’re not successful with this.” Well, we weren’t. The novel went through several rounds of submissions, and several revisions, and the recession happened and nobody was buying anything and this and that and…

After over two years of frustrating rejection, I decided it was time to move on. The agent and I parted ways amicably, and a few months later I sold the novel to a small press by myself.

A SECOND KEY REFERRAL

Fast-forward a year or so and the starred PW review. Suddenly, a lot of people in the industry were interested in my book, including the big literary agency with offices in New York and London. So why did I turn them down? Because shortly before they queried me, I queried an agent named Lauren Abramo regarding subsidiary rights for Pocket-47. Lauren Abramo … of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management.

I had been corresponding with author J.A. Konrath for several years and commenting frequently on his blog, and he was kind enough to give me a referral. Lauren loved the book. And who do you think she passed me on to? That’s right. Jane Dystel, my dream agent, the agent I had queried over five years ago.

So you want to know the best way to get a literary agent? Both of my agents came through referrals. You have to write a great book, of course, and a great query, but it never hurts to have a friend or two in the business. In fact, I think it’s essential.

Jude is excited to give away a free copy of his novel 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.

Perhaps you’re writing a mystery? Then
check out expert advice with Writing and
Selling Your Mystery Novel.

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11 Responses to How I Got My Agent: Jude Hardin

  1. Kory Gott says:

    While most writers would accept the agent’s offer (following the PW review), it was gutsy to go for the agent you wanted. Your story here reminds us to do our homework, know who we want and why, and–perhaps most important–to continue our journey despite rejection. Congratulations on your starred review and on getting the agent of your dreams!

  2. Hmm…I read "Jude Hardin, registered nurse".

    Awfully stereotypical of me, but I thought she would be a lovely lass. Not to say that Jude isn’t lovely, but…NOT much of a lass…

    Isn’t it remarkable how often agents say "I’m sure we will be able to sell this", and then, they can’t? Glad it worked out in the end. You deserve it.

  3. Tricia says:

    "So you want to know the best way to get a literary agent? Both of my agents came through referrals. You have to write a great book, of course, and a great query, but it never hurts to have a friend or two in the business. In fact, I think it’s essential."

    It hurts to read since I know no one in the business. When the time comes, I’ll have to gamble mine is pulled from the slush pile and given some attention.

    Great story of your journey.

  4. Beth LaMie says:

    Jude, thanks for sharing your story about the misadventures of finding an agent. I like the sound of working with a small press, especially for a first book, but we’ll see if/when they respond to my multiple queries.

    Beth LaMie
    http://www.bethlamie.com

  5. Great story. Thanks for sharing. I’m off to your website in a moment. My *dream* agent is reviewing my ms — along with four other agents — and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do if I was offered representation by someone other than my *dream* agent. This gives me some food for thought. Thanks.

  6. I did what I almost always do after reading one of these columns in Chuck’s wonderful daily guide–went to Amazon to read the first pages of the book. This time there was a difference. I didn’t skim through to get the gist or use "Surprise Me!" the way I usually do–instead I started reading and the surprise I got was when the excerpt ended and only the back cover was staring at me–I didn’t want to stop reading. Kudos to you. I love mystery and crime fiction, but it’s been a while since I’ve found a voice that pulled me in the way Connelly did on first encounter. If I don’t win the copy, I’ll just have to go out and buy it…

  7. Henri says:

    What a wonderful story on how to get an agent. What an interesting turn of events.

  8. What a crazy ride! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Jude, and a huge CONGRATS on getting your dream agent!

    *fingers crossed* that I win that book ;). Love the cover art.

  9. Good for you, Jude! It must have been heartbreaking to have come so close only to have the tides turn and leave your novel in limbo.

    I’m happy you found the right home at last. Best wishes to you. Jeanne

  10. Jude Hardin says:

    Thanks for having me, Chuck! I forgot to mention, anyone who writes an Amazon review for Pocket-47 is eligible to participate in The Great Manuscript Giveaway and possibly win a free Kindle. Check it out!

  11. Gotta love the fact that Jude’s a registered nurse writing detective mysteries. That’s just superbly cool in my mind. That’s like Tom Clancy working as an insurance broker. I hope his books take off and go through the roof.

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