How I Got My Agent: Kate Douglas

“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.

This installment of “How I Got
My Agent” is by
Kate Douglas, who
writes many romance titles.
Demonfire
comes out in March and is her
newest line.

NO THANKS

I wrote romances for many years without an agent, submitting my stories and collecting rejections from some of the best editors in the business. However, many of the publishing houses I was interested in refused to look at unagented material.

Finding an agent had crossed my mind, but I’d heard more horror stories than positive ones, and had no idea who I should query. The truth in the statement, “A bad agent is worse than no agent,” kept me from making a serious search. In the days before the Internet, finding a reputable agent to query wasn’t as simple a process as it has become, but luckily, the competition for agents wasn’t as tough, either.

I finally met one agent at a conference and a few weeks later, queried him by mail. I was rejected, but a friend of mine signed with this particular agent. Her blossoming career immediately went into a black hole from which it’s never truly emerged, and my hesitancy over finding an agent increased. Then in 2001, a friend told me of an agent new to the business who had started out as an editor for Berkley.

DESPERATE IS GOOD

Three things led me to query Jessica Faust, co-founder of BookEnds LLC.:  1) the fact she was in New Jersey, and close to the New York publishing world; 2) she had been an editor at Berkley, which meant she still had contacts with one of the publishers I was interested in; and 3) she was new enough to agenting—so, hopefully, was desperate for clients.

Okay … so that last one was most important, and luckily I must have been right. When I look at the query letter I sent, it’s filled with all the things Jessica now cautions against including, but she was new and looking for clients and I was optimistic enough to think I had a chance. I also, in spite of my history of rejections, still believed in myself. I never doubted I would one day be published, and Jessica seemed to mirror that same optimism. If she was faking, she was damned good at it, but her positive attitude kept me hopeful.

By this time I was building a successful career writing erotic romance for an online publisher. My agent chose not to represent me with the e-publishers, which worked well for both of us, though she continued submitting my regular romances without much luck. Editors were asking to see more from me, but nothing I sent to Jessica sold. Still, she didn’t drop me, and I didn’t quit trying. I would write my sexy romances for Ellora’s Cave and my “vanilla” romances for Jessica to shop around. The sexy stuff was selling like crazy and the category styled romances continued racking up the rejection notices.

In 2004, a good friend founded Changeling Press and asked for something “over the top” to launch her new company. I created an online serial called Wolf Tales. Every six weeks CP released a new 12,000-word Wolf Tales story, and sales grew like crazy. Readers seemed to love my Chanku shapeshifters, and I was having a blast coming up with a new crisis every few weeks, but by then I’d quit submitting to my agent. I figured NY was a lost cause.

ANOTHER CHANCE

About this time, e-book sales of erotic romances began to have an impact on the NY publishing scene. Readers were demanding the sexy stories in print, and while the e-pubs were scrambling to bring out the books in the relatively new print-on-demand format, NY publishers were sending out feelers to the more successful e-book authors and luring them to their houses with promises of print contracts. My ever-patient agent asked for something erotic. I printed out the first five stories from the Wolf Tales serial for her.

The rest is history. Editor Audrey LaFehr at Kensington Publishing loved the stories, CEO Steve Zacharius authorized the new Aphrodisia imprint, and Wolf Tales launched Kensington’s foray into the erotic romance market. The first book is currently in its ninth print run, the sixteenth story just released and I’m contracted through 2011 for more in the series. I credit all of my success to my agent. I write the books, but I understand the serendipitous nature of this business and I know it takes the right agent getting the right manuscript in front of the right editor at the right time. I’m not sure what Jessica saw in that query I sent to her in 2001, but she hung in there, even though it took until 2005 before we finally saw a contract.

Stubbornness appears to be an important trait—in both authors and agents.

 

Visit Kate’s site.

 

 

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11 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Kate Douglas

  1. Mo

    Kate, that was cool!! Things come to pass, right on time. The process is sometimes a killer but I think that it’s part of the learning of how everything ties in. Sounds like you and your agent are a good match. I am so glad that the Wolf Tales series came to my attention and I’ve been able to enjoy each segment of the story of the Chanku.

    I will probably need an agent in the near future and it’s good to know the path that some of my favorite author had to walk to find a good one that will work for you and believe in you. I hope that I am as lucky in my quest as you were. Mo

  2. Kate Douglas

    Thanks, Shobhan. I have to agree with your belief in karma. Everything happens in its own time and seems to work the way it’s supposed to. LOL…I’ll have to admit, I never in my wildest dreams imagined writing two series with four books and a novella or two a year as a sixty year old grandmother! And no, I’m not complaining, but it comes down to believing in yourself and finding an agent who believes in you as well.

  3. Shobhan Bantwal

    What an inspiring tale, Kate! And kudos to Jessica Faust for not giving up on you. Destiny had bigger plans for you at the time.

    I remember the days, some four years ago, when my agent couldn’t sell my first manuscript. I almost threw in the towel, but the second book sold very quickly to Audrey LaFehr at Kensington (the warm and wonderful editor we both share).

    I believe in karma and if that is going moving in the right direction for you, things fall into place. And everything happens for a reason, most often a mysterious reason.

    I love your Wolf Tales. Keep on writing….

    Shobhan Bantwal

  4. Kate Douglas

    Thank you, Denise. I think persistence counts in just about every business. My mantra used to be, "if you don’t write it, you’re never going to sell it." Now it’s more along the lines of "Make it work, get it done, and never forget it’s all about the book."

    Kathryn, don’t let yourself end up stuck in one place due to indecision. I allowed all the horror stories about bad agents to keep me from seriously searching for an agent for way too long. I was very lucky to have found Jessica when I did, but by then I’d just about given up. Luckily my stubborn streak won out, but so did hers. I was very lucky she never once gave up on me. It’s way too easy to get discouraged in this business. You have to learn to trust in your own abilities–and when you find an agent, you have to learn to trust in hers as well.

    Linda, a good agent/author relationship is priceless, and it goes far beyond having someone to go out and pound the pavement and sell your books. It’s also having someone you can trust to keep your career on course, but if you’re serious about writing as your career, don’t put it off. I would suggest you start looking now–at least ask questions of other authors and find out what agents represent the kind of books you write. Attending writers’ conferences can put you in touch with agents who are actively searching for new clients. I was lucky enough to sign with someone I’d never met in person that’s compatible, but it’s really nice when you can actually meet an agent first, or even just hear them speak. I’ve become friends with a number of agents, any one of whom I’d love to have represent me if I weren’t so happy with the agent I have, but they’re professionals I’ve met at conferences and have gotten to know over the years. You can learn a lot about an agent by hearing them speak on panels and workshops, which makes attending a conference an important career move.

  5. Linda Warren

    Kate,
    I loved reading your agent story. I think about getting an agent every now and then, but I don’t know if I’m ready for the agent-hunt-nightmare everyone says it is. I’m happy you found the agent right for you and that the relationship works. That’s priceless. There’s hope for the rest of us.

    It was great meeting you in DC.

    Linda

  6. Kathryn Albright

    Interesting to read how this happened for you Kate. I’m at the same place you were years ago before meeting Jessica. I’d like an agent eventually–especially as I start writing faster (I do have that hope that I will be able to write faster!) Thanks for posting this.

  7. Kate Douglas

    Thanks, Christie–and yes, you would understand the stubborn trait as well! I think that’s a prerequisite to getting an agent and/or getting published–you have to outlast the competition and wear down the editors and agents!

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