“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.
novelist. When not writing, she splits her time
between Seattle summers and California school-years,
drinking iced tall caramel macchiatos, and
“studying” on the beach. See her blog here,
and she also tweets.
FORGET STUDYING, I HAVE TO QUERY
I got the e-mail on October 19. It was titled “Query Interest”, and it transformed my busy morning into a dance party. I’d been querying my YA novel since the beginning of my sophomore year in college, and now it was October, and this e-mail was from an agent I definitely hadn’t queried.
You know what they say. Plan your query attack. Be professional. Be unique—your query’s gotta stand out from the pack.
That wasn’t going so well for me. I’d only sent out about 20 queries since September—because, let’s face it, college isn’t the easiest time to focus on something as depressing as querying. I’d gotten a couple dead-end partial requests and one full—and rejections were lining up like people line up for midnight releases. Well, not quite. But I was sad. The Inbetween was my fifth novel, and I finally felt like I’d written something the Donald Maass school might call a “breakout novel.” My friends thought I was a rock star writer on the road to instant fame—because I guess it is unusual for a 19-year-old girl to be obsessing more about agents than boys—and the school paper even ran an article on me. I just wasn’t stirring up such a big wave in those agent inboxes.
ENTERING A CONTEST
One day I decided to submit my query in a blog contest (prize: a 20-page manuscript critique), and then I kind of forgot about it all. So my stomach flip-flopped as I clicked on this e-mail. It was from Ammi-Joan Paquette, an associate agent at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. She’d seen my query on the blog contest and it’d really caught her eye. She wanted to see more. More? **Cue happy dance.**
After that, things happened fast. Two days later, Joan said: “Loved this, please send full.” Three days after that, she sent me another e-mail that rocked my dream-world with a dream come true. Wow, this is phenomenal, she said, Are you available to chat on the phone? Oh yes I was. I remember calling home that Saturday morning on my way to study at The Coffee Bean, and talking so fast I could barely understand what I was saying. Do I need to mention that I got nothing done at the coffee shop that day?
But the craziness really started a few days later after I’d talked to Joan on the phone about revisions and signing the contract (ah!). I was in class, and yeah okay, I was paying more attention to my computer than my professor. But. I got an e-mail. It was from the only other agent who’d requested a full manuscript, and she wanted to make an offer, too. And as soon as she found out via e-mail I’d already had another offer, she called me right up. In the middle of class. I didn’t find out until after class because my phone was on silent in my backpack. (I know, I really am a good student!)
ONE OFFER IS NOW TWO
Anyway, I’d dreamed about this: multiple offers, two amazing agents fighting over me. It sounded really cool in my head, but it wasn’t so cool in real life (you probably won’t believe me until it happens to you). That week was the most stressful week of my life. I had about a thousand papers and tests. My parents were out of the country. My friends were super excited for me, but I had to navigate this alone. So what did I do?
I went with my gut—and that’s the best thing to do in this business. Get as much information as you can, talk to the offering agents, think about their revision ideas. Talk to their clients. And then follow your heart. Really, it’s that simple. And it wasn’t abracadabra POOF, because nothing really is, but I signed with Joan.
So while my story is kind of unusual—I never queried my agent in the traditional slush-pile way—it’s just another story about being prepared, writing a stunning query letter, stumbling around for a while without much success, and then finding an agent who loves my book and believes that The Inbetween will stand out. My gut was right.
Writing YA? Check out author K.L. Going’s
resource Writing & Selling the YA Novel