How I Got My Agent: Lynne Raimondo

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Lynne Raimondo, author of DANTE’S WOOD. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings.

GIVEAWAY: Lynne is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: lanieww won.)




Lynne Raimondo is a full-time writer. She formerly worked as the
general counsel for Arthur Andersen LLP and later as the general
counsel of the Illinois Department of Revenue. Her first novel is
DANTE’S WOOD: A Mark Angelotti Novel. In a starred review, Library
Journal said of the book, “Raimond’s ambitious first-person-narrator
debut tackles a taboo topic head-on. Her blind psychiatrist character
(with oodles of guilt issues) is a real keeper.” Find Lynne on Twitter.




I’m always happy when I read about debut authors who labored in obscurity for years, landed an agent with their first query, and went on to sell their novel in what industry publications delicately refer to as a “significant” deal. Success stories like these are what keep aspiring writers at their desks, even if they happen about as often as Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring.

My own journey to publication wasn’t nearly as sunny.

(Will a literary agent search for you online after you query them?)

From the time I was a teenager devouring everything from romantic suspense to hard-boiled detective stories, I always knew I had a novel in me. But it wasn’t until I was a middle-aged lawyer taking a sabbatical from my day job that I did something about it. I was soon hooked on writing and finished my first novel in eight months.

Naturally, I assumed I’d find an agent right away. I’d been writing professionally for years, had authored thousands of pages of briefs, and figured I had the mechanics of writing down cold. I also thought I had come up with a pretty neat plot. So almost as soon as I had typed “The End” on my manuscript, I bought the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents and started sending out queries.


I made every beginner’s mistake in the book.

My first query had no hook. It dwelled too much on my legal credentials – at the time, I didn’t realize that many agents equated “lawyer” with “verbally challenged” — and ran to almost two pages. I even committed the cardinal sin of sending it out on engraved stationary that was neither 8×12 nor white. (At least it wasn’t pink.)

Not surprisingly, I got form rejections from every agent I sent it to.

I regrouped and went back to the drawing board, this time doing my homework. I scoured the internet for guidance, reading every single post in the Miss Snark archives and the Successful Query Letters column in this GLA blog. I attended a writers conference and had my letter critiqued by professionals. I took everything I learned and rewrote my query letter — a dozen or so more times.

(See a list of writers conferences.)

Nothing happened. Reluctantly, after nearly a hundred unsuccessful queries, I came to the conclusion that my novel wasn’t saleable.

So I wrote another one.


I had a first draft of Dante’s Wood finished by June, 2008. As a test, I sent out five query letters that summer, generating one request for a partial, three personal turn downs, and one form rejection. I thought I was off to a good start. My homework had paid off: it was only a matter of time until I found an agent.

Then the financial crisis hit.

It quickly became apparent that the publishing industry was in a state of panic. Every news article I read contained dire warnings about shrinking sales and dwindling backlists. Agents were accepting few new clients. Except for a handful of bestselling authors, the market for mystery fiction had dried up. It seemed to me that I had a choice. I could go on trying to find representation for Dante’s Wood in a terrible economy. Or, I could exercise Zen-like patience and wait.

I chose to wait. For close to a year I didn’t query at all, using the time to work on other projects and periodically polish my manuscript. It was good discipline and made Dante’s Wood much stronger. By the fall of 2009, the economic outlook was starting to brighten, so I began querying again – but slowly. I sent out five letters at a time, paying close attention to the response rate and revising accordingly.

My success rate went up. Soon, I was getting personal replies and/or page requests more than fifty percent of the time. But sadly, no offers. I began to feel like the Bill Murray character in the movie Groundhog Day, stuck in an endless time loop. Write novel. Query agents. Get rejected. Rinse and repeat.

Then, in October 2010, while I was reading this blog, I spotted a New Agent Alert on the GLA Blog for Kate Folkers, who had just joined Martin Literary Management after a long career on the marketing side of publishing. Kate was looking for mystery/thrillers and was “NOT [her emphasis] interested in writers trying to capitalize on trends.” I thought my novel fit both descriptions, so I shot off an email and the first fifty pages. Within weeks, Kate had read the full manuscript and offered representation.

(See all new agent alerts and query these agents.)

A year later — on Groundhog Day, if you can believe it — Kate phoned with the incredible news that editor Dan Mayer at Seventh Street Books wanted to publish Dante’s Wood.

My day in the sun had arrived.

GIVEAWAY: Lynne is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: lanieww won.)


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We bundle them together at a discount in our shop.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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37 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Lynne Raimondo

  1. AKninjaRN

    It is so very encouraging to know that a rejection-or seven-does not mean your work isn’t marketable. It makes you wonder how many amazing novels are sitting on a shelf, gathering dust, because the author got rejected a time or two. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Yola

    I can never get enough of How I got my agent stories. This was a great story and I love that you received the call on groundhog’s day. I dream of the day I share my own story.

    Good luck with your book!

    Maribeth 🙂

  3. Scott M

    Yet another wonderful example of an aspiring writer with a “day job” proving that persistence – and making the necessary course corrections along the way – does indeed pay off. Thanks, Lynne, for sharing your story (and the lessons you learned) with this aspiring writer. And thanks to Chuck for all your great work on this blog and on WD.

  4. harikleia

    Your article is very inspiring and encouraging. Congratulations and I’d love to read your book! I think that patience and persistence are the greatest gifts for a writer.

  5. vickielb

    Lynne, I am not sure how to feel. First, I yelled, YEA, Go Girl, when I read this was a first novel. Then you said no unusually colored or ‘different’ stationary… As a recruiter I always recommended that when people looked for jobs, to stand out. They did, and were hired. You mean it doesn’t work with agents? Poo. Then, my heart sank when I saw how long this took you to get a nibble… Finally, I reflected on your ability to do it, do it, do it, on sabbatical. I’ve been swearing I’d be published for more than forty years. (I don’t have a finished manuscript.) I admire you, I’m jealous, and I urge you to publish more, making my journey seem shorter, rather than longer. I want to use your experience to improve myself, and to make you my writer on a pedestal. Seriously, I am so happy for you, and jealousy may be my best compliment! (I have published stories.) Vickie

  6. SpeedyG

    This is a great article for those of us who are just submitting our first manuscript for representation and for those who will do so in the future. Now I will not only be submitting my query letter and first chapters with my fingers crossed but with the “patience of Job” as well. Thank you for the informative article!

  7. LynneR

    A big thanks to everyone who has commented on my guest post so far! Your stories are inspiring to me, too. It was my hope that I could assist aspiring writers simply by reminding them they are not alone. It’s hard, I know, to live with so much uncertainty — never mind the gut-wrenching rejections. I don’t want to sound like Pollyanna, but the time you spend perfecting your craft, whether on your WIP or those pesky queries, won’t be wasted. At worst, you’ll emerge a better writer for it. Good luck to all of you in your writing careers!

  8. cdzuvich

    Your story of how you eventually got published is inspiring and the teaser for your book is interesting. I would very much be interested in reading your book specifically because you are a an attorney. I have, in the past, had a long career as a paralegal. Thanks for your work!

  9. takikoazn

    Thank you Mrs. Raimondo for sharing your inspiring story. I am a graduate student studying biomedical science and started writing my first novel ten years ago. I finally got to the point where I felt it needed to test the water and have been sending out queries since last year. I also believe patience is required as well as the willingness to admit that nothing is perfect. It’s not so bad to go back to the drawing board as long as you’re willing to play the game afterwards. Best wishes to you and everyone trying to sell their work.

  10. ABLyttle

    Thanks for the article, Lynne. It’s so good to see perseverance paying off. I’ve put Dante’s Wood on my to-read list on Goodreads and look forward to reading it.

  11. mfitzharris

    Lynne, thanks for the story. I have been waiting out the downturn in the industry, mainly b/c I haven’t had any luck with the 20 or so agents I’ve queried. Two read the whole mss. and never even wrote back about it. That’s a heart-breaker. I’m almost finished with novel/thriller #2 and will try to market both of them together. Wish me luck! (also, I’d love to win your book; I’ll read it asap — and comment, if you like. Thanks.Maryann

  12. jentylee

    What hard work, persistence, and patience you put into your book. Required of every writer. Finishing your book is only the start of a long process. You have the qualities to keep going and it shows your love for the story itself. Looking forward to reading it however I might. Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations!

  13. Grey Muir

    Loved your article. I am a civil engineer and relate to you comment about being thought of as “verbally challenged”. Unfortunately, as a long time director, I did find many of my engineers to be exactly so.

    Looking forward to more. Thank you.

  14. mjputnik

    Yeah! I’m not the only wise, mature, late blooming writer 😉 I’ve always felt it’s a lot easier to stick my fingers in my eyes and scramble my brains than it is to find an agent. It’s such a Catch 22 process. Thank you for passing on the encouragement and hope your writing journey has shown you. High Five on the new novel. Would love to read it.

  15. jettan

    Every time I query, I get requests for partial or complete manuscripts, but I still haven’t made it past the ‘callbacks.’ Three agents who asked for the entire work were never heard from again. The key here must be persistence. Thanks for sharing, Lynne. I need to be reminded on a regular basis to keep knocking on doors.

  16. tylerjramsay

    Congratulations! As a student trying to write a novel, I have heard tons of stories about the patience required to get through the query-rejection-success process. Your story gives me hope! I would love to read your story. Thanks for the article!

  17. tylerjramsay

    Congratulations! As a student who is in the process of writing a novel, I have heard tons of stories about the patience required to get through the process of query-rejection-success. Your story gives me hope! I would love to read your story!

  18. Ella

    I’ve aspired to become a writer since my middle school years. Towards the end of high school, I started looking into how the literature world truly worked and it astounded me how difficult and disinterested editors and publishing companies can be.

    It’s stories like your’s that prove to me that persistence is a must and to not let rejections get me down. Thank you very much for sharing your experience.

  19. simeon

    Hi Lynne,

    Thanks for all the great insight, and congratulations. I am specifically inspired by your story, because similar to you, I was an attorney for several years. I practiced at Fried Frank in NYC as a corporate attorney, so I didn’t even get to write briefs like you, and as you probably know, at firms like mine, it’s 24/7 work, with no creative outlet. In my case, I began writing my novel on the train going into and out of the city each day. I started in Feb 2010, and am now fine-tuning it in the ninth draft, and working on the synopsis. I hope you have much continued success!

  20. Melissa

    Congratulations! Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. I love hearing how a new author gets published. It’s frightening and encouraging all at the same time!

    It’s I’m still working on my first manuscript and I’ve not written a query letter yet, so the information you have provided here is very helpful.


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