• THE
    Writing Prompt
    Boot Camp

    Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and get the Writing Prompt Boot Camp download.

  • Guide to Literary Agents

How I Got My Agent: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, How I Got My Agent Columns, Literary Fiction Agents, What's New.

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of the 2013 debut novel, FOREVER, INTERRUPTED. 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. 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.

GIVEAWAY: Taylor 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: ashbporter won.)

 

taylor-jenkins-reid-author-writer         Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.58.35 AM

Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist living in Los Angeles.
Before becoming a writer, she worked in entertainment and education.
Her work has appeared on XoJane, The Hairpin, The Billfold, and Good
in addition to other lifestyle blogs. Follow her on Twitter: @tjenkinsreid.
FOREVER, INTERRUPTED is her first novel. Sarah Pekkanen, author
of The Best of Us, called the book, “Sweet, heartfelt, and surprising.”

THE FIRST ATTEMPT

When I wrote my first book, I was too scared to find out how people got books published. I was convinced that you needed some sort of magical potion that I didn’t have. So instead, I sent the book to any of my friends that would agree to read it. After a few months of doing this, one of them believed it in so strongly that she called a friend, who called a friend, who knew a literary agent in New York.

That’s how I got my first agent. She called me, she told me she loved my book, and she signed me. I didn’t look for anyone else. I didn’t do any research.

Unfortunately, that book did not sell. The rejections were kind and they were promising but they were clear: This is not for us.

So I circled back and started again. I set out to write a new book, armed with all of the lessons I had learned from the first round. I discussed ideas with my agent. We both felt good about my new premise.

I took time off work and wrote the first draft in a month. I went back to work and continued editing until I was ready to let it see the light of day. I felt confident about this story, more confident than I had felt about anything I’d previously done. This was my breakout book. I knew it.

Unfortunately, my agent did not feel the same way. She took months to get me notes and even then her notes were broad. She tempered them with phrases like, “I’m not saying you have to rewrite from the ground up but…”

(How to Deal With Writing Critiques.)

I took her notes and turned another draft around quickly but again, months went by until I heard a reply. Again, she had a strong idea of what the book should be and she felt the book I turned in was not it. She was not prepared to go out and sell this book. She suggested another, more significant, rewrite.

JUMPING SHIP

I valued her opinion very highly but I also suspected that we were having a serious disconnect. I believed in this book. I knew it was my very best work. I strongly felt the notes she was suggesting would ruin the heart of the story.

So I took a very big leap of faith. I left my agent.

(Why agents stop reading your first chapter.)

With a kindly worded e-mail, I was now out in the wilderness alone. I was, once again, an author with no agent.

But instead of being too scared to find out how to get an agent, as I was a year and a half before, this time I was relentless. I read every book on the subject I could find. I asked everybody who knew a represented author to give me advice. I scoured the internet, looking for potential agents, people who had an impressive client list and a great work ethic. I targeted agents who had my same taste because I finally understood how important it was that my agent and I value the same type of storytelling. Twitter proved be the very best way to do this. I learned so much about agents by what they tweeted and retweeted.

I obsessed over my query letter, writing and rewriting until I felt like my eyes would pop out of my head. And then I sent out query emails over and over. I contacted 25 agents.

LANDING ON MY FEET

I got a few Maybes and a pile of No Thank You’s.

And then, came the Yes.

Carly Watters of P.S. Literary understood what I was trying to do. She believed in the heart of my book. And while she had notes (great notes!) she didn’t want a page 1 rewrite. She loved the characters and the story. She got it.

(See an agent profile of literary agent Carly Watters.)

There is nothing quite like having your book read and truly understood. It’s all the better when it’s someone who knows how to go out there and sell it.

Which is exactly what she did. Within a few months, FOREVER, INTERRUPTED was sold to Atria Books/Simon & Schuster in a two book deal. International sales followed.

Leaving my first agent was incredibly scary, but I had to do it if I was going to find my way to Carly. Now, I’ve sold a book that I truly love and believe in with the help of someone that truly loves it and believes in it too.

And that’s the dream, right?

GIVEAWAY: Taylor 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: ashbporter won.)

 


Join the Writer’s Digest VIP Program today!

You’ll get a subscription to the magazine, a
subscription to WritersMarket.com, discounts
on almost everything you buy, a download,
and much more great stuff.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

 

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts
  • Print Circulation Form

    Did you love this article? Subscribe Today & Save 58%

19 Responses to How I Got My Agent: Taylor Jenkins Reid

  1. bookishjen says:

    I wrote a comment yesterday, but it does not appear to be here. Congratulations on both finding your perfect agent and on your book!

  2. bookishjen says:

    what love about this column is that for this writer, it really did “only take one” — the right one. I have only started querying but am amazed/terrified when I read about writers who say they had a dozen requests for their manuscript before they secured representation.

    taylor, congratulations on your book — it sounds fantastic and I wish you all the best with it.

  3. Margiemay says:

    That was brave to drop your agent, but ultimately the right choice! Inspiring story. Thanks for sharing!

  4. robertrosati says:

    This is a very insightful and helpful.

  5. Debbie says:

    Hopefully your current happing ending (first novel) is your Forever Interrupted to many more. Best of luck!

  6. TomiLWiley says:

    That’s probably my most pressing fear: that an agent won’t understand my book – but I’m still writing, revising, honing. Soon I’ll start my search for an agent, which will be difficult for me, who has been published automatically since I was in the media biz for so long. *fingers crossed*

    Thanks for the encouraging words, Taylor – and well done!

  7. The struggle makes the reward great. Persevere.

  8. StarchyOBrien says:

    Love that you had the guts to leave an agent to find a better fit. Forever, Interrupted sounds awesome–I can’t wait to read it.

  9. greenurlifenow says:

    Great to read that the writer was determined and did not give up on being a writer. Book sounds great. Best wishes.

    Bonnie

  10. sgwriter says:

    Your post is one more good example of the power of story to illuminate and inspire. Your reference to the value of Twitter in finding an agent who shares your vision and style is particularly enlightening. Thank you!

    P.S. Would love to know the contract details. :)

  11. DanielJayBerg says:

    Neat story. Thanks for sharing! I appreciate your honesty and guts!

  12. Thank you for leaving your thoughts. I can understand the piles upon piles of rejections that accumulate. when I first started submitting material to various publications I started a blog where I posted each and every rejection. I have since left that blog inactive. But it was a way for me to cope with daily rejections.

  13. ashbporter says:

    Thanks so much for sharing how you found your agent Taylor. I was so excited to see your column this morning. I heard about your book for the first time last month and I’m dying to read it. Good luck with the release!

  14. Chuck Sambuchino says:

    Thank you, Taylor, for the fun column!

Leave a Reply