How I Got My Agent: Taylor Stevens

“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.

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


    


Taylor Stevens is the author of The Informationist,
a debut
Publishers Weekly called “blazingly brilliant”
in a starred review. Taylor was born into the Children
of God, an apocalyptic religious cult. Raised across
the globe and separated from her family at age 12,
Taylor broke free to follow hope and a vague idea of
what possibilities lay beyond. She now lives in Texas,
and juggles writing with motherhood. Find her online here.

 

NOT YOUR TYPICAL CHILDHOOD

When I first set out to write The Informationist, I had no idea what it took to get published. I didn’t know any writers or even anyone who aspired to be a writer. I wasn’t aware of writers conferences or critique groups, and truthfully, I’d read very few books, though not for lack of desire. I’d been born into and had spent my entire life within communes of The Children of God, an apocalyptic religious cult that viewed education as a waste of time and forbade access to school, outside books, music and television.

Still relatively new to life in the real world and struggling to find my place, I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and wonder what might have been, and so I set out to reclaim years of lost opportunities through writing. I had never taken a writing class. One word after the next was all I knew, and finding an agent wasn’t even a blip on my radar.

As time progressed, and so did my ability to craft words, when The Informationist began to form into something closer to the story it is now, publication became the next mountain to hurdle. Knowing nothing about the subject, I procrastinated by scouring the Internet for information on what it would take to get into print, and quickly realized what everyone else already knew: that not only was finding an agent a critical first step, it was also very difficult.

MY ONLY OPTION: COLD QUERIES

I didn’t have the time or the means to attend writers groups for critiques, or learn from others’ knowledge first hand, much less travel to conferences in order to pitch directly to agents. I didn’t know anyone who knew anyone who could make introductions, and I was a nobody without a writing credit to my name—not even a short story or article in a small town magazine. The odds were stacked high enough to bring on cold query cold sweats. I hadn’t finished writing the book and already I dreaded the agent search, because cold querying by e-mail, from scratch, without guidance or help, was really my only option.

Learning to write and completing a book seemed easy in comparison to drafting a query letter. Utilizing more procrastination under the guise of research, I read writer, agent and editor blogs, studied the how-not-tos, visited forums and searched for examples of successful queries, so that by the time The Informationist was as good as I could possibly get it, even though I was bracing for the gauntlet of rejections, I knew what needed to happen next and that the only way to get through it was to just do it.

I searched for agents using the same process that had taught me about the publishing industry: the Internet. Through websites that listed literary agents, blogs, online Q&As, and so forth, I built a short list of names who were still seeking new clients, who preferred e-mail submissions, who represented my genre and who were with reputable agencies.

LO AND BEHOLD: TWO OFFERS!

I wrote two query letters in drastically different styles, and unable to decide which one read better, queried five agents, alternating between the versions. I then waited two to three weeks before querying another five agents. I went through the same rite of passage that most people go through: the waiting, the silence, the nothing. But then, as the weeks went on and I was up to 15 query letters sent, the responses started coming. I received a few rejections, but I also received four requests for partials, and from those, two offers of representation—one offer from each of the two versions of the query letter.

After having prepared myself for months, if not years of rejection, and having thrown myself at the query letter as if my entire future depended on it—and I suppose it truly did, as I had no Plan B for life, being offered representation at such an early stage in the process was shocking and an enormous relief. I’d never imagined myself in the position of having to choose between agents.

I was able to discuss The Informationist with both agents and after listening to the vision and concerns that each brought to the table, I chose to sign with Anne Hawkins, at John Hawkins and Associates, Inc., a decision made on gut instinct and the feel that she might be best for me and the book—a decision I’ve been grateful for ever since. Anne has been absolutely phenomenal and I am ever appreciative of her personal insight and industry experience, as well as her no-nonsense ability to bring out the best in me.

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

Writing a thriller or mystery? Thriller writer
Elizabeth Sims is teaching a webinar on April 14,
2011 and it includes a free critique of your work.
Learn more and sign up here.

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33 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Taylor Stevens

  1. Heather Schick

    I am amazed by your ability to overcome so many obstacles, achieve so much in so little time, and all with limited resources. Your tenacity is a wonderful lesson the rest of us should learn. Bravo Taylor! I sincerely cannot wait to read your book. I expect great things from you in the future.

    Thank you!

  2. Vicki

    Congrats on the book and props for the hard work. I would be interested in reading the book and have bookmarked your site for a time when I am not sitting in the hospital waiting to be called emergently.

  3. Liam Taliesin

    The journey you’ve shared about finding an agent resonates deeply for many of us labouring out here in our dark garrets. You have brilliantly articulated the struggle to juggle the actual process of writing with the daunting prospect of finding an agent and eventual publication.

    Thank you for your insights. They managed to be both useful and reassuring.

    Liam

  4. Heather Marsten

    Interesting that two versions of query letter both got results, maybe we focus too much on query. Your book sounds interesting, and I am curious if you consider writing memoir of your past in the God’s Children, I bet that would bless people.

    Heather HM at HVC dot RR dot COM

  5. Morgan Billington

    Wow. I am trying desperately to write a thriller now. You truly have inspired me to keep at it. Thank you and I look forward to reading your book!

  6. Sue Anne Pate

    You had me at "born into the Children of God, an apocalyptic religious cult". I’ll buy your book!! I appreciate your determination both in life and getting your book published. Best wishes to your great future.

  7. Steph Jones

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal story with us. I am looking forward to reading your book. I am currently helping a friend by promoting his book and doing what I can to research information for him. I did post the link to this article on his Facebook page. I love to read, learn and share. Thank you for having this contest as you undoubtedly are an inspiration to others.

  8. Jewel Allen

    Simply amazing and inspiring, both the book and your life story. More power to you! I confess I usually do not read thrillers, but I want to now :-). I read some of the links to your interviews. I am just floored by your determination to tell your stories against all odds. No excuses, indeed!!

  9. Lynda

    Except for the upbringing, you sound so much like me it isn’t even funny! I am the queen of procrastination when I have to face something I don’t want to do & eventually (when/if I ever finish my first book) I will have to do the agent cold calling too. Thanks for your frankness!

  10. Joy T.

    Very inspiring! You have a very interesting story here (that goes for your life and for the plot of the novel!) and I enjoyed reading this interview. I hadn’t heard of it before, but the book sounds very intriguing, and it’s definitely going on my to-read list.

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