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How I Got My Literary Agent: A. Lynden Rolland

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, How I Got My Agent Columns, How To Find A Literary Agent, What's New, Young Adult Literary Agents.

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring A. Lynden Rolland, author of the YA supernatural novel OF BREAKABLE THINGS. 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: Lynn 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 print book, whereas other readers worldwide can win the ebook. (UPDATE: naturalred78 won.)

 

of-breakable-things-novel      a-lynden-rolland

A. Lynden Rolland was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland. As a former
English teacher, she enjoys visiting classrooms to discuss reading, writing and
publishing. When she isn’t writing or chasing her two young children around
town, she moonlights as a writing tutor and gymnastics instructor. Her debut
novel is OF BREAKABLE THINGS (April 2014, Month9Books), a YA supernatural
story. You can connect with A. Lynden Rolland online through
her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

 

PINK SLIP IN THE MAIL

The first time I mailed a query letter the envelope gave me a paper cut. I should have seen it as a sign. The fact that I used snail mail tells you how long ago this journey began, and the fact that I sent out only one query tells you how naïve I was going into it. I checked the mail with a childlike diligence every day. A week later, there was my SASE, perfect lettering and all. My penmanship is typically slop. It’s a cursive-print hybrid mess that only a handwriting analyst might understand. But with lettering so intricately lined, so neatly arranged, the SASE had to contain good news. I rushed back to house, tossed the rest of the junk on the table, crisscrossed my legs and fell to the floor, ripping open the envelope. At first, I didn’t think there was anything there besides my query. Was it possible that my dream agent had accidentally forgotten to include the shining request for the full manuscript? I expected it to fall out with a thud like a block of gold.

(Classifying Your Book: How to Research & Target Literary Agents.)

I thumbed through the contents again, flipping the envelope upside down and shaking it. Out fluttered a neon pink square. Pink. Freaking pink. Surely such a positive color would be representative of good news, but immediately the term “pink slip” came to mind. If that was the intention, I’m telling you now, agent: NOT FUNNY. Not funny at all. I didn’t even receive a personalized rejection. Hell, I didn’t even get a full sheet of paper! Just the standard thank you, ‘this business is subjective’ blah, blah, (shoot me in the face) blah.

I didn’t think it would sting quite as badly as it did, but that horrid, pink demon-slip left quite the paper cut on my ego. Everyone gets rejected. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times. But writers take things to heart. Writers are perfectionists. We analyze and internalize things more than other people. If we weren’t overly emotional, we wouldn’t write dramatic fiction.

MORE REJECTIONS

Eventually, I racked up over forty rejections. I took the criticism in stride. I rewrote; I reworked; I revised. Every time I wanted to jump off the roof, I reminded myself that my house wasn’t high enough … I’d only break a leg, and then I’d be crippled and still rejected. Pass.

Many agents were encouraging. They liked my writing. They liked my premise, but I was already hearing the word trend. YA Paranormal was on its way out. I came very close with one agent, but in the end, it just didn’t work out. I was thankful for her advice, but I was crushed. Hope is a beautiful thing; each time an agent would request the ms, the elation was such a high. But the tricky thing about hope is that it acts similarly to helium. It doesn’t last forever, and when I was inflated to cloud nine, that only meant I had further to fall. And fall I did. I was done with it.

(Definitions of unusual literary terms & jargon you need to know.)

AND JUST WHEN I WAS ABOUT TO GIVE UP, THIS HAPPENED…

I gave up. I shelved the manuscript. My skin was not thick enough to withstand the knives of rejection. Ironically, the same week, I received an email from Rachael Dugas at Talcott Notch Literary Agency. She requested the first fifty pages. A few days later, she requested more. It was not my first full request, and I was no longer that optimistically eager moron. This time I didn’t get my hopes up. A month later, I checked my email to find:

Hi, Amy–

Thank you for your manuscript and your patience. I simply loved [Of Breakable Things] and would be interested in representing you. Can we set up a time to chat sometime early next week, perhaps sometime Monday afternoon?

Best,

Rachael Dugas

Blink.

Squint.

Reread.

Jaw drop.

My first tiny piece of success as a writer. I fell to the floor in tears. Would the moment have been so gratifying if I’d succeeded the first time? Certainly not. I’d like to believe that those paper cuts have made my skin a little thicker, but if anything, at least they’ve made me a bit more colorful, a bit more interesting, and a bit more appreciative.

GIVEAWAY: Lynn 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 print book, whereas other readers worldwide can win the ebook. (UPDATE: naturalred78 won.)

 

 

Hook agents, editors and readers immediately.
Check out Les Edgerton’s guide, HOOKED, to
learn about how your fiction can pull readers in.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

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37 Responses to How I Got My Literary Agent: A. Lynden Rolland

  1. Debbie says:

    Just think, had your paper cut bled, you would truly have seen evidence of what your heart and soul had produced…a true sign. “Unbreakable” is perfect in defining not giving up. Thanks for the great analogies and insight.

  2. Rhymer says:

    Thanks for the push!
    Best of luck on the release, congratulations.
    Month9books is in my neck of the woods!

    I was curious if you have first hand experience with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or did you do a lot of research? That would take a lot of research.

  3. JMJohnson says:

    Inspiring story and awesome book cover!

  4. robintz says:

    Thank you for a post that was both reassuring and funny! I had to laugh about the pink slip (though, really- who DOES that??). I will keep your words in mind as I continue to accumulate rejection emails. One of these days….

    • Right???

      I still have a spreadsheet of agents who rejected me (so I wouldn’t accidentally query them again). It’s titled something very inappropriate. I just can’t bring myself to delete it :)

      Just keep swimming…

  5. Shell says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. Recently I’ve shelved a manuscript believing it probably not worth publishing. Now that I’ve read your words of encouragement, I’m going to dust it off and give it another go around.

    We writers are emotional beings, to the core. Rejection sometimes puts us in the corner acting like a scolded toddler. It’s refreshing to know that I’m not the only person who takes these things a little too personal.

    Best wishes on your sales!
    Shell Ochsner

  6. Jules-M says:

    Thank you for sharing. It always encourages me to read of new writers who persevered in spite of their rejections and were published. I hope your book sells well.

  7. jessical says:

    Love the personal story and the book looks quite…devourable. I know that’s not a word, but the cover makes me hungry to read!

    Jessica

  8. These comments are so wonderful. It’s easy to forget (during the querying, rejections, submissions) that we do this because we love it. Writing is a part of us. If at some point we lose the passion for it, that’s the true failure. Rejection does not equal failure. I have to continue to remind myself of this because the rejections and the criticism never stop. First agents…then editors…then readers.

    Writers are an odd but wonderful breed, and I wish everyone the best of luck!

  9. Thank you so much for this post. As I am just about to start shopping my novel out to agents, this was very timely and very encouraging. Best of luck with the new novel! Can’t wait to read it. :)

  10. amazonqueen9876 says:

    I haven’t yet begun to submit query letters for my novel and I admit it is because I am worried about the rejection letters that may flood my inbox. After reading your blog, I am encouraged to now give it a shot and maybe one day, I too will be able to share a successful experience as you have done so here.

    Thank You Ms. Rolland.

    Rejections be damned!

    • Cover your face with your hands and read the responses through your fingers!!! That’s what I did, lol. Send out several at a time, and always have a new batch ready to go. That way, if a rejection comes rolling in, you can kick it away and send out some more.

  11. MelisAbrehamsen says:

    Thank you for encouraging my clichéd socks off!

  12. Max says:

    Congratulations on your agent. I’ve been querying for months now and know that if an email starts with “thank you” it’s a no.

    And I really took to heart the line “Writers analyze and internalize things more than other people. If we weren’t overly emotional, we wouldn’t write dramatic fiction.”

    Hopefully I’ll find one before email is considered old and we move on to telepathic brain waves or something future communications oriented.

    Thank you for the story and the hope that it’s not too late if we don’t get signed as soon as we optimistically imagined we would.

    • Hold on to those emotions, even the horrible feelings that accompany an email that begins with ‘thank you’ (ughhhh). They will make your writing that much better! I think maybe that’s what made the depressing scenes in Of Breakable Things stronger … I’d always tweak those when I was feeling down (aka after rejections).

  13. naturalred78 says:

    As I’m almost ready to start querying myself, this just reminds me to buckle in (it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. Sorry, I had to). It is comforting to see that it rarely happens quickly. I’m just glad that it’s all email now so I can’t get a pink slip!

  14. Codie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It gave me enough of a reality check to not expect to be signed right away, while at the same time reminding me to never give up when the first rejection(s) happen(s).

    • Then there are those rare instances when someone signs with the first agent they queried! (Crazy) Not the case for me! But my story is so much better because of it. I look at the original version and compare it to the final product, and I can’t help but believe that everything happens for a reason.

  15. lionetravail says:

    Wow. I’m going through the query process now, and, while I’ve read similar accounts from others, it’s a whole other thing to hear it from a published author with a frank (and amusing) success story. Thank you for this, Ms. Rolland.

  16. Marewolf says:

    Sweet, hilarious, brilliant! All things that can describe you Amy! I love this path to success :)

  17. burrowswrite says:

    great segment on rejections.

  18. Leandra says:

    So I totally laughed out loud reading this- rejections hurt bad enough, no need to add that broken leg as well! =) Thanks for sharing your story, so glad that you got that agent! And now a book, woot!

    • Thank you, Leandra! Funny fact- I broke my foot a few months ago (don’t worry- I didn’t jump!!) and I got so much writing done b/c other people were watching my kids… it made me think about how much that broken leg might have helped out, haha!

  19. Lina Moder says:

    I LOVE her voice! Just reading this article, with it’s heart and emotion and immediacy, I know her book will rock :)

    And it’s awesome it’s a paranormal!!

    Thank you for this wonderful, lively, real account of your journey, and for understanding the writer’s heart and soul.

    Thank you :)

    linamoder at gmail dot com

  20. Poeeop says:

    Lynn, thank you so much for your blog article, it came to me exactly when I needed it. I am new to the writing world and get discouraged easy at times. You said it right with your comment on how we writers take criticism of our heartfelt work personally.

    To hear of your struggles, it gives me renewed hope to continue doing what I love.

    I will be purchasing a copy of your book.

    Thank You so much.

    • It’s so easy to let the discouragement consume you. I feel hypocritical telling people not to give up b/c I nearly did. I think we just have to remember that writing is a part of us because we love it. If we lose the passion for it, then that’s a true failure. Not a rejection letter. Failure is to allow someone’s opinion to influence us that much.

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