How I Got My Literary Agent: Jaime Martinez-Tolentino

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Jaime Martinez-Tolentino, author of TAINO. 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.

 

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Jaime Martinez-Tolentino is the author of TAINO (Altera Editorial, May 2014). This Spanish-language historical novel covers 472 years in the history of one of one of the least known minorities in the US, following the lives of three central characters and their descendants: Chief Agüeybaná, the Brave, his sister Guanina, and the Shaman Coabey.  Martinez-Tolentino has a B.A. and an M.A in French from New York University, a Certificat de Langue Française from Paris’ Sorbonne, a Ph.D. in French from the University of Madrid, another M.A. and another Ph.D. in Spanish and Latin American Literature. He was a finalist in 1992 for the University of Miami’s Golden Letters Award, and has received literary awards in Puerto Rico, the U.S. and Portugal. He is the author of 13 books, the editor of 6 others, and has published widely in journals from Puerto Rico,the USA, Canada, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, Italy, Colombia, and the Internet. Find him on Wikipedia here.

I have been writing full-time since 2004. That’s 10 years.  During that time, I have had two goals:

  1. To publish in as many different countries as I can, and to publish both in English and in Spanish
  2. To get a literary agent to represent me since the large publishing companies that do not accept unsolicited mss not sent by literary agents.

I have achieved the first of those goals with books in Spain, Australia, and the U.S.

However, in spite of all my hard work, the second of those goals had eluded me. For 10 years, I tried to get different literary agents to represent me (hundreds of them!) but there were no takers. Oh, sure; they requested partials of the book that I was pitching, a few requested the complete manuscript, and quite a few sent me encouraging praise such as “I think you have great talent as a writer” but still … nada. I had faith in my own talent, but I just knew that without a literary agent I would never join “the Big Leagues” of writing.

Then, a literary agent (“Agent 1”) in New York requested the complete manuscript of the English-language version of Taíno. The only problem was that after that she kept on asking me to give her more time to finish reading the manuscript. When I grew tired of being strung along, I went back to querying other agents.

Another agent (“Agent 2”) requested the complete manuscript, and she read it in a week. We made an appointment for a telephone chat the following week. Then the first agent sent me an email indicating that she had (finally!) finished reading my manuscript and that she wanted to call me the following week also about possible representation!

I panicked! In the space of an hour, one afternoon, I went from having no literary agent at all, to suddenly having two interested in representing me! What I did then proves that in such situations one should follow one’s gut instinct. I emailed Agent 2 and told her that if she was really interested, she had to give me some tangible proof so that I would have an excuse to give to the second agent when I next got in touch with her.

Several minutes later, there was a reply to my email. The agent that I had just emailed sent me a representation contract! Two days later, my agent got in touch with me and I was very favorably impressed with her enthusiasm. We discussed plans for the marketing of my book. And that was that.

My literary agent is Leticia Gómez. She founded her own literary agency (Savvy Literary Services), and she has also recently been named Publisher of the imprint for Hispanic authors and about Hispanic subjects Café con Leche Books, which is a division of Köehler Books, with headquarters in Virginia Beach, VA.

 

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