Editors Blog

How I Got My Literary Agent: Kristi Belcamino

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Kristi Belcamino, author of BLESSED ARE THE DEAD. 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: Kristi 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: Must Love Musty Pages won.)

 

kristi-belcamino-writer-author      blessed-are-the-dead-novel-cover

Column by award-winning former journalist Kristi Belcamino, whose debut
mystery BLESSED ARE THE DEAD has been compared to Sue Grafton’s books
and offers chilling, authentic glimpses into the mind of a psychopath while also
mining the psyche of an extremely likeable and sympathetic protagonist. The
novel (HarperCollins June 10, 2014) was inspired by Belcamino’s dealings with
a serial killer during her life as a Bay Area crime reporter. Find Kristi on Twitter.

 

I PULLED THE TRIGGER TOO EARLY

When my youngest started kindergarten, I sat down and wrote my first book. I naively thought my novel was then ready to go out into the world.

Wrong.

Premature

The first agent who requested a full (within an hour of me sending my query) rejected it soundly a week later, with words that still sting to this day: “… it is not strong enough to measure up against the heavy hitters in the genre.”

Body blow! Even though it hurt, he was right. I pulled the trigger much too early.

(Postscript: a year later I asked him to take another look at my revised novel, this time he really liked the writing, but said that type of crime fiction didn’t float his boat. Fair enough.)

(Why agents stop reading your sample chapters.)

THE CALL (NO, NOT *THAT* ONE)

As I hinted at above, I spent a year polishing that first draft. I studied craft, read all the great crime fiction writers and revised over and over again. I, also, continued to query. One day I got an email that an agent wanted to call me. The call, the call, the call!

But it wasn’t.

She spent 90 minutes on the phone telling me everything she liked about my book. When she first started reading it on her phone on the train home, she thought she would switch to her laptop once she got home. Instead, she sat on her couch, with her coat still on and read it until the end. On her phone.

I was ecstatic! But she ended the call talking about our future together but never made an offer.  (I’m still baffled to this day.)

But that’s when I knew I was close. Onwards. I’d been corresponding with another agent for about two months when she said she wanted to call me about some revisions I had done. Of course, this time I knew not to get too excited about a call. But this time, this agent offered to represent me. I told her that I’d let her know in a week. I had about 10 other agents considering my manuscript and I knew it was protocol, not to mention good karma, to give them a heads up. But I had pretty much already made a decision to go with her. I really liked her and she was super smart. By the end of the week three agents said they’d get back to me on Monday. Ego restored. I was going to get more than one offer and have to decide. Win!

Then I got an email from an agent I hadn’t even queried: Stacey Glick of Dystel & Goderich. Her colleague had read Blessed are the Dead and dubbed it a “Stacey Project.” She said she’d get back to me Monday morning. I immediately searched her on Publishers Marketplace. Good grief. She’d sold five books just that week alone.

But I wasn’t to be swayed. I would remain loyal to the first agent who offered. I knew her. I liked her.

Silly me. I had no idea what a powerhouse Stacey Glick is.

(How to collaborate with a freelance editor.)

STACEY THE SUPERSTAR

On Monday, Stacey Glick called me.

By the time I hung up, there was never any question of not signing with her. Never a question. For so many reasons. She is an amazing agent, is super smart, incredibly cool, and knows her stuff. In fact, she already knew what editors would like my book. I could go on and on, but by the end of the conversation, I knew I wanted her in my corner. I didn’t even need or want to talk to the other agents still considering my book.

Then, I realized I had to make the hardest call of my writing career. I had to call the first agent who offered and tell her I was going with someone else.

It sucked.

I felt like the biggest heel on the planet. I was sick to my stomach about it.

But I had to set emotions aside and make a business decision. Even though I had felt loyal to that first agent who offered, I knew in my heart that Stacey was the right agent for me.

And as it turned out, Stacey ended up selling my book to the editor she mentioned during that first phone call. I could not ask for a better editor or agent in my corner!

GIVEAWAY: Kristi 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: Must Love Musty Pages won.)

 

How to Blog a Book by Nina Amir discusses
how to slowly release a novel online to generate
interest in your writing and work.

 

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.

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13 thoughts on “How I Got My Literary Agent: Kristi Belcamino

  1. bludbro69

    Kristi, thank you for sharing your experience. I have recently started writing short stories and it’s good to know some of the challenges a writer will face.

  2. Must Love Musty Pages

    Although it’s hard to hear while writing my first novel that it may not be my first *published* novel, I want to thank you for being so honest. It’s grounding to hear that querying takes time and it’s all about the right fit.

    That first 90 minute phone call… wow, I’m pretty positive that I would have sobbed from stress afterwards. Mental note: if I ever get a call from a potential literary agent, keep tissues standing by. But that’s wonderful that your current agent Stacey was so enthusiastic about Blessed are the Dead. I love mysteries so I will definitely be checking your debut out!

  3. Pizzos3.com

    Wow that’s an amazing accomplishment. No 100+ queries out there for you. Do you think the difficult phone call was difficult because you were a new author being chosen? I don’t think agents have difficulty turning writers down.

  4. amazonqueen9876

    Thank you for sharing. One of the things I always do when making a big decision is do a “gut”check. Our intuition is our greatest ally in life.

  5. W Brown

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I can only imagine (since I am not yet ready to try to get an agent) how uncomfortable it must have been to turn down that first agent. But, I really love the line you wrote about it being a business decision. I think that is an excellent mind set for authors to try to have – when trying to get published. However, I think it’s probably one of the most difficult things for us and any other kind of artists to have because of the very emotional connection we have to our work. And, that kind of emotional/spiritual aspect of ourselves is probably the part that makes us the writesr/artists that we are. This article, for me, will serve as a great reminder that when I’m ready to try to get an agent I need to switch to my business mindset and try to quiet the author.

  6. Tennisgirl92

    That sounds so hard (having to make that call)! I felt my own stomach churning at the thought! But you knew which agent was the better choice and that’s cool that you went with your gut and not with your guilt.
    Plus, it is nice to see that not all books just come out with a ribbon tied on them – that sometimes we have to get the shoe polish out.

    Congratulations on getting your book published!

  7. Dennis

    Thank you for your comments. Perseverance seems to be the key in this business, especially landing the agent. Congratulations on sticking to your guns.

  8. SeanTulien

    It was great to get insight into the author’s feelings regarding choosing an agent–not typically something we read about but is likely common for writers seeking agents? These kinds of practical considerations seem more useful than other behind-the-scenes agent tales.

    Once Upon a Crime is a fantastic book store and I see that Kristi’s making an appearance there in July. Very cool!

  9. Christina C.

    It must have been so so hard for her to reject that first agent. But in a way it’s like how agents reject authors – they too must feel bad when the writing is good and they like the writer but the project isn’t a right fit for them. The fit wasn’t right with this agent, and it’s awesome she found the perfect home for her novel!

    Thank you :)

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