How I Got My Literary Agent: Natalia Sylvester

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Natalia Sylvester, author of CHASING THE SUN. 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 and we’ll talk specifics.

GIVEAWAY: Natalia 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: Pizzos3 won.)


natalia-sylvester-author-writer        chasing-the-sun-nove-cover

Natalia Sylvester is the author of CHASING THE SUN (New Harvest/Amazon
Publishing, June 2014). Born in Lima, Peru, she came to the U.S. at age four
and grew up in South Florida, where she received a B.A. in Creative Writing
from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, Natalia now works
as a freelance journalist and copywriter. Her articles have appeared in Latina,, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer magazines.
Find her on Twitter: @NataliaSylv.


There’s a long version and a short version of this story.


I went to a writers’ conference in 2010 and ended up getting offers of representation from two of the agents I met there.


I attended the Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference in June 2010. I was just a light polish away from completing a final draft of my novel after having worked on it for nearly four years. I felt ready enough to start pitching agents.

What I wasn’t ready for was pitching it verbally. Though I’d practiced a short pitch in front of my mirror, my husband, and my dogs, I arrived at the conference a nervous wreck. It was a Friday night, and my 10-minute consultation with Brandi Bowles of Foundry Literary + Media was on Sunday. I resigned myself to practicing my pitch by my lonesome in the corner of the room when a fellow conference attendee approached me.

(Looking to attend a writers’ conference? Start here.)

“So what’s your book about?” she asked. Within minutes, I realized this conference wasn’t just about networking with agents, it was about networking with other writers. Together with about four others, my new friend and I helped each other practice and hone our pitch. We worked out the kinks and the nerves. By the time Sunday rolled around I was feeling pretty confident. I sat down with Brandi and told her about my book.

And guess what? She didn’t offer me representation right then and there. What she did offer was feedback. Really great, spot-on suggestions for how I could make my work stronger before sending it out to agents.

I took it all in. Later that afternoon, when I had the chance to pitch another agent who requested I send him a full, I asked if he’d rather I send him the manuscript right away, or if it’d be okay if I took a couple of months to really polish it. “Always send the best work you can, even if it takes a little longer,” he said. It took this in, too.

Essentially, I left the conference with an important To-Do List:

1. Keep revising, taking into account the agents feedback I’d received.
2. Meet with my new writers’ group that I’d met at the conference to get even more feedback.
3. Don’t rush. Query only when the book is ready.

Four months passed before I got through all these steps. I started querying in late October and within a few months had received offers from both Brandi and the other agent I’d met at the WLT Conference.

I call this the longer, more honest version of this story because the truth is this: You may not always walk away from a conference with an offer of representation. But if you keep your mind and ears open, you’ll definitely walk away with the tools necessary to get there.

GIVEAWAY: Natalia 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: Pizzos3 won.)



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23 thoughts on “How I Got My Literary Agent: Natalia Sylvester

  1. cjhinesy

    I have not done any pitches to agents at conferences, but it sounds so scary and intimidating. It helps to read about what authors, like you, Natalia, went through and what you learned about the process. It gives me hope when the time comes for me to venture into that deep water–and pray I don’t drown.


    I just realized almost seven years after my first SCBWI conference and first commented rejection, that all feedback especially rejections represent good feedback. Good to know that agents will provide the same information.

  3. alan.grimm

    I wish I’d seen this before I attended this year’s WLT conference. I thought Susan Barnes from Orbitz was going to have to perform CPR when I finally sat down. I’m already thinking about next year’s conference and how I can be better. Congratulations on your success.

  4. Debbie

    Your experience reminds me of a wallflower at a party — having the guts to mingle and interact will not only help strengthen your experience but also spotlight who you are and what you offer. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Sarina

    This is great to read, and in a lot of ways exactly what I need to hear! I’ve had a few experiences with things getting delayed a little longer than I expected, so it’s good to know it’s happening to other writers too – including those who are already published.
    I also have a tendency to get ahead of myself, so I need things like this article to remind me to slow down and polish sometimes. Thanks for telling your story!

  6. Austine

    I really loved reading about your experience. As an aspiring author, I’m trying to soak up as much information and help as I can and I think it’s great that you did the same before sending your novel out there. I’m nowhere near pitch-ready but I hope to take what you’ve said into consideration when I start attending conferences and putting myself out there as a writer. Thank you for sharing, as well as for the opportunity to win you book. It looks great!

  7. Genevieve N. Williams

    This is great. It’s good to learn the journey writers make from finished manuscript to published book.

    I plan to attend AWP next year– even though I am terribly awkward when speaking with professionally successful writers and publishing professionals. It must be one of those things that gets easier with time.

    Congratulations on your success!

  8. CarmenK

    Congratulations, Natalia, for writing, polishing, listening, and polishing yet again. And, of course, congratulations on getting published. Nicely done!

  9. Yola

    I love writer’s conferences. I attended one in November and got great feedback. I’m currently waiting to hear from one of the agents who requested my ms. I love reading all of these inspiring stories. Good Luck with your book!!!


  10. npierson

    Thanks for the great advice, Natalia. I haven’t given my first pitches yet, and it’s an intimidating idea. Now I know better what to expect, and what not to expect. I look forward to reading your book.

    1. NataliaSylvester

      It can be intimidating, but when you look at it as an opportunity to improve your pitch and simply get helpful feedback (instead of putting so much pressure on yourself to secure an agent JUST with the pitch) it helps. Best of luck!

  11. EddysGal

    Hey, Natalia, thanks for that encouragement! I went to my first conference back in April, just a small one, but yeah, that verbal pitch….it was nerve-wracking. Glad to see you’ve profited from your experience there, and that you learned from that experience, too. And, that you’re using that experience to strengthen our resolve and encourage us along the way. Take care.

  12. Dennis

    Thank you Natalia for sharing your experience. I really appreciate your point about not submitting till ready. I keep hearing many people just submitting without really having their manuscript polished as best they can. This equals many rejection letters. Thank you also for the offer of your book. It sounds like a great read.

    1. NataliaSylvester

      Thanks, Dennis. I was so tempted to send that first draft out as soon as I finished; it ended up being about 5 years before I did. Best of luck with your work!


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