“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Jaimie M. Engle, author of CLIFTON CHASE AND THE ARROW OF LIGHT. 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 email@example.com and we’ll talk specifics.
Jaimie M. Engle is an award-winning middle-grade author from Melbourne, Florida. Before releasing her debut novel Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light, she ran a body shop, modeled bikinis, danced in the Aloha Bowl halftime show, and managed a hip-hop band. Her young adult novella placed honorable mentions in the 2013 L. Ron Hubbard’s Writer’s of the Future contest. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of D4EO Literary. Engle offers a coaching & editing service for aspiring writers, teaches writing classes, and volunteers with elementary school & library writing programs. Find her on Twitter.
The power of the slush pile
My first book experience was a disaster! After 98 agent rejections (out of the 150 I solicited), a small press picked me up and my dream was alive. But a week after my book hit the shelves, with only a handful of sales—of which I’m convinced were all from my family and friends anyway—the publisher was in breach of contract and we parted ways. I re-released the book as a self-published author, and learned a ton about marketing. So it wasn’t a loss by any means, just a very difficult situation and not nearly as magical as I had hoped. But I kept on writing.
A tweet by any other name
In January, my best friend mentioned that agents were tweeting about their wish lists. I checked it out and came across an agent who seemed like she could be a match for my Norse-Viking upper MG. I subbed my manuscript, Dreadlands, in February 2013 and received a full request in a few days. I spent the next couple weeks reading every blog interview I could find featuring this agent. I read her agency’s website, cross-referenced her clients with books, and anything else to gather intel on my “future agent”. In early March, I received an email from her asking if I was available to talk by phone later that day. Of course, I was. I waited until finally:
She loved my book. She wanted to represent me. I should have had a ton of questions and witty remarks to show her how clever I was. Instead, I said that I would have to call her back when I could think clearly and wasn’t about to puke in the bushes. Classy, I know.
Sign on the……
Within a few days, the contract was signed, and I went from the slush pile to the client roster. As I write this, my book is under consideration with several of the big 5 publishing houses, something I would not have been able to accomplish without my awesome agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of D4EO Literary. Hopefully, the publishing contract will come soon. But in the meantime, I just keep on writing. My encouragement to anyone reading this is to keep writing, editing, and polishing your story. Study hard, learn from those who are willing to teach you, and always strive to write a story that is just outside your reach. This isn’t a quick business, by any means. It takes time to become competitive, to contract, to publish, and to build your brand. If you don’t give up, you’ll find success…even in the forbidden slush pile!
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Agent Spotlight: Lana Popovic (Chalberg and Sussman) seeks Fiction, Nonfiction, YA and MG.
- 5 Tips For Writing Suspense.
- How I Got My Literary Agent: Margo Kelly (Young Adult).
- Agent Spotlight: Brent Taylor (TriadaUS Literary Agency) seeks YA, MG and New Adult.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and writing a query letter.
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