How I Got My Literary Agent: Write, Write, and Write Again

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Jody Holford, co-author of DANGEROUS LOVE. 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: Jody is excited to give away a free ebook copy of her novel to a random commenter. This giveaway is now closed. 

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Column by Jody Holford, co-author of DANGEROUS LOVE (April 2015, 
Anaiah Press), FOREVER CHRISTMAS, and ALWAYS TIME FOR CHRISTMAS
She writes multiple genres but her favorite is romance because she’s a big fan
of love and finding happily ever after. Probably because she’s lucky enough to
have both. She also writes for the Canadian Children’s Book News. Contact her
on Facebook or Twitter.

At the beginning of the summer of 2013, Fran Black of Literary Counsel emailed and asked to see the full manuscript of my first romance novel. She told me she liked it and she liked my writing, but in the end, she didn’t think she could sell the story. Figuring the worst she could say was no, I asked if I could send her my next manuscript. She said yes.

I often think about this particular timeframe—other agents had this second story and I wanted an agent so badly that I became impatient. Okay, I was already impatient, but I let it overpower my belief in my writing. An agent offered to sign me and I jumped. I told the other agents, Fran included, I’d accepted representation, and closed the door.

When that agent didn’t work out, I found myself back in the query trenches. I started fresh with a list of agents I thought were a good match. But there were a couple who had been so supportive the first couple times—Fran included. I had a new manuscript and less confidence. I wanted to send to Fran, but I felt foolish, since I told everyone I’d found representation. I swallowed my pride and emailed Fran, asking if she would maybe-possibly be interested in seeing my newest work.

When she said yes, I was really hopeful. I felt good about my story and even more excited when Fran emailed to say she was reading. She just wanted to update me to let me know she’d started. I loved her kindness—authors spend so much time waiting, it feels like a slow spiral into madness. Fran always offset that madness with updates. She let me know she was about eight chapters in. My excitement increased. Her next email said she needed to be blunt: I hadn’t dug deep enough. I’d only touched the surface and she knew I could go further. She thought I could do it, but it would take work. I could let her know if I wanted to try again.

It threw me off. Was I becoming a better writer? Maybe that was the height of my game and I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t even entirely sure I understood how to dig in deeper. I was going to revise and edit but I couldn’t wrap my head around how.

I joined RWA, took courses through the Romance University, read online articles, read the Plot Whisperer, reached out to friends and people I’d met through writing on Twitter and Facebook, read as much as I could by writers I admired, and wrote, constantly. I started a new story and I put my all into it, hoping that it was the one. I was scared to ask Fran—not because I thought she’d say no, but because I didn’t want her to think I’d taken the easy route of writing a fresh story rather than fixing the old one. I didn’t want her to think I was ‘lazy’ or incapable of doing what she suggested. This new story was my way of revising.

I asked Fran if I could send, but this time, I sent a query and three chapters, as per the agency guidelines. She said I was off to a good start and asked for the full manuscript.

I knew to be cautious with my optimism. The full manuscript was currently with six other agents, but I knew that every one of those agents could say no. Including Fran. When she emailed and said she really liked my story, I thought I was in the same spot I’d already been. But she wasn’t offering my representation yet. She liked the story and needed to do her homework on possible houses to sub to and would contact me in the next week. This was further than I’d been before with Fran. I felt hopeful. I kept telling myself, if it didn’t work out, there were other agents. But Fran let me come back again and again. She let me keep trying. She pushed me to be better. She responded to my emails and was continuously kind in all of her replies. And she wasn’t even my agent yet.

Fran emailed a few days later, asking if she could phone. We spoke early that morning—she wanted to sign me. She asked me what I was working on. I answered something along the lines of “a story about a girl and a guy.” She laughed and said to send her the idea in writing.

I didn’t want to get off the phone without knowing she was my agent. I said yes (and may have cried a little) and told her how much it meant to me. And when I got off the phone, I informed the other agents of my decision.

It felt like a long journey to get from then to now. But if I’d taken a different path, maybe I wouldn’t have written the story I did, the one that finally hooked Fran. This is exactly where I was meant to be and I can’t go back. I am exceptionally grateful that, going forward, I’ll have Fran in my corner.

GIVEAWAY: Jody is excited to give away a free ebook copy of her novel to a random commenter. This giveaway is now closed. 

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8 thoughts on “How I Got My Literary Agent: Write, Write, and Write Again

  1. Julia Ash

    This truly is a story about perseverance. Although there were disappointments and challenges along the way, Jody kept positive, with a willingness to continually grow and improve. I admire her grit, as well as Fran’s receptiveness to review her progress. Jody’s testimonial helps prepare me for the journey of finding an agent. Thank you, Jody 🙂

  2. Kathryn63

    Looking for and acquiring an agent has felt to me like it would be a daunting task. This author is very candid about her struggles and need to be persistent, and I appreciate that. I want to be realistic in my approach when I hunt for an agent.

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