How I Got My Agent: Cassie Alexander

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Cassie Alexander, author of NIGHTSHIFTED. 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: Cassie 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: ukjb053 won.)




Cassie Alexander is a registered nurse. NIGHTSHIFTED (May 2012
St. Martins) is her debut novel. Publishers Weekly said of the book,
“Medical drama and vampire cold wars intersect in this solid urban
fantasy debut.”


I always knew I was on to something with NIGHTSHIFTED. Which was good, because it took ten months and 56 rejections to finally get an agent who agreed with me.

When I finished writing NIGHTSHIFTED and had buffed, polished, and shined it to within an inch of its life, I came up with a query letter and sent it to all the writer-friends I had. After their valuable input, and with permission to query their some of their agents while name dropping their names, I figured this was it. This would finally be the book. It was finally time.

Now, Nightshifted was my 10th book, and none of the rest were ever published. I’m no stranger to rejection — which wound up being a good thing, because I got a ton of them.

(Agents get specific and explain what kind of stories they’re looking for.)


I sent out queries in batches of five a week. I figured that way if something was wrong with my query letter, I’d know. And right off the bat I got a ton of interest, requests for partials, the occasional full. I felt like I was truly on my way.

But slowly, one by one, interest shifted to polite rejections. My book was too dark, or they didn’t like the voice. Luckily, I was mature enough as an author to know that those were the kind of things I couldn’t change – but each of those rejections still stung. I had five fulls out over the summer of 2010, and I was so positive one of those agents would sign me. Imagine my slow-motion shock and terror as one by one, each of them said no.

Really, the only thing that saved me was that when someone rejected me, I copied their line off my spreadsheet and moved it to the bottom of the page. Eventually my spreadsheet was so full of people who hadn’t responded or were pending, I couldn’t see how many people had already passed. It wasn’t until a friend said they’d gotten signed after 76 rejections that I decided to count mine up and see where I was at – by then, it was 50. After being shocked (again!) I figured then, I could at least make it to 75 – maybe even down to 100. Until there were no agents who repped urban fantasy left.

(Secrets to querying literary agents: 10 questions answered.)


Then my now-agent, Michelle Brower (lucky number 46!) responded to me. She wanted to see the first 25 pages, then the first 100, and then she wanted to talk to me. Our talk went well, and then she decided she wanted to represent my book.

After that, things were easy. She had me take out 6,000 words and make some relatively minor changes, and then when she submitted it NIGHTSHIFTED sold at auction in under a week.

I feel so lucky to have finally found the perfect agent for me – and I’m so glad I kept trying, hell or high water, because otherwise I would not have gotten a three book deal.

GIVEAWAY: Cassie 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: ukjb053 won.)



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16 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent: Cassie Alexander

  1. rogue484

    Wow I am glad that you never gave up in the process, I guess that is what keeps you going is believing that you will get the store out so everyone can read. Congratulations, I hope there is more to come from this series.

  2. CassieAlexander

    Headrotguitar — I knew my query was working because people were interested in partials and fulls along the way. Nobody bites if your query doesn’t work. I got enough interest to know that it wasn’t the query’s fault — my book just wasn’t something they felt they were interested in, or could sell.

    Havingfun — I believe I said that Nightshifted was standalone, but had series potential — and I made sure it was both of those things, truly.

    Thanks! 😀

  3. havingfun

    You are an inspiration! I was beginning to weaken…now I will get busy again. I have so many questions, one being, did your query include the fact that you were, or could, offer a three book series? Did your agent know that right up front? I have read different opinions on when to “mention” a series.
    Thanks and congratulations!!

  4. Eli_13

    Love your attitude and you’re definitely an inspiration to those of us hoping to have published novel one day. So glad you shared your story. Can’t wait to read Nightshifted, looks great!
    Congrats and much success to you!

  5. trishloye

    I’m just starting the query process for my second novel and I’m sooo glad I read your post. I know I’ve got a lot of work (and rejections) ahead of me. But I’m ready.
    I think your novel sounds fantastic. I’m putting it on my TBR list.
    Happy writing!

  6. Tammy Denton

    Great post! I totally identified with it. I’ve sent out 30 queries for my manuscript, Man of the House, and have gotten requests for 2 partials and 3 fulls. Even the outright rejections weren’t bad. No one has thrown rocks and a lot of them have been complimentary. Mostly, they express difficulty in placing it in a genre (which it’s not) or comment that it’s too dark. I’m re-working my manuscript after attending the Fire In Fiction Workshop with Donald Maass and will be querying again–very soon. I told myself I won’t get disappointed before I reach 100.

  7. ukjb053

    Good to read about your process and the perseverance that you had to foster to see your work published. I have a few friends in mind to recommend your book to – one’s a nurse! Thanks.

  8. Pacato

    Wow I’m impressed I had one rejection last week and I felt my world was falling apart but I accept that I’m not that mature. I found this page a while back but I just recently started reading it everyday, I guess I wanted to finish my book for the love I have to it and not for the pressure or the wish to be published, and in this weeks I have to say that this post you just wrote is the most inspiring and helpful, I hope to be able to write something like this in here sometime (I hope before the 100 rejection record lol)


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