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How I Got My Agent: Regina Jennings

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, How I Got My Agent Columns, What's New.

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Regina Jennings, author of SIXTY ACRES AND A BRIDE. 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: Regina 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: Barbara won.)

 

 

    

Regina Jennings is homeschooling mother of four from Oklahoma.
She enjoys watching musicals with her kids, traveling with her
husband and reading by herself. Regina graduated from Oklahoma
Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor.
She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church
of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards
and various livestock shows. For more posts by Regina or
information about her novel, SIXTY ACRES AND A BRIDE (Feb. 2012
Bethany House), please visit her website – find her on Facebook or Twitter.

 

If you were an agent would you want to represent an aspiring novelist whose professional claim to fame was that she weighed pigs at the Oklahoma National Stockyards?

That’s what I thought.

When I decided to write my first book I had no contacts. I didn’t know a single author. There were no friends to introduce me to an agent and no opportunities to cross paths with literary types at cocktail parties (do they still have those in the big city?). I was blazing across new territory.

Or that’s how I felt, but I saw evidence that others had been there before. Their desperately carved messages scarred the canyon walls—Agents don’t look at emailed submissions. You have to know someone to get published. No one signs newbies unless you’ve been on TV wearing a swimsuit… and America’s Funniest Videos doesn’t count.

But among the doomsayers were those dispensing encouragement as well—Learn the art of querying, Go to conferences, Miracles happen. And a miracle was what I needed.

ON A QUEST

I’d had my eye on a certain writer’s conference, one that would be attended by an editor with my dream publishing house and several agents I’d been stalking. Was my writing good enough? We would soon find out because my husband bought me a ticket for my birthday. In a few months I’d be pitching my novel to a real-life, fire-breathing, rejection-shooting agent.

That would be great, wouldn’t it? The only problem I saw was that the week after conference every agent in attendance would be flooded with submissions. Their normally empty inbox (yes, I was that naïve) would suddenly be filled with proposals from optimistic conference-attendees. How could a greenhorn like me get noticed?

(Writing a synopsis for your novel? Here are 5 tips.)

A TRULY TERRIBLE IDEA

My original solution was to send my proposals before conference. I’d read that it could take three months for an agent to respond, so I’d submit two months before conference. Then when Ms. Agent became my new best friend at conference, she would remember my submission…or even better, she’d go back to her hotel room and there it’d be—the next in the queue.

Awful plan. Before the conference I’d already heard back from a couple of agents. Rejected before I’d even stepped foot in the sacred Appointments Galley. Why weren’t they procrastinating like they’d promised? In fact, I’d requested an appointment with one of these deniers. What now?

And it got worse. At the conference, the line, “Hey, I submitted to you a few months ago, do you remember it?” earned blank stares all around. Only one person asked me to resend and then I learned the trick… there’s a magic phrase they’ll tell you to put in the RE: line if you meet them at conference. That phrase can be the difference between a quick scan and a thorough consideration.

Expensive mistake, but I still had a shot at an editor.

AVOIDING DISASTER

The editor appointment had the potential to be a total catastrophe. I’d scored a meeting with my dream publisher, a leader in historical romance, and the one I’d had in mind when I wrote Sixty Acres and a Bride. Thankfully, God granted the miracle I was praying for and they requested the full. Before long it’d passed the editorial board and was moving on to the pub board, and this is where I saw something amazing happen. Even better than the secret conference code on the email is the opening line—This manuscript is being presented to the pub board next week. Doors opened and I signed with Rachel Kent from Books and Such Literary Agency.

Rachel walked me through the signing of a three-book contract and continues to help by brainstorming, finding marketing opportunities and protecting my editor from some of my half-baked ideas. I’ve discovered how much an agent does even after the contract is in hand.

(Is it best to query all your target agents at once? — or just a few to start?)

WHAT I LEARNED

I’d like to think that my manuscript would’ve been chosen out of an agent’s slush pile even without a publisher’s interest, but I’ll never know… and I can live with that.

I can also live with the mistakes I made along the way, knowing that they didn’t keep me from my goal. Getting off-course isn’t cause for panic, because when you need one, an agent will appear.

So that’s the message I’m carving in the wall for the next traveler—Have faith. Work, learn and when the time is right it’ll happen. Enjoy the journey.

GIVEAWAY: Regina 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: Barbara won.)

Are you a subscriber to Writer’s Digest magazine
yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

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45 Responses to How I Got My Agent: Regina Jennings

  1. remarkablytypical says:

    Curious… you say there’s a crucial phrase to put in the RE: line if you meet someone at a conference… what is it? “RE: I met you at the conference” ??
    Thanks! :)

    Only one person asked me to resend and then I learned the trick… there’s a magic phrase they’ll tell you to put in the RE: line if you meet them at conference. That phrase can be the difference between a quick scan and a thorough consideration.

  2. ratstar1001 says:

    Okay, now I feel a lot better. I do not know any writers or agents or editors, either. It is good to know that it is possible to still get published!

  3. AmandaM says:

    I’ve always enjoyed reading of writers’ journeys in being published – this story had many details. Thank you, Regina!!

    Amanda

  4. Good luck on your efforts, Devon. You can learn much from websites like this one.

  5. dkardel says:

    I’m in college and an aspiring writer. I love to write and have my friends proofread my work, and one of them mentioned publishing. The advice on this page alone is a great help! -Devon

  6. Maribeth says:

    Your journey is an inspiration and gives hope that we can all achieve publication if we keep putting our work and ourselves out there.

    Good luck!
    Maribeth

  7. sunstone50 says:

    Your story is very inspirational. I know that an agent can be helpful, but it sure makes them look bad when you have to wait until your book is before the board before one steps up and assists you.

  8. debraney says:

    Regina, if the writing in your novel is anything like the writing in this article, I would love it! : )

  9. barbarajoss says:

    Great column! Thanks for the inspiring story.

  10. annabelle2024 says:

    Loved the article. Thank you for sharing your success and bad ideas.

  11. radulovich says:

    I hear you, Regina. I have never done pigs, but I assure you there is not a literary soul in the corn and bean fields that surround me, let alone an agent. Now, just between you and me, what is the secret code? No one needs it more than I do. My manuscript is complete (119,000 words) and I have revised it five times. Smile. The last go around, I had let it sit for six months and could hardly believe I wrote it. It is a heartfelt tale. It will make you laugh, make you cry. It’s food for thought. And I hope it gets published before I die!

    • Ha! You noticed I didn’t give out the secret code. Very observant. Congratulations on completing your manuscript. Be assured that location (or occupation) is no determiner of talent. You’ve got as good of a shot as anyone.

      God bless you as you follow your dreams.

  12. David Alliger says:

    Actually, reading this made me realize how little I know about the process that goes into getting a book published. Haha, thanks for being informative!

  13. ShyAmy says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I had some of those very same thoughts before I went to my first RT earlier this year. Glad to know I’m in good company. And Congratulations!!

  14. Clopaboba says:

    I am finishing my first book in the next month so this story lit a fire in me! I will think positive thoughts, do the work, and follow the advice of Regina Jennings! Thanks for sharing heart to heart. I believe in myself and know I’ll find my path to success like you. Until then, I’ll take it one step and one day at a time. It is an exciting, but complicated journey with so much of the unknown to look forward to in the future. Thanks for sharing and opening a window of opportunity for me!
    All the best to you!
    Nancy

  15. BakerBunch says:

    Great Article – can’t wait to read this book!!!

  16. Great story, and a good reminder that not all mistakes are mistakes – they often lead to bigger and better adventures.

  17. MJWright says:

    I love to hear newbie stories on how they published their first novel, commercially that is. It gives hope to the rest of us wandering writers. I hope you celebrated properly – congratulations.

  18. lktreadway says:

    I am just starting out but it seems that this is a pretty common story of how to get published. I think it’s great that your mistakes didn’t prevent you from getting published. I think a lot of writers including myself fear messing up our opportunities by doing something out of ignorance. It’s also nice to hear the rumors are true on how to get published. It gives me hope and shows a way through the shark infested waters of my doubts and fears. Congrats!

    Linda Treadway
    http://ltreadway.wordpress.com

    • Linda – Innocent mistakes and ignorant mistakes are forgivable. I think the important thing is to approach people with humility and be ready to learn from them, even if you are rejected. Then they’ll be open to hearing from you again in the future.

  19. cjennetti says:

    This is very hopeful advice for those of us who have been slogging away in our writer’s “den” and we finally look up and realize that we now have to hand our work over to someone willing to read it! It is our moment of truth and as scary as it is to hear rejection it is still encouraging to hear a fellow writer’s experience and how they met success! Thanks for the direction.

  20. winter_rogue says:

    It’s always fun hearing how people succeeded but the mistakes they’ve made are often even more helpful. thanks for sharing!

  21. kcpryzr says:

    Thanks for the insight.

  22. jjarnagin says:

    “A TRULY TERRIBLE IDEA” – I’ve had so many of these in my writing career. :) It’s really proof to me that God is in control and that I should try my best to just not to make a mess of things (but I’m not great at that either). LOL.

  23. andileroy says:

    I enjoyed your post, Regina — especially your entertaining and self-effacing style. I transferred the message you carved on the wall on my “writerly inspiration” board. I’ve written the first draft of my first novel (and am now procrastinating on starting the revision process, because it needs SERIOUS revision) and I know I have a LONG journey ahead of me. Your words give me hope. Thanks!
    Andi

  24. Lina Moder says:

    I love hearing from authors who had no insider track to publishing. It gives the rest of us so much hope!

    This was a great post, thanks for sharing all your tricks with us:)

    linamoder at gmail dot com

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