“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Gina Damico, author of CROAK. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk specifics.
(Read a GLA Blog guest column by Gina’s literary agent, Tina Wexler of ICM Partners.)
Gina Damico grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse,
New York. She received a degree in theater and sociology from
Boston College, where she was active with the Committee for
Creative Enactments, a collegiate murder mystery improv comedy
troupe that may or may not have sparked an interest in wildly
improbable bloodshed. CROAK is her first novel. Kirkus Reviews
said of the book, “The central mystery is genuinely puzzling, and
Lex’s narrative voice is funny and fresh. . . . Fantasy fans who like
their tales gritty and filled with irreverent humor will be eager for
the follow-up.” Gina lives in Boston with her husband, two cats,
and a closet full of black hoodies.
PLEASE DON’T GET MAD AT ME…
Okay, I’m going to say this right up front so that you have time to lower your pitchforks and put down your cauldrons of burning oil:
I never had to query to get my agent.
A few years ago, I had a terrible HR office temp job wherein I was required to do absolutely nothing but sit in front of a computer. Boredom led to writing, and a book began to emerge. It soon became a behemoth. At around 150,000 words, I stopped, read it over a few times, did some editing, did some research, and ended up querying about eight agents, all of whom rejected me. And all with very, very good reason.
I didn’t get depressed, because I had expected this to happen. Getting a book published is a long hard slog through a swamp of muck and grime, or so all the advice books told me, and I was fully prepared for rejection. What I was not prepared for was the entirely different book concept that jumped into my head while the rejections were rolling in. It was way better. It had much more promise. So I started writing that one instead.
LET’S GIVE THIS CONFERENCE A TRY…
Fast forward. New Book was ready to go, but before I jumped back into querying, I decided to give a conference a try. So I attended Michael Neff’s New York Pitch Conference, which is really more of a workshop on how to write a pitch for your book – a pitch that you then deliver out loud to four real, breathing editors from major publishing houses. So I went in there with my little book, worked on my little song-and-dance, and soon the time came to pitch it to the first editor. Michael introduced her, then also introduced someone else named Tina Wexler who would be sitting in on the pitches – he told us who she was, but I somehow missed what he said. I went through the whole morning thinking she was…I don’t even know. The editor’s partner? Her caddy? Just a casual fan of midday amateur writing workshops?
So I paid her no mind. I gave my pitch to the editor, and although she loved it, she didn’t handle YA (neither did any of the other editors, as it turned out). That random fangirl Tina said something nice about it too, and while I was happy to get positive feedback, I was a little saddened that it wouldn’t be getting me anywhere. But as time went on and more people gave their pitches, I started to realize something. This Tina person had a lot of insightful things to say. She seemed especially interested in the YA pitches. Slowly, it dawned on me…that key word that I had missed earlier when Michael had introduced her…
Agent who happened to specialize in YA. Agent who was a fan of snarky paranormal. Agent with ICM, a major international agency. Agent who loved and missed the TV series Dead Like Me, which was about Grim Reapers.
In other words, OH MY GOD THE PERFECT AGENT FOR ME.
(Read another young adult writer’s “How I Got My Agent” story: Robin Mellom, author of DITCHED.)
AFTER THE EVENT…
After the session, she gave me her card and I gave her mine, an embarrassing mess of flimsy cardstock that I’d assembled on my crappy printer the night before. Somehow she managed to stop laughing long enough to shoot me an e-mail requesting the manuscript, an email that was waiting for me when I got home. Needless to say, I soiled myself, then regrouped and sent her the pages a couple weeks later after one last hurried edit.
Wish I could say that she called me up the very next day and took me on as a client, but that actually did not happen until much later. See, Tina is hardcore. And I mean this in the best way possible. She wanted rewrites, and big ones – including a major shift in the world, and a complete revamp of one of the main characters. At first her suggestions made me want to jump out of a moving car, but the more I thought about it, the more they made sense. So I gave them a shot.
And sweet sassy molassy, am I ever glad I listened to her. I could tell that she really cared, that she had a genuine interest in my work and what happened to these characters, and that’s how I knew she was the one. That, and the fact that the book got exponentially better whenever I listened to her and made a change. She’s right about everything. It’s kind of creepy.
So in the end I never did end up querying CROAK, because the very first agent to take an interest in it was Tina, and we go together like peas and carrots.
Agent Donald Maass, who is also an author
himself, is one of the top instructors nationwide
on crafting quality fiction. His recent guide,
The Fire in Fiction, shows how to compose
a novel that will get agents/editors to keep reading.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- 6 Keys to Revising Your Fiction.
- How Deadlines Can Help Your Writing.
- Literary Agent Interview: Tamar Rydzinski of Laura Dail Literary.
- Be True to Yourself, and Your Writer Voice Will Come.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- 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 how to write a query letter.
Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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