“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Meghan Rogers, author of CROSSING THE LINE. 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.
Column by Meghan Rogers, author CROSSING THE LINE (April 2016,
Philomel Books). Meghan has been telling stories since she could talk
and writing creatively since she was first introduced to the concept in
third grade. She spent her high school years completing her first novel
and has been actively writing ever since. After college, Meghan went
on to work with high school writers while earning her MFA in Creative
Writing from Rosemont College. She is currently living in the Philadelphia
area and working on the next Raven Files novel. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
When I started seriously querying, I read a lot of “How I Got My Agent” posts from published authors. At the time, it felt like a lot of stories—more than half at the very least—discussed how authors either went to a conference and met their agent, or entered a contest and caught their agent’s attention, or knew someone who was able to get their book in front of an agent.
I was in my early twenties and in grad school. I couldn’t afford to go to conferences. The contests I came across either weren’t a fit for my book or had bad timing. And I knew no one in a position to put my book in front of an agent (or anyone in publishing for that matter). So when I found stories about authors who got their agent from straight-up querying, I clung to them. And now I can add my own to that list.
My first attempt at querying, I don’t completely count. Short version: I wrote my first book in high school, and it was SO not query ready. But I didn’t totally realize that and I tried anyway. I only sent about 10-15 queries before pulling it back.
Write and Query: Take Two
I wrote another book in college, which I then revised my first year in grad school. This is when I seriously started querying. I cultivated a list of agents I thought would be a good fit through querytracker.com and dove in. I didn’t get any interest.
About couple months in, I read a query tip (I can’t remember where I saw it) that suggested one way to find agents is to read the acknowledgements of books you like/think your writing is similar to, since most authors thank their agents in the acknowledgements. I grabbed a bunch of books I had read recently and liked. Some agents I’d already queried, but one I hadn’t was Michelle Wolfson. Not only that, she was the agent of not one but two books I’d recently read and enjoyed. I sent my query off to her almost at once.
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Michelle is very upfront with what you can expect when querying her. She only responds to queries if she’s interested, but if she is interested, she gets back to you very quickly. And she answered my email in less than half an hour. It turned out to be rejection, but one full of encouragement and thoughtful feedback. She also asked me to keep her in mind for the future if this book didn’t get me an agent. I was thrilled that she’d taken the time to answer me at all. Aside from that, her feedback also hit on something in the book that that wasn’t sitting quite right with me, though I hadn’t been able to put my finger on why. I felt like Michelle got what I was trying to do, even if I wasn’t quite pulling it off yet. I actually remember saying out loud, “that’s my agent.”
I pulled the book back to revise based on Michelle’s comments and then continued querying it while I wrote CROSSING THE LINE, which took about a year.
New book, same agent
CROSSING THE LINE is very different from my previous project. It’s a YA spy thriller where my other project was a YA fantasy. I wasn’t sure if it was too different to go back to Michelle with, but she was my first choice agent so I was going to give it a shot. The one problem was that Michelle wasn’t open to queries at the time.
I started querying the book to other agents while regularly checking Michelle’s website and twitter feed waiting for her to open again. Then, about six weeks into querying, she did and I pounced. Again, Michelle got back to me quickly, and this time she asked for a partial. This eventually led to a full request, then an offer for representation.
The two big takeaways: 1) Querying can work!, and 2) when agents say, “keep me in mind for the future,” it’s not just a line. They really mean it. (It’s also pretty cool when they’ve in some way responded to two very different projects.)
Also worth noting: It was about eight months between Michelle asking for the partial and her offering to represent me (these things take time). And in that time, I queried a total of 111 agents. Aside from Michelle, only one other agent asked to read pages (a full) and that agent passed.
So not only can you get an agent from querying, but that cliché—the one that says, “You only need one ‘yes’”— it’s true. It’s literally all I got. But there’s nothing that says that ‘yes’ can’t come from your first choice dream agent.
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- Oct. 28–30, 2016: Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
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- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer’s Digest Conference (New York, NY)
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Polish Your Work Before Submitting: 6 Revision Tips for Writers.
- Agent Jordy Albert puts out a call for more young adult, middle grade and new adult.
- “If you can’t figure out what’s wrong with a story, put it away for a few months.”
- Do writers need an outside edit before querying agents?
- Querying agent Suzie Townsend? Read this story from a client of hers.
- Between Acceptance and Final Product — What Happens After You Sell Your Book?
- 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.