Skip to main content

Debra Schubert is Write on Target--Her story of getting an agent

Hi, All! I hope you all had a wonderful long holiday weekend.I’ve been MIA from the Internet for 5 days, yet it feels like it’s been weeks! It was so nice to recuperate at home, visit with family, walk the beach, and relax. But now it’s back to the real world and I don’t so much mind. And it’s December! Don’t mind that either. My husband is already bugging me about when we are going to get our Christmas tree. He's like a little kid counting down the days till the 25th.

To jump off the first day of December, I thought I would share with you a blog post written by Debra Schubert, a YA and women’s fiction writer. I came across the post on Twitter and I was so struck by it that I asked Debra if it would be okay if I reposted it here to share with all of you. This post made me smile—it’s full of honesty and excitement. But what really impressed me was Debra’s generosity to her readers, her openness to share her experience so directly.Below she candidly tells her story of getting an agent. Here is the post in its entirety, exactly as Debra wrote it. Check back tomorrow for an interview with Debra.


Did I mention I've got an...

Image placeholder title

agent? No? Huh. Silly me. Must have slipped my mind...


Yes, it's happened - that life-changing phone call that well, changes your life.

First of all, let me introduce you to the most amazing agent on the planet: the lovely and talented Ms. Bernadette Baker-Baughman of Baker's Mark Literary Agency. Why is she so amazing?

Image placeholder title

1) Because she just is;

2) Because she "gets" my work, sees the potential, and has big plans for it, me, and us.

This story - "our" story - is somewhat unusual so, I thought I'd share it with you.

Once upon a time, there was a novel called, "SPARKS FLY SOMETIMES: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK PRINCESS." (Yup, that's me "back in the day.") I've given the tag line before, but here it is again:

Life as a rock princess in the Denver music scene does nothing to prepare Jenny for life as a domestic goddess in the suburbs of Philly.

Image placeholder title

I love this book with all my heart, and I queried it widely. By "widely" I mean in the neighborhood of 150 queries. I received some requests for partials and even a few for fulls. BTW, one of the form rejections I got was from an agency called Baker's Mark Literary Agency.

Though I got interest, I didn't get any requests for representation. So, what did I do? I kept writing.

Next up: MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE. I always wanted to write a fun mystery and had a ball writing this. I queried widely again, in the neighborhood of 150 queries. This time, I got a lot more interest. 17 partial requests and 8 full requests. Ah. Now we were getting somewhere! Oh, and btw? One of the form rejections I received was from an agency called Baker's Mark Literary Agency.

Stats on MTC:
158 queries sent; 82 no response; 51 passes; 25 requests

Then a miracle happened. Through the magic that is Twitter, I received an e-mail. It was from a certain Bernadette Baker-Baughman from Baker's Mark Literary Agency. Here's a portion of the e-mail:

Hi Debra,

Bernadette here of Baker’s Mark Literary Agency. I just saw your funny reply to our twitter correspondence about author queries and I thought to myself “Shoot, did Debra query us and we responded with a no? How could we?” At any rate, I hope that is not the case, as I am quite enjoying our correspondence via twitter, and I like what you have to say on your blog (very beautiful, btw). If that is the case, well, I’d like to invite you to query again... We get anywhere between 150-300 queries a week and sometimes it is just downright difficult to pull out what we are looking for.

Yup, you read that right. She liked what I had to say on Twitter, visited my blog, and invited me to requery her for MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE. I immediately sent her the query and she asked for the first 100 pages, cover letter, and bio.

Then we emailed and talked on the phone. She said she loved my writing, but didn't feel a mystery was the best genre to go out with as a debut author. I told her about SPARKS FLY and she liked the idea. She asked me for the full manuscript. Then, I told her about an idea I had for a YA novel. That's when she got really excited. She asked me to keep her posted on my progress with the book. I began writing THE SECRET KEEPER on September 20th and finished the first draft on November 3rd (six weeks; 62,000 words). This was the fourth novel I've finished, and the third novel I've finished this past year. (The first one took me 13 years, give or take, and the last three were done in a year.)

When I finished TSK, she made a request. "I'd like a 7-day exclusive on your 1st draft."

"Come again? Um, okay, but let me read through it once before I send it."

What? An agent wanting to look at a first draft? I'd never heard of that before. I read through the ms and did a soft-edit, making sure sentences made sense, and correcting all the little odds and ends that go horribly awry when you're writing a first draft. Then I sent it off and was a basket case.

We scheduled a phone call for this past Friday, as in "Friday the 13th." Hmm... I wasn't feeling the warm fuzzies about the date or the call. I was sure she was going to say something like, "It's not bad, I mean maybe it's even good in places, but it's totally not there. Why don't you finish your edits and I'll take a look again, say maybe sometime next year?" I was ready for that. I took deep cleansing breaths and did stretching exercises in the minutes leading up to "the call." I could handle "no." I'd gotten quite good at it over the past year.

Image placeholder title

"The Call" lasted nearly an hour, and somewhere within that time frame, Bernadette offered to represent me. When I got off the call, I had a little trouble breathing. Okay, I felt like the air had been sucked out of my lungs and I needed CPR - but in a good way. As wonderful as the conversation was, it wasn't a done deal. Bernadette told me to sleep on it, really think it over, and call her back when I'd made my decision.

Decision? What decision? To go with an amazing agent who loves my work and who, by her own admission, is a "high-powered bitch" (which is a great trait for an agent!), and who has huge vision and plans for my book vs. remaining agent-less? What kind of decision was that?

If only it were that simple... Keeping with the "proper protocol" of being offered representation, I sent e-mails to the agents who still had my work. There were five, and they are each truly awesome. Two asked for the full 1st draft of TSK, another asked for the first 20 pages, another declined but wanted to continue reading MTC, and one did not reply. Uh-oh. What do I do now?

In the end, I decided Bernadette was the one for me. Part of me knew it since that first e-mail she'd sent back on September 2nd. At the risk of sounding cliche, she had me at "hello" (or, "Hi Debra").

My advice to all of you wonderful and talented writers who are looking for representation is as follows:


2) Keep writing. You never know which ms will be "the one."

3) Do lots of research. Find out which agents represent your genres, what other writers and clients have to say about them, what they've sold, etc. If possible, go to conferences and meet them in person.

4) Be organized. I had separate email folders for "Queries," "Passes," and "Requests," as well as an excel spreadsheet. I also kept track of my queries on Other great resources include: and Publishers Marketplace.

5) Get to "know" agentson Twitter. It is the single most amazing resource writers have to converse with agents and find a good "fit."

6) Be your own best marketer. Have a blog &/or a website, keep it updated, and have it be a true representation of yourself. Get used to marketing yourself - you should always be your number one promoter!

7) DON'T GIVE UP!!!! If you're talented, committed, and dedicated, your day will come. I have no doubt about it. Neither should you.

My Photo

Debra Schubert is a YA and women's fiction writer represented by the uber-awesome Bernadette Baker-Baughman of Baker's Mark Literary Agency. Her novels include "Little Pearls," "Sparks Fly Sometimes: Confessions of a Rock Princess," "Murder on Twilight Circle," and "The Secret Keeper." Her family and six feline captors are the loves of her life. Visit Debra’s blog, Write on Target, to continue to follow her on her journey.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the kimo.

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

Tattoos and their artists can reveal interesting details about your characters and offer historical context. Here, author June Gervais shares 8 things writers should know about tattoos.

Tyler Moss | Reporting Through Lens of Social Justice

Writing Through the Lens of Social Justice

WD Editor-at-Large Tyler Moss makes the case for reporting on issues of social justice in freelance writing—no matter the topic in this article from the July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave clues for people to find them.

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Author Sharon Maas discusses the 20-year process of writing and publishing her new historical fiction novel, The Girl from Jonestown.

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

While the writing process may be an independent venture, the literary community at large is full of writers who need and want your support as much as you need and want theirs. Here, author Aileen Weintraub shares 6 steps in becoming a good literary citizen.

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Journalist and author Daniel Paisner discusses the process of writing his new literary fiction novel, Balloon Dog.