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How I Got My Agent: Debut Novelist Diksha Basu

Debut author Diksha Basu shares her story of how asking for a little guidance helped her land a literary agent, and how choosing the agent she knew would push her the most has helped her career.

As I finished my MFA at Columbia University, I ventured out into the world armed with a manuscript and prepared to search for an agent. The world of query letters and agent research is daunting and exhausting, and after just a few rejections, I was quickly giving up hope.

This guest post is by Diksha Basu. Basu is a writer and occasional actor. Originally from New Delhi, India, she holds a BA in Economics from Cornell University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and now divides her time between New York City and Mumbai.

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Her debut novel, THE WINDFALL, is now available wherever books are sold.

Instead of completely surrendering, I decided to ask for help from faculty members who knew my work well. I had taken a few classes with David Ebershoff and I emailed him asking for advice. David immediately replied with a list of agents he thought would like my work and suggested I query them specifically.

I did and I was fortunate enough to get more than one offer for representation. The offers followed similar patterns—an editorial note with an offer to continue the conversation on the phone. Then, after a long and useful call, an in-person meeting—either over lunch or in an office.

At this point, when I had more than one offer, I asked a published writer friend for advice and she said to pick an agent who didn’t intimidate me. As I tend to do, I ignored the well-meaning advice completely and picked the agent who intimidated me the most, and I am so glad I did. Adam Eaglin at the Elyse Cheney Agency intimidated me enough that I knew I wouldn’t miss deadlines. Of course that wasn’t the only criterion. Right from our first email interactions, Adam also seemed to really understand my work: he was supportive while also being critical when necessary, and his feedback transformed how I saw my book.

Over the next two years, I worked closely with him to turn my collection of stories into a novel. Adam is a very involved agent who patiently reads drafts and responds with detailed editorial feedback. In addition to his editorial role, Adam seems to know how to handle my personality well while giving me feedback—he knows when I’m starting to fade and need encouragement.

It’s been almost three years now that I’ve been working with him and he’s become a friend along the way, in addition to being my agent. Although, come to think of it, I don’t hear him call me a friend quite as often as I do.

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