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How I Found My Agent: Susan Pohlman

"How I Got My Agent" is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. 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. Susan Pohlman is author of the travel memoir Halfway to Each Other: How a Year In Italy Brought Our Family Home, winner of the relationships category in the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Good Housekeeping called the book "a remarkable story." Susan is also the writer of three award-winning short films, and a magazine freelancer.

"How I Got My Agent" is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. To see the previous installments of this column, click here. 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.

Susan is excited to give away a free copy of her memoir to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
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: Michael GG won.)

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Susan Pohlman is author of the travel memoir
Halfway to Each Other:
How a Year In Italy
Brought Our Family Home,
winner of the
relationships category in the 2010 Next
Generation Indie Book Awards.
Good
Housekeeping called the book "a remarkable
story." Susan is also the writer of three
award-winning short films, and a magazine
freelancer. See Susan's website here.





LUCK MAY FACTOR IN TO YOUR SEARCH

When I decided to move forward with the idea of publishing Halfway to Each Other, I had no illusions about the difficulties of finding an agent. I imagined my query letters lost among stacks of paperwork or filed immediately into spam folders. What I did not imagine was the role that serendipity would play.

My memoir is about the year my family spent in Italy and the way it brought us through troubles. We had been back from Italy for a few months, and I was ready to begin the agent search process. I had no idea how to go about it, so I pored over writing magazines and researched articles on the Internet. I was promptly overwhelmed.

That week, I went to watch my sixth grade son, Matthew, play basketball at his new school. Not knowing one soul, I plopped down on the sidelines next to another mom. We introduced ourselves and began to chat. This was the conversation.

“So I understand your family just returned from Italy.”
“Yes.”
“Where were you living?”
“Near Genoa.”
“Oh! My mother-in-law, Carol, is from Genoa.”
“She is?”
“Yes, and she is about to publish a book on olive oil called The Passionate Olive.”
“Really?”
“Oh, and you know what? She’s coming to town next Saturday to visit. Would you like to have coffee with her?”
“I would love to! Thank you.”

Are you kidding me? What are the chances of that?

THE VALUE OF A GOOD, OLD-FASHIONED REFERRAL

The next week, I met Carol Firenze and her sweet mother for an espresso; Carol offered to share her knowledge and expertise in regards to writing a nonfiction book proposal. Her generosity of time and spirit helped me focus my efforts and move forward. Unbeknownst to me, she contacted her agent, Judith Riven, and asked her if she might be interested in taking a look.

I spent weeks researching the market in both the travel and memoir genres. I visited bookstores to see what was on the shelves and how those books were marketed. I read every acknowledgments page to get a feel for publishers and agents who were drawn to that subject matter. Then I sat and constructed a proposal that I hoped would speak to both the heart and the bottom line. I felt like I was back in graduate school working on my thesis.

When the proposal was ready, Carol suggested that I send it to Judith. So, fingers crossed, I put it in the mail and decided to wait for her response before I sent it to the other 429 names I had compiled.

JUDITH CALLS

A few months later, (yes, I said months) I came home to a message on my answering machine. Judith had finally gotten to the proposal and would love to speak to me! After a long conversation, we agreed to work together. Her professionalism and guidance have been integral in my development as a writer and in my continued learning curve in understanding the business of publishing.

Looking back, it was the combination of a good story, a lot of hard work, and some plain, old-fashioned dumb luck. I wish all of you who are in this phase of the game the same! Keep your head up and be friendly to strangers. You just never know who you might meet.

Susan is excited to give
away a free copy of her memoir to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
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 Michael GG won.)

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Writing a memoir or life story? A great
resource is Writing Life Stories

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