How I Got My Agent: Amy Reed

Amy Reed is the author of the edgy YA novels BEAUTIFUL (2009) and CLEAN (2011), both published by Simon Pulse. Amy is excited to give away a free copy of her book 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.
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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Amy Reed, author of the novel CLEAN. 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 literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

Amy is excited to give away a free copy of her book 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.

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Amy Reed is the author of the edgy YA novels BEAUTIFUL (2009)
and CLEAN (2011), both published by Simon Pulse. Visit her website
and find her on Facebook and Twitter.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

One of the most important things I learned in my MFA program, besides how to be a better writer, was how to become a published writer--specifically, how to find an agent. The best piece of advice I got from my professors was to only query agents who have a record of representing work like yours. It’s a waste of time to blindly query random agents you know nothing about.

Do your research. Find the agents who represent your favorite authors. Look in the Acknowledgments of your favorite books and see who the author thanks. Then do more research. Look on the agents’ websites to see what exactly they want in a query. Some only want a one-page synopsis. Some want a detailed bio. Some want the first ten pages. Some want queries via snail mail, some only electronically. Some aren’t accepting queries at all. Do not expect to send the same letter or packet to every agent you query. Most likely, it will be different for every single one of them.

(What are overused openings in fantasy, sci-fi, romance and crime novels?)

BEFORE I EVEN KNEW WHAT "YA" WAS...

This is the advice I followed when I began my agent search about four years ago. I had a very polished draft of my first YA novel BEAUTIFUL (that’s another thing--only query when you have a very polished final draft; agents are not going to waste their time on an unknown writer’s rough draft or incomplete manuscript). I did my research and drafted queries to around a dozen agents I researched thoroughly. I revised them over and over until I knew they were perfect. I sent them out and held my breath. Then the responses started trickling in. I received a few polite declines, but I also received a surprising amount of requests for full and partial manuscripts. I was thrilled! I sent them out and held my breath again.

I should mention here that I was querying agents who represented my favorite adult novels. At the time, I didn’t even know the young adult genre existed, let alone that my book was YA. So I was devastated as the declines trickled in with phrases like “This is strong, but not quite what I represent.” I began to get discouraged.

(Find more young adult literary agents.)

Then something happened that I could not have prepared for. All the research and organization in the world can’t beat plain old luck and being in the right place at the right time. I received a letter in the mail from someone calling himself an agent, saying he read my short story "Under the Wall" in Fiction Magazine, and did I happen to be working on a book-length work, and would I be interested in sending it to him. At first I thought it was a scam. (There are A LOT of scam agents out there who will charge you money for “representation.” Be careful!). So I looked this guy up. And he was legit. Very legit. He represented one of my very favorite authors, a Pulitzer-Prize winner. And yes, I happened to have a book-length work. And it happened to be based on the short story he liked so much.

So I sent him my manuscript and held my breath yet again. I thought this was it. This was my big break. But the response I finally received said this: “This is great, but I don’t represent YA. However, I think this is exactly what’s hot right now and you’ll have no problem finding representation when you query agents who specialize in YA.” I was heartbroken. And I had no idea what he was talking about.

(Learn about pitching your novel to an agent at a writers' conference.)

TARGETING YA AGENTS

Then I got back to work. I started researching this “YA” thing he was talking about, and I found a whole new world full of books similar to the one I had written. I discovered who the best writers in contemporary YA were. I read some of their novels. That agent was right: my book was definitely YA. So I repeated what I had done before. I found the right agents to query, those who were specifically looking for contemporary and/or gritty YA. I queried two. They both requested full manuscripts within a week. My agent Amy Tipton of Signature Literary [formerly of FinePrint Literary Management] offered representation within another week. Within another two weeks, we had offers from two publishers. I chose Simon Pulse. The rest is history.

Amy is excited to give away a free copy of her book 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.

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