Update: B.A. is giving away a signed copy
of PULL to one random commenter. Leave
a comment within one week! (Update:
Winner chosen. Congrats, Patricia)
"How I Got My Agent"is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. I find it fascinating to see the exact road people took that landed them with a rep. Seeing the things people did right vs. what they did wrong (highs and the lows) can help other scribes who are on the same journey. 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 email@example.com and we'll talk specifics.
B.A. Binns is the pseudonym of Barbara Binns, a
Chicago Area author who finds writing an exercise in
self discipline, and the perfect follow-up to her life as
an adoptive parent and cancer survivor. She is a
member of RWA, the Chicago Writers Association,
SCBWI and YALSA. Pull (Oct. 2010), her debut
YA novel, tells the story of a young man who
fears biology will force him to repeat his father’s
violence, before he realizes the future is in his
own hands. (Buy the book here.) Leave a comment
for a chance to win the book!
A MINOR CHARACTER NEEDS A MAJOR ROLE
I have never met my agent, although I've seen her picture on her website and plan to meet her next year during a trip to New York. I've never pitched to her, or sent her a query, nor was I referred to her by a friend. I signed with her the old-fashioned way: sheer luck.
After dabbling for a number of years, I began writing seriously in 2007. By 2009, I had finished a couple of adult manuscripts that will probably forever remain on my hard drive. My pitiful queries garnered a series of form rejections. Then, in February 2009, I went to the Association of Writing Professionals conference and attended a panel discussion on reluctant (primarily teenaged male) readers. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I was engaged in market research with the customers who matter most in this industry. Booksellers and librarians present voiced their desire for more books designed to appeal to this group.
I went home and thought about a character who continued kicking around in my head. A truly obnoxious fellow who played a minor role in one of my books and kept demanding more page space to explain himself. Since the roots of his problems came from his teen years, I decided to get him off my case and write his backstory as a young adult novel.
SUBMISSIONS: QUERIES AND CONTESTS
The book, told from the POV of a 17-year-old boy, almost wrote itself. Five months and 350 fifty pages later, I had a complete manuscript that I titled Pull My String and affectionately nicknamed PMS. I entered PMS in contests for feedback I could use to improve the writing. Simultaneously I struggled to create an agent-attracting query. I investigated a number of agents before sending out my queries. I received several requests for partials and fulls, but they all ultimately returned rejection letters. I was told I showed great potential, dynamic voice, moving plot … but sorry.
Meanwhile PMS garnered high marks in contests. I reviewed every comment, making changes where they seemed appropriate. Since finding ways to improve the story was my sole contest goal, I seldom checked who the final judges were. I never expected to get that far. Even in November when I heard I was a finalist in Oregon's Golden Rose contest, I didn't look to see who the judge was. I was too busy sending out luckless queries.
I received another request from an agent I knew for the full manuscript after a query. I also got an e-mail informing me that the final judge at Portland's Golden Rose contest had ranked PMS number one and wanted to see the complete manuscript. I still didn't know who the judge was, but I sent her the manuscript on a Friday, then settled down to relax. Past experience told me that weeks or months would pass before either got back to me, and that both replies would be additions to my growing pile of rejections.
THE CONTEST JUDGE COMES CALLING
Then came Wednesday and an e-mail from a woman I didn't know working for an agency I had barely heard of. The final judge of the Golden Rose contest, Andrea Somberg from the Harvey Klinger Agency, said she wanted to represent me. Suddenly I'm doing a frantic internet search and e-mailing writer friends for information. I know I did things totally backward, but I swear I never once thought I would final, much less win the contest and get an offer. When I called and spoke with her, she was friendly, enthusiastic, positive-and she loved my book.
There was still the matter of the other agent. Andrea agreed to wait for my answer. I let the second agent know there was another offer and she asked for time to complete her read. She promised to get back to me the following week. Eventually I received a two page e-mail from the second agent documenting pluses and minuses about the manuscript. She liked PMS. But Andrea loved it. And don't we all believe that love conquers all?
I signed with the Harvey Klinger agency in January. Andrea found a publisher in April. And PMS, re-titled PULL, was purchased and fast-tracked for release in October 2010. And that rush to publication is truly a story all by itself.
The quickest way to get an agent's attention
is a professional submission. That's why you need
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd. Ed.
It has dozens of query letter examples (novels,
nonfiction, short stories, kids books and more).