"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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll talk specifics.
"EACH TIME A REJECTION CAME IN, A NEW QUERY WENT OUT"
I’m a planner. So, the moment I decided to write a novel, I started doing research. I also picked the brain of my friend, Allie Larkin (Stay, Dutton, 2010). At the time, she didn’t have an agent either, but she was far more knowledgeable than me and gave me a lot of encouragement and support. I joined a local writers group and lived through being the rookie. I fell into all the typical writing traps, like telling rather than showing, but I learned from these pitfalls and kept going. All the while, I scoured the Internet for websites like this one and read agent blogs.
After shelving my first attempt at a novel, I started writing another book, this time with some experience under my belt. I knew the odds were not in my favor, but I didn’t care. Again, I dove into blogs and books on the craft, the love, and the business of writing. My all-time favorite is On Writing by Stephen King. I wrote the book I wanted to read and I worked, worked, worked. The generous feedback of friends and colleagues was also an invaluable part of the process.
The closer I came to finishing the novel, the stronger my dream of landing an agent grew. I looked forward to having a partner in the field who would be in the trenches with me and teach me about the nuances of the industry. Once I had wrestled through a year of writing and revising, it was time to research agents and write my query. First, I sent the query draft to a few agented authors for their input. I took their suggestions and edited the letter until I practically had every word memorized. After personalizing each query to match the agent’s guidelines and interests, I started hitting send. In my search, I kept track of my progress in a Word document. I had 10-12 queries out at a time and each time a rejection came in, a new query went out.
"I BIT MY NAILS IN ANTICIPATION"
Finding the appropriate genre for my novel was a struggle at first. Luckily, one agent was kind enough to point that out. After my first round of queries, I took a break, tailored my book to one genre and revised the entire novel. A few weeks later, I was back in the game. Within a couple months, I received an encouraging e-mail from an agent who had read the first 50 pages. Even though she passed on representation, her thoughtful response and ideas were a jolt of inspiration and really helped keep my spirits up!
A month later, I received three full manuscript requests and I was thrilled. I sent them off and bit my nails in anticipation. I took the advice of friends who had lived through the waiting process and started working on another book, instead of refreshing my e-mail every ten minutes. I can’t stress enough how helpful this was to my sanity. I was excited and occupied by a new story and cast of characters, which kept me occupied and reinforced that I was on the right path.
"ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES"
At one point, an agent asked me to do revisions, but without an offer of representation. I liked her ideas and decided to start working on them. There were no promises, but what did I have to lose? I let the agents who had a full manuscript know about this development. Meanwhile, one of my fulls was in the hands of Rebecca Strauss at McIntosh & Otis. [Note: As of 2013, Rebecca switched agencies and is now at DeFiore & Company.] Rebecca was at the top of my list, since she represented some of my favorite authors, including my friend, Allie.
It is a joy to think back to when I received Rebecca’s e-mail asking for a phone meeting. Five days later, we spoke, we clicked, and I knew I was one of the lucky ones to have found a literary agent who shared my vision for the novel and my future work. She had a diverse background in the business and was already giving me amazing advice, feedback and support. I informed the other agents of my decision and signed with her. I will always cherish the excitement, relief, and happiness of that time.
From first query to signing with my agent, the process took about four months. I know that I am one of the lucky ones and I count my blessings. Currently, we’re working on revisions and it is a joy to have Rebecca as a sounding board, a guide and someone to share this journey with (in addition to my amazing friends and family). I look forward to seeing what the future brings and I hope that sharing my journey will help you along the way.